The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jun 13, 2011

Making a private art collection public: The Bechtler Museum

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Pam Davis, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Turning a private art collection in to a public one involves myriad factors. A grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is providing for works in the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art to be photographed and shared through various digital channels.

Charlotte-based art photographer David Ramsey photographed artworks in the Bechtler collection for the exhibition Four Artists in Ascona: Benazzi, Bissier, Nicholson and Valenti on view through July 5, 2011. He will be back at the museum soon to shoot additional works in the collection.

“As is the case of most institutions, what you see in the galleries is a very small part of what they hold, and you can only put so much out, even by rotating things over the years,” Ramsey says. “I think that long term, digitizing collections is where museums are going to have to go."

The Bechtler’s Ascona exhibition focuses on a group of modern artists who lived and worked near the Bechtlers’ summer home in Ascona, Switzerland – a city with a century-old tradition of nurturing avant-garde culture – and who possessed a shared connection with the family. The artwork presented in the exhibition ranges from the symbolic vocabulary of Julius Bissier and the etched lines of Ben Nicholson to the abstract collages of Italo Valenti and voluminous sculptures of Raffael Benazzi. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, collage, prints, jewelry and sculpture created between the late 1950s and ‘70s. In addition, family photos and correspondence provide a glimpse into the close relationships the Bechtlers forged with these artists.

Ramsey admits that shooting artwork is an art in itself. “I think you have to understand a little about art to photograph it, to understand the nuances in it and what it’s about,” Ramsey says. “Artwork has its challenges, whether it’s a drawing, a painting or sculpture. And it’s the the challenge of dealing with those nuances that I love about photographing art.”


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