“To distribute material possessions is to divide them. To distribute spiritual possessions is to multiply them.”
When Erin Coe, director of The Hyde Collection, asked Schenectady architect Werner Feibes to describe why he was donating his $10 million collection of artwork to the Glens Falls museum, he sent her only that quote from artist Josef Albers.
To Feibes and his lifelong partner, the late James Schmitt, the 100 artworks that were entrusted to the Hyde were “spiritual possessions,” says Coe.
And that’s one of the reasons why on Saturday it’s the Hyde that’s unveiling the new Feibes & Schmitt Gallery, a 1,500 square-foot space devoted to modern and contemporary art. The two men knew that the Hyde, unlike a larger museum, would regularly exhibit the prints, paintings, drawings and sculptures, sharing them with the public and “multiplying” their reach.
Over six decades, Feibes and Schmitt, residents of Schenectady’s Stockade District, amassed one of the most significant collections of modern art in our region.
The debut exhibit, which Coe co-curated with Hyde curator Jonathan Canning, is “not a greatest hits,” she said. “It’s a more personal story. It’s about the friendships they developed with the artists.”
You’ll see 40 abstract and non-representational works by 20th century masters, among them Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Grace Hartigan, Jean (Hans) Arp, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol Lewitt, Man Ray, Louise Nevelson, Pablo Picasso, George Rickey and Bridget Riley.
“These are like their children,” Coe said Friday, during a preview tour of the exhibit.
The new gallery is located in a former storage space just beyond the 2,400-square-foot Charles R. Wood Gallery, and adjoins that larger art space.
The connection seems appropriate, says Coe, as Wood and now Feibes and Schmitt are the Hyde’s biggest benefactors since 1952, when Charlotte Pruyn Hyde bequeathed her home and artworks to establish the museum.
On an inner wall, portraits of Feibes and Schmitt that were drawn by their friend, artist Ellsworth Kelly, hang next to each other.
On another wall, we see the 1980 Kelly sculpture, “Diagonal with Curve XII, Blue,” which was created specifically for a wall in the dining room of the Feibes and Schmitt home.
(On June 25, in tandem with the new gallery, a Kelly exhibit will open in the Wood Gallery).
The Schenectady art collectors and architects were also friends with Rickey, Hartigan and Frank Stella.
Their intense interest in art also led to chats with other important 20th-century artists.
“They met Louise Nevelson. They met Andy Warhol,” Coe says.
Bridget Riley’s “White Discs I” from 1963, an optical illusion piece, is expected to be popular with visitors.
“We are actually going to put a bench in front of it,” says Canning.
After the first show comes down at the end of the year, works from Feibes and Schmitt may not appear in every show.
“There’s one restriction, that the gallery is always dedicated to modern and contemporary art,” says Coe.
The Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region Exhibition, which is regularly hosted by the Hyde, could also spill into the new space.
Among its holdings, the Hyde also has two smaller collections of 20th century art.
The Feibes-Schmitt gift and the new gallery dramatically expand the scope of the Hyde.
“The Hyde is known for its old masters and now we can add modern masters,” says Canning.
“It really opens up the Hyde,” says Coe.
And it was Mrs. Hyde who planted the seed for Saturday’s opening of the new gallery.
“She didn’t not put restrictions on the collection,” Coe says.
Unlike other art patrons of her day, Mrs. Hyde wanted her collection to “grow and change.”
The Hyde’s connection with Feibes and Schmitt dates back nearly 20 years, and in recent years, Coe visited their Stockade home many times.
“Werner feels like family to us,” she says.
‘To Distribute and Multiply: The Feibes and Schmitt Gift’
WHAT: Debut exhibit in the new Feibes & Schmitt Gallery
WHERE: Hyde Collection, 161 Warren St., Glens Falls
WHEN: Opens Saturday, runs through 2017.
HOW MUCH: $12, $10 for seniors. Free for children 12 and under, active military
RELATED EVENT: On Saturday, to celebrate the opening, a community day is scheduled, with tours of the new gallery, hands-on art activities and live music on the lawn. Admission is free from 1 to 7 p.m.
MORE INFO: www.hydecollection.org, 792-1761