Letter from the Director

Welcome to the Memorial Art Gallery, which we—our guests, volunteers, supporters, staff, and dedicated Board of Managers—affectionately call MAG. Founded in 1913 by Emily Sibley Watson, an heiress to the Western Union fortune, MAG was given to the University of Rochester to hold in trust for the people of Western New York. In this regard, it is the rare civic art museum that is affiliated with a major private research institution of higher learning.

Since September 2014, when I became MAG’s seventh director, the museum has grown dramatically, especially in the areas of global modern and contemporary art. Now, in addition to stunning examples by historical figures such as Elizabeth Catlett, Paul Cézanne, Beauford Delaney, Thomas Eakins, Helen Frankenthaler, El Greco, Winslow Homer, Jacob Lawrence, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Diego Rivera, we also boast significant works by renowned contemporaries, including John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, George Condo, Sam Gilliam, Hung Liu, Grayson Perry, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, and Mickalene Thomas. In 2017 we launched a media art program that introduced into our permanent collection the art of the moving image. Today we are the only collection in North America to own the entire series of Bill Viola’s Martyrs, a dramatic four-screen meditation on the four classical elements of earth, air, fire, and water, as well as video installations by Sondra Perry and Javier Téllez. Other noteworthy recent acquisitions include a late Bakelite Robot by Nam June Paik, and Isaac Julien’s momentous 10-screen installation inspired by the words and actions of the abolitionist and human rights advocate Frederick Douglass, who did his most vital work from Rochester and is buried here. MAG commissioned this extraordinary work called Lessons of the Hour (2019), and it has had a powerful impact on our community.

MAG welcomes people throughout Monroe County and beyond. Our working relationships with organizations like the Dyer Arts Center at the National Institute for the Deaf (RIT) and Rochester City School District help us to connect with audiences. We count numerous institutions such as local libraries, community centers, senior living residences, and health, religious, and cultural organizations as partners who enable us to expand our reach. Through these efforts, we also grow our membership.

As much as we would like to, we can’t show all of our treasures all the time. However, you can undoubtedly depend on an exciting slate of special exhibitions and permanent collection installations whenever you visit. For 2020 our exhibition program is dedicated especially to the work of women artists as we celebrate the Suffrage Centennial. We look forward to exploring the art of Chitra Ganesh, Ja’Tovia Gary, Zoe Leonard, and Judith Schaechter, as well as the reinstallation in the Cameros Gallery of our permanent collection of American art around women makers. Toward the year’s end, on October 25th, we will launch a much-anticipated Season of Warhol with four installations and exhibitions of the Pop artist’s work. Keep an eye on our events calendar for engaging public programs, for example our fun and sometimes irreverent DeTOURS℠ (not your typical art museum tour), or Cocktails with Creatives, where we celebrate extraordinary local creative talents.

There is always a great reason to visit MAG. I hope to see you in the galleries soon!

Jonathan P. Binstock, Ph.D.
Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director

photo: John Myers