Credit: Nick Romanenko
Since his appointment as director of the
Zimmerli Art Museum in 2002, Greg Perry,
left, has sought to cultivate the
important niche that the museum plays in
the art world. Diane Neumaier, right,
is a professor at the Mason Gross School
of the Arts and curator of the current
exhibit on Soviet photography.
Neumaier's courses now reflect her
interest in the photo collection.
The current exhibition of Soviet nonconformist photography at the Zimmerli Art Museum, “Beyond Memory,” is just the kind of show that has helped the museum make its mark on the New York metropolitan art scene.
Greg Perry, director of the museum, says the exhibition is probably the first of its kind to show the breadth and significance of Soviet photography. What’s more, it is user-friendly for the layperson while it contributes to the scholarship on Soviet art. Perry is also proud of the collaboration that took place between the museum and curator Diane Neumaier, a professor at Mason Gross. “It’s been great for us to work with another department, to bring another perspective to the Zimmerli collections,” Perry says. In turn, Neumaier’s courses now reflect her immersion in the Dodge collection, from which the exhibition is composed.
Since his appointment as director in October 2002, Perry, who came to the Zimmerli as its associate director in 2000 from the Art Institute of Chicago, is working to ensure that the Zimmerli continues to have an important niche in the crowded art museum world.
The Zimmerli was established in 1966 by cobbling together the various collections of art that were scattered across the campuses. Over the years, the museum built on those collections and added new ones.
“There was no attempt to create a general survey art museum, such as the ones in New York and Philadelphia,” says Perry. “So the museum tried to focus on collections that weren’t as well represented in the immediate area.” For instance, whereas other museums might be strong in French 19th-century paintings, the Zimmerli established itself as a repository of graphics, prints and posters from the same era. Over time, other collections grew, such as those focusing on Japonisme, stained glass, children’s book illustrations, American prints and, perhaps most notably, Russian and Soviet art.
The museum is now the fourth largest university art museum in the country in terms of square feet of exhibition space, 35,000; by comparison, the Whitney Museum in New York has 36,000 square feet. “We have 55,000 works of art, which makes us the sixth biggest in terms of collections,” Perry adds.
But while the museum continues to expand, Perry is committed to maintaining it as a resource for the community, with visits by local schools, teacher workshops and art-making activities for families. “We’re the home museum for the New Brunswick schools,” Perry says, “which means that all of their art and social studies teachers take their classes to the Zimmerli and we follow up with visits at the schools.”
The museum will continue to build on its collection strengths, as well as explore areas that put its current displays in context or have relevance for its various audiences. The permanent collections and special exhibitions are presented about 15 times a year, ensuring that there is always something new on display for visitors.