For more than a century, The RISD Museum has been actively collecting art from all ages and cultures. This is consistent with the shared mission of the Museum and School of Design to promote “the general advancement of public Art Education, by the exhibition of works of Art …” In any given year, several hundred objects enter the permanent collection through donation, purchase, and bequest. The Museum’s holdings included approximately 80,000 artworks at last count. Visitors often wonder why museums acquire some works of art and not others. This exhibition presents a selection of objects acquired over the past five years by the Museum’s six curatorial departments: Ancient Art, Asian Art, Costume and Textiles, Decorative Arts, Painting and Sculpture, and Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. Other recent acquisitions are displayed in the Museum’s various permanent collection galleries.
For this exhibition, the labels accompanying each object take a new approach. In addition to identifying the artist, date, materials, and donor’s name, each label explains why a particular object is an appropriate addition to the Museum’s collection. Among the often cited reasons for acquiring works of art are:
to augment existing collection strengths
to extend the range of holdings into new areas of collecting and to respond to an expanding and culturally diverse audience
to support teaching at the School of Design, a priority that sets The RISD Museum apart from many other art museums
to present works of strong visual impact — beauty as its own reward
There are many objects whose fragility does not allow extended exposure to light and air (for example, textiles, watercolors, and silver). Such works make brief appearances in special exhibitions and permanent gallery rotations. It is hoped that our visitors will return to see the Museum’s new works of art, as they in turn become the context for future acquisitions.