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New cafe, gift shop, multitudes of art in expanded museum

By E.V.E. Sacheverell

As of April 2, 2023, the Bruce Museum’s newest expansion is now open. This expansion has a lot to offer, between the multitudes of art and science exhibits, as well as the newly opened cafe and gift shop. The majority of the art housed in the museum is currently impressionist, but there are also several Tang Dynasty Chinese figures and Modern sculptures, ranging from Giacometti-esque metal pieces to Greco-Roman revival sculptures. In addition, the museum houses an extensive collection of impressionist art and a gallery highlighting Black American artists.

Figure: #1

Artist: Andre Masson

Title: Extase

Date: Conceived 1938, Cast 1986

Stylistic Period: Surrealism

Medium: Bronze

Size: 37 ¼ x 24 x 13 ¾ in.

Museum Name and Accession Number: The Bruce Museum. Unfortunately, the writer was unable to gain access to the accession number due to a lack of response from the museum.

A majority of the museum’s art is impressionist, yet several pieces stand out amongst these. Above is Andre Masson’s ‘Extase’, which depicts a pair of figures in an embrace. There is a mechanical nature to it and a sort of haunting presence. It sits in a hall of impressionist art, amongst pieces depicting both Europe and more local locales such as the Daggy farm in Norwalk, Connecticut. The Bruce Museum offers a journey through the last 190 years of Art History (notwithstanding the Tang Dynasty figures). There is something sincerely charming about the quaintness of the art presented. However, there is also a power expressed in the highlighting of black artists amongst the many European artists showcased there.

Masson’s style fits well in the museum, not because of its surrealist views, but rather the way in which the Bruce Museum fits in Greenwich. Amongst the trendy, cookie-cutter shops and homes in Greenwich, there is a certain surrealist charm to the museum itself. Indeed, it fits in the way it brings upscale art, but it is also just that - art. It stands amongst a backdrop of bourgeois elegance as an enclave of artists, such as the artists’ communes in Paris or New York City did.

Most of all, there is a knowledge in the town now that there wasn’t before. The museum is much larger than it was and offers a true experience that only the library has before it. Now, there’s a place that truly draws visitors to the town the way that The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA do to New York City. This is no mega city, but it’s a burgeoning beacon amongst one of Fairfield County’s trendiest towns, and ties it so neatly to the state that borders it.

The writer also conducted a pair of interviews. The first interview was with the Susan E. Lynch Executive Director and CEO, Mr. Robert Wolterstorff:

Q: How long has the Bruce Museum been open?

A: Since 1912, so it’s about 111 years.

Q: How long has this project been ongoing?

A: Ok so, I’m gonna give you a bunch of answers- the first dreams were like 30 years ago, because the original addition was ‘92 and they knew it had to be bigger, and then there were a number of attempts at it in the oughts, like 2008, which came to an end because of a big financial collapse and then this plan we selected the architects in 2013 and then the board voted on it in 2014 so 9-10 years, then we broke ground in late ‘20. So you can figure out how long that is with all the dates I gave you.

Q: Now that you’re open in full, would you consider the museum completed?

A: I would, but it’s like you know, never say never there’s always tomorrow… One of the first questions I asked the architects is love the building, but what if we needed to make it bigger in the future, and we already have a plan for that, so my goal is to build a great permanent collection, so great and so big that we’ll have to expand it, but I would say that’s gonna be ten years away.

Q: What sort of art is currently on display and is this typical for the museum?

A: I will say it is typical for the museum, so when I came we doubled the size of the building. We’re not gonna be like the Met, we can’t collect 5000 years of world art, so what can we do? What if we focus on- I call it the story of Modernism and I like to talk about the impressionist, you know we think of impressionist painting as just pictures of landscapes, but they were renegades and the young Pizarro said ‘Burn the Louvre!’ - They were like the Beatles and Rolling Stones - that stuff is old, we’re doing something new. So we’re gonna start around 1830s to today, in fact the earliest painting in the museum is that Corot which is 1830s.

Q: How long have you been with the museum?

A: I’ve been since June of ‘19, so almost 4 years.

The next interview was with a patron who wished to remain anonymous:

Q: Have you been following the museum’s expansion?

A: A little bit, yes.

Q: What drew you to the museum today?

A: The fact that it’s a grand opening and wanting to see the new galleries.

Q: Of the art you’ve seen here, which piece (or pieces) would you say spoke to you the most?

A: Well, we haven’t been through all of the galleries, I think we’ve just gone through four or five, so I like seeing more of the collection that I haven’t seen in the past and there’s definitely some works that are very moving too and some works that I didn’t even know were in the collection that’s nice to see out, too.

Q: Have you been to the museum before today?

A: Yes.

Q: How long have you been coming here?

A: Oh, many years, how many years? Twenty-plus years.

Q: Are you from Greenwich?

A: Yes.

In addition to the art galleries, the Bruce Museum has a science wing that ranges from gems and minerals to penguins as well as an exhibit about the Long Island Sound that has been with the museum since well before the expansion. The Bruce Museum is located at 1 Museum Drive in Greenwich, Connecticut. They can be reached at (203) 869-0376. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and is currently free on Tuesdays and $20 for adults all other days. Students age five to 22 may enter at a reduced price of $15 and seniors at the same reduced price. Children under five years of age may enter for free. In addition, there is a newly opened cafe catered by Aux Delices on the first floor, though it airs on the more expensive side.

E.V.E. Sacheverell is a writer for the Voice.

The article was edited by Voice writer Toni Powell.

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