Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Unveils Charlotte, NC’s Newest Public Art Piece

Over the next two years, Center City Charlotte will be transformed by the development of the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus (formerly the Wachovia Cultural Campus), which will include an expanded Mint Museum of Art, the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture (formerly the Afro-American Cultural Center) and the new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. What a boon this is for the visual arts in the Charlotte area and the Carolinas.

The new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture opened in Oct. 2009 and now we have another announcement about the Cultural Campus. Stay tuned to Carolina Arts Unleashed for all the latest updates on the Cultural Campus.

The new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has unveiled The Firebird, a playful, monumental outdoor sculpture that will greet visitors on their way to the museum when it opens on Jan. 2, 2010.

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The Firebird is Charlotte’s newest work of privately-owned public art and is a permanent fixture in the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art collection. Standing 17-feet 5-inches tall, the sculpture is a whimsical, bird-like creature covered from top to bottom in pieces of mirrored and colored glass. The Firebird was installed on the plaza of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art facing South Tryon Street and overlooking the new Wells Fargo Cultural Campus where the museum is located.

Created in 1991 by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), the sculpture was purchased by museum patron Andreas Bechtler specifically for placement in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland, was looking for a sculpture to serve as a counterpoint to the geometric lines of the museum’s architecture, designed by renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta.

“When I saw The Firebird, I knew it was outstanding. I knew it would be great for the museum,” Andreas Bechtler said. “The Firebird is joyful, uplifting and engaging. It makes you feel that life is good.”

The unveiling ceremony included remarks from Cyndee Patterson, Board Chair of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art; Heinz Roth, Honorary Consul of Switzerland; Urs Ziswiler, Swiss Ambassador to the United States; Andreas Bechtler and John Boyer, President and CEO of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Also in attendance was Laura Gabriela Duke, the daughter of The Firebird artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

“The Bechtler is excited to celebrate the great legacy of Niki de Saint Phalle with the placement of The Firebird – a piece that we trust will serve as an exciting and welcoming gesture to Charlotte visitors and everyone who comes to the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus,” said museum President and CEO John Boyer.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler. Bechtler assembled and inherited a collection of more than 1,400 artworks created by major figures of 20th-century modernism and committed it to the city of Charlotte.

The Bechtler collection comprises artworks by seminal figures such as Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Le Corbusier, Sol LeWitt, Edgar Degas, Nicolas de Stael, Barbara Hepworth and Picasso. Books, photographs and letters illustrating personal connections to the Bechtler family accompany some of the works in the collection. Only a handful of the artworks have been on public view in the United States.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is located at 420 South Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte. The museum opens to the public on Jan. 2, 2010. For museum details visit (www.bechtler.org).

To read an entry we posted about the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, just click this link.

To read an entry we posted about the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, just click this link.

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