The Chrysler Art Museum began with a man who collected art. Walter P. Chrysler made a home for his collection in an old nineteenth-century church, which began as the Norfolk Museum of Arts before being renamed the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk in his honor, to recognize the large portion of his art collection that Chrysler donated to the city.
Chrysler’s first investment into the museum has become a continuous gift to the community; the museum is a free invitation to appreciate art from around the world. Each exhibit is rich with different mediums of art, including paintings, photography, sculptures and several others. The museum provides ancient to modern artwork, and a variety of different cultures are represented.
One of the first exhibits on permanent display is the Glass Galleries exhibit, which the museum proudly displays as “one of the largest” glass collections in the world. Walking through this exhibit, you observe glass artwork spanning 3,000 years. Glass in all forms is displayed, from household dishes to elaborate sculptures.
After walking through halls of fine china, a detailed glass chess set and a flower made from shards of glass, one sculpture draws you in; a man with raised arms and words written on his forearms. The blown-glass sculpture titled Farm Worker by Jaime Guerrero provides no explanation for the mournful pose. His head is downward, and his black and white clothes starkly contrast with the rest of his see-through body. The piece is like a mystery; the absence of information invites you to observe the dark artwork. It stands out among the more refined glasswork as a piece that suggests a point instead of providing an aesthetic.
Across from the Glass Galleries on the first floor is another exhibit that includes artwork found in ancient civilizations. The Ancient and Non-Western art exhibits include artifacts that are both intricately designed and representative of different places in history. One exhibit, titled The Arts of Late Imperial China, showcases a set of Samurai armor, an elaborate mix of metal bent for protection and intricately designed fabric.
While the piece is reflective of Asian culture, it also reflects the styles of the Akita family, whose name is signed on the helmet. This display states specifically that Chrysler attempted to represent Asian artwork within his collection. His purpose is well achieved by the room that contains many other beautiful and interesting pieces from imperial China. There are many other cultures represented, including Egyptian and African tribes. The museum’s diversity gives the people of Norfolk the opportunity to experience the beauty of past cultures.
On the second floor is the 17th-19th Century American Art Exhibit. This display walks you through one hundred years of American art, allowing you to see the changes in style and subject matter as the culture evolved. Although the artwork changes throughout the years, distinctly American qualities can be seen across the decades of paintings. For example, there are numerous images of pastures and woods; the American Wilderness. One piece that has American qualities is entitled The Emerald Pool by Albert Bierstadt.
According to the plaque beside the painting, it depicts Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The painting towers over you yet also allows you to observe tiny details. It creates a sense of vastness and dwarfs many of the other paintings in the room. The painting has depth as if there is more to explore beyond the expansive lake at its forefront. This piece sets the tone for the entire exhibit, creating a feeling of exploration. Adding to this theme are Native American sculptures, paintings of hunting equipment, and many more wilderness landscapes.
While a few of the permanent exhibits have been surveyed in this article, there are many more notable artifacts and displays that have not been mentioned. The Chrysler Art Museum offers many unique exhibits. This is not a place you visit once; the museum has several temporary exhibits scheduled throughout the year. These exhibits are often exclusive and show a variety of different styles of artwork.
Currently on display is an exhibit titled Reckonings and Reconstructions: Southern Photography from the Do Good Fund, which will be on display until November 5th. Ending on October 29th is the Heather Beardsley: Strange Plants exhibit. The Chrysler Art Museum is a free and engaging experience that offers a diverse range of artwork and is worth checking out this school year!