Key works by Grant Wood are traveling to the Big Apple this month for a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art. Drawn from the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art’s collection, the 27 pieces will form the foundation of Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables, opening at the Whitney on March 2, 2018.
The CRMA is home to the world’s largest collection of artworks by Grant Wood. It also owns the studio just down the street where Wood lived and worked from 1925 to 1935 (and where he painted his most famous work, American Gothic). With major Wood pieces out on loan until June, the CRMA is taking the opportunity to install other artworks rarely seen by the public, including a set of 10 paintings from Wood’s trip to Paris in 1920. More treats from the museum’s extensive collection will go on view in the coming months.
Coe College in Cedar Rapids is also loaning works to the Whitney show. Three large murals called The Fruits of Iowa, painted in 1932 for Eugene Eppley to hang in the coffee shop of his Montrose Hotel, will be heading to NYC. The murals were transferred to Coe College when the hotel changed owners in 1956, and the Eppley Foundation donated them in 1976.
We asked CRMA Executive Director Sean Ulmer to tell us more about the Whitney loan. He responded to our questions via email.
How did the Whitney exhibition come about?
Sean Ulmer: The Whitney first approached us back in late 2015 with the idea of presenting a Grant Wood retrospective at their museum. It involved many, many steps—far too many to outline completely. Suffice it to say that there have been site visits by their curators, more than 300 separate emails from their staff requiring our assistance, and hours and hours of assisting them with conservation, photography, research, framing, and crating the 27 works they eventually asked for.
What’s involved in packing up these valuable works?
Sean Ulmer: After the works are deemed safe for travel and after our Collections & Exhibitions Committee and full Board of Trustees approve the loan of the requested works, a professional fine-arts crating and shipping firm contracted by the Whitney will come to Cedar Rapids, measure each work, build the necessary crates offsite, and return with the crates to pack up the works in anticipation of their trip to New York.
Do the new paintings appearing in the CRMA show us a different side of Wood?
Sean Ulmer: The newly installed replacement Grant Woods are wonderful! Our curator, Kate Kunau, along with the curatorial team have done a magnificent job of selecting and installing several seldom-seen works. For example, with the removal of Adoration of the Home, they installed 10 paintings of French scenes all dating from 1920, created during the summer Wood and Marvin Cone traveled to Paris. It is a rare opportunity to see 10 different views of the French capital in Wood’s Impressionistic style. Similarly, when Lilies of the Alley came down, Old Shoes went up, which is a favorite with many of our visitors. New and interesting juxtapositions are on display—or will be on display—as we continue to make changes in our Grant Wood: From Farm Boy to American Icon exhibition.
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is located at 410 Third Avenue SE, in Cedar Rapids. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday 12 to 4 p.m., Thursday 12 to 8 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Mondays. CRMA.org.