[image-6]We got the first look at the Gibbes Museum of Art’s two-year, $13.5 million renovation this morning and we’ve gotta say, it’s pretty freaking awesome. We took a bunch of pictures — they tell a thousand words, right? — so you can get just a taste of all the work that’s been put into the Gibbes to restore it to its original glory. The museum opens to the public this Saturday, May 28 at 10 a.m. For the first time the Gibbes will have an entirely free and open-to-the-public first floor, featuring classrooms, artists’ studios, a cafe, and access to a public garden. Read on for more.

The Gibbes once had dark carpet and laminate flooring covering the building’s original 1905 tiles. Ugh. But fear not, all of that ugly stuff is gone, and the original tiles have been uncovered, bearing their scars, scrapes, and all. The real deal. 

Angela Mack, the museum’s executive director, says that the renovation process has been a “glorious ride,” restoring the Gibbes to its original beauty and function. The Gibbes Museum of Art, the oldest art museum in the South, was opened in 1905 with money donated by James Shoolbred Gibbes, who passed away in 1899 but not before asking that $100,000 go towards “the erection of a suitable building for the exhibitions of paintings.” 

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Sara Arnold, the museum’s curator of collections, led us through the 18th and 19th century galleries which focus on American art of the South. Fun fact: the Gibbes has one of the largest collection of mini portraits in the country.
[image-7] [image-8]Pam Wall, the museum’s curator of exhibitions, talked about the 20th century galleries, which include a work by realist painter Edward Hopper, who painted a scene of a Charleston slum while visiting the city in 1929.

[image-10] The second floor also features works by Mary Jackson, a local sweetgrass basket maker. Displayed on a wall is her largest-ever basket, which took her three years to make. It’s held on the wall by magnets, so as not to damage the sweetgrass. 

The Gibbes’ third floor will have rotating special exhibitions every three months, and from now until October (which we know is a little more than three months, but it’s the first one) you can check out The Things We Carry: Contemporary Art in the South and Beyond Catfish Row: The Art of Porgy and Bess.

We’re going to go into a little more detail about the Porgy and Bess exhibition (check our Spoleto Buzz blog), but we’ll show you our favorite Jonathan Green sketch. 

The Things We Carry features works from artists all over the South, with Wall saying, “it’s a dynamic group that’s not afraid to explore racism, violence, and gun violence in particular.” 

There is so much to see in the Gibbes, and there’s value both in wandering throughout exhibits at will, and in following a curated tour of each space. Check out the Gibbes website for a list of available curator-lead tours, and head to the museum this Saturday to celebrate a revival 100 years in the making.