Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Chrysler Gift
Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. was the namesake of an auto magnate and thought to be destined for a long career with the Chrysler Cooperation, but his time in the family business was short-lived. Collecting art was his true passion. What started with a $300 Renoir watercolor that was confiscated and destroyed turned into a lifetime of collecting.
In 1971, Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. gifted more than 7,000 artworks from his personal collection to the City of Norfolk. The transformative gift, which included notable objects ranging from Ancient Egyptian and Roman glass to contemporary works by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, found a home at the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, which was renamed in Chrysler’s honor. His generosity established the Chrysler Museum of Art as the largest and most important visual arts organization in Hampton Roads. Beginning this summer, the Chrysler Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walter Chrysler’s gift.
When you visit the galleries, look for extended labels offering more insight into Walter Chrysler’s collecting practices. Some of the artworks will be featured as Double Takes, unlikely juxtapositions or mini-installations that encourage critical engagement with a concept or theme. Assembled by Avery Bolden, a 2020 intern supported by the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Double Takes will appear in several galleries throughout the year and reflect on objects from Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.’s collection to raise provocative questions about themes like racial representation, standards of beauty, masculinity, implicit bias, white supremacy, and youth culture, among many others.
One of the highlights of the Double Takes series is a portrait of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. alongside Slick, Barkley L. Hendricks’s self-portrait. The portrait of Chrysler presents the famed art collector dressed in his naval service khaki uniform at North Wales, the sprawling estate he purchased in Warrenton, Virginia shortly after the death of his father. It is apparent that he has achieved extraordinary wealth. Slick offers a powerful reflection on masculinity, race, and power. Hendricks made Slick in the wake of a New York Times review that largely praised the artist but also used racialized terms, saying Henricks was “a brilliantly endowed painter” who employed a “stylized slickness.” In Slick, Henricks wears a kufi cap to assert his African American identity, and a white suit against a white background pokes at the racial politics of the era. Look for the Double Takes icon as you tour the galleries.
Starting in July, we’ll present a short film about the Chryslers and their time in Norfolk. Photographs and interviews with those who knew and worked with him will capture the art collector’s life as well as his gift of art that helped transform Norfolk into a cultural hub of the region. The film will also highlight how Chrysler’s gift served as a catalyst for growth in Norfolk and inspired others’ generosity, which continues to transform the Museum.
Torch will feature stories from curators, community members, and people who worked alongside Chrysler during his active years at the Museum. Learn about Chrysler’s journey from childhood to becoming one of the most extraordinary art collectors of his time and how it came to Norfolk.
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The 50th anniversary celebration will also include special exhibitions and culminate with a festive black-tie gala.
On view October 10, 2021–February 27, 2022
On view November 19, 2021–March 6, 2022