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Portland Art Museum Opens Riches of a City Portland Collects

The Portland Art Museum presents Riches of a City: Portland Collects celebrating arts patronage in Portland and the influence these collections have on the Museum. Opening on February 5, the exhibition features more than 230 objects from some 80 private collections in the city. The exhibition title references a quote from C.E.S. Wood, a founder of the Museum and arts patron: “Good citizens are the riches of a city.”

For nearly a year, four of the Museum’s curators have been exploring local collections of photography, prints, drawings, silver, Asian art, European art, and modern and contemporary art, uncovering exceptional objects including works by Degas, Picasso, Lautrec, Miro, and Warhol.

The curators visited with more than 150 collectors and considered hundreds of objects. The works in the exhibition reveal a variety of collecting interests and passions and give the public a rare glimpse behind closed doors. The diversity of objects also reflects the diversity of collectors from long-time residents to new citizens and from individuals with large collections to some with a handful of objects.

Some of the objects in the exhibition have been shown at the Portland Art Museum or other institutions in the past but most will be exhibited publicly for the first time.

“This exhibition provides an excellent opportunity for the Portland Art Museum to fulfill one of its core responsibilities, which is to place great works of art within the public realm either through temporary exhibition or by adding to the collection in perpetuity,” said Brian Ferriso, the Museum’s director.

Art collectors can have a strong influence on a museum’s permanent collection, and the Portland Art Museum is not an exception. More than 80 percent of the Museum’s permanent collection has come from generous gifts of art from collectors. From Portland’s earliest years, citizens have collected the art of their day from Egyptian scarabs and Ethiopian crosses, Japanese prints and Chinese ceramics, English portraits and French Barbizon School paintings. These collectors brought these exotic works back from their travels to Portland. Many of these private collectors would be the founding members of the Museum and lend their artworks to the early exhibitions of the Portland Art Association. In its 117 year history, the Museum has organized 20 exhibitions highlighting private collections in the region.

Riches of a City is the most ambitious of these exhibitions historically, not only with the number of objects but also the diversity of mediums on display. The exhibition installation is organized almost like a museum within a museum. Bright yellow end walls key the visitor that they are entering different sections where objects share a common subject, technique, or theme. This organization allows visitors to consider ancient Asian art in relationship to contemporary prints or works of photography through multiple generations, or artists who were influenced by other artists. For example, the Schnitzer Sculpture Court presents a three generation look at mid-century American art through paintings and sculpture.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated, full-color 12 page softbound catalogue which celebrates Portland’s community of collectors, documents every object, and highlights singular objects. Riches of a City is organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Bruce Guenther, chief curator and curator of modern and contemporary art; Maribeth Graybill, Ph.D, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art; Julia Dolan, Ph.D., curator of photography; and Annette Dixon, Ph.D., curator of prints and drawings.

For information on exhibitions and programs, call 503-226-2811 or visit

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