Ackland curator to go out with eclectic exhibit

CorrespondentJune 14, 2014 

Behold the “Sleeping Bulldog.”

This charming, red crayon study is one of 130 works in an exhibit, “An Eye for the Unexpected,” that opens Friday at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill.

“One of the things about this exhibition is that not only will you see works by artists that you probably have never heard of before, but you will see something by an artist that you know for a particular kind of work, and, this is not that kind of work, “ said Timothy Riggs, the Ackland’s curator of collections.

The bulldog, by British artist Frank Brangwyn, is a fun example of this.

“Brangwyn is best known for big, muscular scenes of buildings and people, sometimes people who are builders,” said Riggs. “Each is more human than the last.”

Riggs chose the pieces in the exhibit from a collection of 450 works donated to the Ackland by Joseph F. McCrindle.

“He bought all kinds of things and was not concerned particularly with names,” Riggs said. “He bought what looked good. He had a good eye.”

McCrindle created a foundation to disperse his vast art and book collection when he died. The Ackland knew it was to receive a couple of McCrindle’s paintings, but when his executor, John Rowe, visited the Ackland, a couple of works turned into several hundred.

“He saw that I was interested in prints, that we had a big collection, and that we did a lot with it,” Riggs said. “He told me that he thought McCrindle’s entire print collection should come to the Ackland.” And so it did.

When the exhibit ends Aug. 31, it will also make the end of an era. Riggs retires Aug. 1.

“The great thing about working at a small museum is that you will be working one day on African carvings and a week later on Chinese ceramics,” he said. “The interesting thing, and this is why I stayed, is that what you become is a specialist in the Ackland Art Museum. I think I know the collection probably better than anybody in the world.”

He will be featured speaker at the Ackland Annual Luncheon on Thursday at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. Tickets are $45 at the Museum Store or by calling 919-843-5637.

Riggs, who is also an adjunct faculty member in UNC’s art history department, said he will miss putting together exhibitions.

“It is one of the most exciting things you can do because it gives a curator that chance to be an artist,” Riggs said. “The curator’s art is putting together other people’s art, and, of course, making that art, including the arrangement of that art, comprehensive to the person who walks in the door.”


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