Terry Graff discusses the Masterworks exhibition opening in Palm Beach

February 1, 2013 marked a special day for the staff and supporters of Beaverbrook Art Gallery, as our Masterworks exhibition opened at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida. This was the culmination of efforts over the past four years made by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery community, and we’re very excited to share the results with you!

(l-r): Terry Graff, Nancy Mato (Executive Vice President and Curator, Society of the Four Arts), Bernard Riordon, O.C. Photo by James Wilson.

(l-r): Terry Graff, Nancy Mato (Executive Vice President and Curator, Society of the Four Arts), Bernard Riordon, O.C.
Photo by James Wilson.

“Surprised, excited, thrilled, thrilled would be a good word!” said Director and CEO Terry Graff about the opening reception of Masterworks, which was attended by hundreds of people. This marks only the second time that Dalí’s Santiago El Grande has left the Gallery since its installment in 1959. Its presence in the Masterworks has been a huge draw for audiences internationally. “At some openings people ignore the artwork and it becomes more like wallpaper for their social event, this was not the case at Palm Beach,” said Graff when referring to the reaction to the Santiago in Florida.

As mentioned, the Masterworks tour has been in the works for quite sometime now. Some may wonder why a gallery would send away what many people refer to as their best paintings. However, as Graff describes “we have a responsibility to share the collection with New Brunswickers and with the world; it’s a world class collection of art.” Beaverbrook Art Gallery has sent other exhibitions travelling before, but not to this extent. Graff explains that “the 50th anniversary [in 2009] was such a positive experience and the dispute has stimulated profound interest in the collection which made sharing it even more important. This is an attempt to provide more information about our paintings and to be more accessible as an institution.”

Part of the "Masterworks" exhibition on display at the Society of the Four Arts.Photo by James Wilson

Part of the “Masterworks” exhibition on display at the Society of the Four Arts.
Photo by James Wilson

When asked if he had a favorite art work in the exhibition Graff stated “I have been in the art business a long time, I have enjoyed visual arts since I was a child and I have always found it difficult to choose a specific piece of art, or a time period so I refrain from choosing. Especially with this collection which is truly the best of the best. These seventy-five works met my criteria for what is a Masterwork.”  Instead of having a single favourite, Graff said that “being so close and personal to these paintings has allowed me to have a new favorite everyday.”

In addition to the international tour, Masterworks exhibition also has an exciting publication, published by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and Goose Lane Editions. The publication also provides a peek into the mindset of the Gallery’s founder, Lord Beaverbrook. “In my research, whenever someone devotes themselves to a collection, that tells us something about that person, and in this case we learn more about Lord Beaverbrook and what he liked. The collection itself has a personality and we come to know that through the paintings.”

Part of the "Masterworks" exhibition on display at the Society of the Four Arts. Photo by James Wilson

Part of the “Masterworks” exhibition on display at the Society of the Four Arts.
Photo by James Wilson

Graff’s main mission with both the Masterworks tour and publication was to bring a fuller awareness to the collection and the Gallery: “With the book and show I didn’t want to say ‘this is art, look at it because it’s good,’ I wanted to tell people why they were great pieces, and to make them more relatable. I wanted something that would enhance the viewer beyond the aesthetic value.”

Finally, as the first stop on the Masterworks tour, the exhibition at Palm Beach can be considered a huge success. Graff elaborates: “this was a very special and memorable event, everything went perfect. It was a wonderful tribute to all the hard work that went into this project.”

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