At a press luncheon on Monday, Marsh 25, the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine previewed the elegant and elemental new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion which, when it opens on July 13, will make the Colby museum the largest art museum in the state of Maine and one of the premier college art museums in the country. The initial exhibition will focus on the gift of more than 500 works of art worth more than $100 million given to the museum by Peter and Paula Lunder, heirs to the Dexter Shoe fortune and avid collectors of American art.
The $15 million Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, Harold Alfond having been the founder of Dexter Shoe and one of Maine’s most generous philanthropists, is a 26,000 square feet glass box, 10,000 square feet of which is new exhibition space, giving Colby 38,000 square feet of exhibition space and 64,000 square feet overall. The new pavilion was designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects of Los Angeles, the same firm that designed the 1999 Lunder Wing that houses Colby’s permanent collection of American art.
The Alfond-Lunder family has been incredibly generous to Colby over the years, the football stadium, field house, gymnasium, admissions building and now two wings of the museum bearing the family names. The late Harold Alfond gave to institutions all over the state. The Lunders have focused their educational giving on Colby, Peter Lunder being a 1956 graduate, and have made substantial gifts to the Maine General Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. The Lunders have homes in Scarborough, Maine, Boston and Palm Beach.
Peter Lunder, a nephew of Harold Alfond who ran Dexter Shoe for many years, and his wife Paula began collecting seriously in the 1980s and their collection now numbers more than 600 works of art. While the opening exhibition of the Lunder gift (July 13 to June 8, 2014) is arranged by broad themes — children, seasons, cowboys and Indians, etc. — what visitors who pay attention will see is the progress and evolution of the Lunders’ taste. The Lunders began collecting conservative European art and then became more and more focused on American art, the collection having pockets of concentration on Santa Fe artists , James McNeill Whistler, American masters and, most recently, contemporary American art. The collection spans 1796 to the present and is a fine survey of American art.
The works that drew the most attention from the 15 to 20 members of the press at the March 25 preview were Claes Oldenburg’s 1977 stainless steel, cement and aluminum Typewriter Eraser, a Pop Art statement goofily dated now that typewriters are a thing of the past, and Duane Hanson’s 1973 Old Man Playing Solitaire, a life-like portrait of the artist’s father in resin and fiberglass.
The Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion houses galleries, studio space and educational space for the museum’s k-12 school outreach program. Though its severely minimalist glass box form is a dramatic departure from the predominant red brick Georgian architecture of the Mayflower Hill campus, the new wing glows from within at night and during the day reflects the surrounding buildings in its peculiarly muted glass walls. When I first saw the rendering below, I mistakenly assumed the building was still covered in construction plastic, but that is just the dulling effect of the horizontal striations of the fritted glass used to diffuse daylight and conserve energy.
Do not adjust your set. The photo below is a view of construction workers on the roof of a new science building under construction across the street as seen through the fritting of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion.
For the next ten years, a soaring wall painting by Sol Lewitt will grace the street side of the glass wing. The courtyard entrance features Richard Serra’s steel cubes, minimalist sculpture that foreshadows the high seriousness of the Alfond-Lunder.
[Colby College Museum of Art, 5600 Mayflower Hill, Waterville ME, 207-859-5600.]