Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina | CruiseBe
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Gibbes Museum of Art

135 Meeting StreetCharleston, South Carolina
History and museums
art museum, landmark, sightseeing

Formerly known as the Gibbes Art Gallery, the Gibbes Museum of Art is an art museum in Charleston, South Carolina. Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the museum moved into a new Beaux Arts building at 135 Meeting Street, in the Charleston Historic District, in 1905. The Gibbes houses a premier collection of over 10,000 works of fine art, principally American works, many with a connection to Charleston or the South.

The benefactor, James Shoolbred Gibbes, donated $100,000 to the Carolina Arts Association upon his death in 1899 for the "erection of a suitable building for the exhibitions of paintings." Receipt of the money by the city, however, was delayed by a will contest filed by nieces and nephews of Gibbes. Their case was heard in the state court of New York during 1900 and 1901. On December 6, 1901, the New York Supreme Court (the state's trial-level court) issued an opinion declaring that the gift to Charleston was valid.

Receiving the money in 1903, the Association hired Frank Pierce Milburn to design the gallery. His design included a Tiffany-style dome, Doric columns and pediment capped windows and doors. Milburn completed the drawings of the building in mid-1903, and a drawing of the proposed building appeared in the Charleston Evening Post on June 5, 1903. Notices were published seeking contractors' bids for the work starting in August 1903. In September 1903, H.T. Zacharias was selected as the contractor and received a contract for $73,370 for the building. Zacharias started work on September 28, 1903, removing the remains of the South Carolina Agricultural Hall which had occupied the lot. Although work on the foundations had begun already, a ceremony was held on December 8, 1903, to lay the cornerstone of the building at the northeast corner.

The museum formally opened on April 11, 1905. The collection on display on the opening day included more than 300 pictures, many bronzes, and about 200 miniatures in addition to an "instructive collection" of Japanese prints.

At present, the museum is completing a year and a half renovation project through the generosity of over 400 individuals and organizations. The renewal was necessary for a building that is 111 years old, but, more importantly, has provided the opportunity for a new vision for the museum -- where art is created, explored, as well as displayed. Public spaces on the first floor include artist studios, lecture rooms, reception rooms, cafe, and gift shop which opens onto a world class garden suitable for weddings or other festive gatherings. The second floor retains its Beaux Arts elegance, but now will have improved LED lighting and an ingenious display for its famous collection of American art miniatures. Office space on the second and third floors has been reconfigured to provide increased area for new exhibits and a dynamic display of "The Charleston Story" . The Gibbes will now enhance lives through art for the entire diverse community that lives in and visits Charleston.

The museum's collections include the work of numerous artists with connections to Charleston; among them are Henrietta Johnston, Mary Roberts, Charles Fraser, William Melton Halsey, and Jeremiah Theus.

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