Montclair Art Museum

I’ve worked in New Jersey for a couple of years already, and I’ve never explored the state. I’ve been there to go to the malls and Six Flags and work, but I’ve never been to museums or anything. Actually, whenever I think of New Jersey, I think Atlantic City, and funny smells, but not museums, however it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. So a few fridays ago, I decided to call it a half day and took off to…

Montclair Art Museum, located in Montclair, New Jersey

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The Montclair Art Museum is opened from Wednesday to Sunday, from noon to 5pm. From October through June, they have extended hours with free admission from 5pm to 9pm on the first Thursday of each month. Regular admission to the museum is $12 for adults, however since one of the galleries is currently closed for the summer, admission is half off, $6. In addition to the free first Thursday nights,  there is also a free first Friday of each month. The museum is located in the suburbs, thus there is ample free parking for your car. I took advantage of the free first Friday of the month and got to see the museum without charge. (Anyway to save money is good for me.)

Art museums are actually my least favorite museums. I don’t quite know what to do with myself when I’m there because 1)art museums tend to be really quiet, so I always feel like I’m making a ruckus with the picture taking; 2) it seems silly to take a picture of a painting; and 3)people tend to contemplate and discuss the artwork, I just look and move on. Nevertheless, I visited the museum with all the objectivity I could muster.

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As I entered the museum, I was kindly greeted by the receptionist, who informed me that it was free museum Friday. She then proceeded to hand me a floor guide, indicating the galleries that are open and the one that was closed. (That was really nice, considering I paid nothing to see the museum.)

The Montclair Art Museum is currently celebrating its centennial, thus most of the museum is involved with its “100 works for 100 years: A Centennial Celebration” exhibition. The museum has special labels for the works included in the exhibit, which spanned two galleries with a few other works scattered throughout the museum. In addition to that, there were some archival documents relating to the museum and historic photographs on display in the Shelby Family Gallery.

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The two galleries that were part of the centennial exhibit were the McMullen Family Foundation Gallery and the Marion Mann Roberts Gallery. The McMullen Gallery contained 18th-19th century American Art. There were plenty of landscapes and portraits. I quite enjoyed reading some of the museum labels for the portraits, which not only gave a short description of the artist’s bio, but also how the work reflected the ideals of that particular time period. Separating the two galleries was a rotunda which had several sculptures on display. The piece seen in the photograph is entitled A Crown For the Victor by William Couper, who resided in Montclair until his death. The Marion Gallery displayed contemporary art, which was mostly photographs. There was one that I particularly liked, a photograph of a window cleaner dressed as Spiderman. It was part of a superhero series by Dulce Pinzón. ( You can see a glimpse of it above, in the middle picture on the bottom row.)

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The museum has the only gallery in the world devoted solely to work by George Inness. George Inness was an influential American landscape painter and known as the father of American landscape painting according to the internet. He lived for a period in Montclair and painted the area. After the George Inness gallery is the Weston Gallery that is currently closed and is connected directly to the Rand Gallery of Native American Art, thus I had to double back to the Rand Gallery. As indicated by the name, the Rand Gallery was devoted to Native American Art; there were baskets, pottery, jewelry, etc. The Rand Gallery was my favorite in the museum as it is most similar to the types of museums that I am biased towards . In addition to that, the security guard in this gallery actually encouraged me to take photos, as opposed to the other galleries where I felt the security personnel were following and waiting to scold me for taking a picture in the galleries. (I took the photos sneakily, whenever the guards walked to another area.)

I spent about an hour to look at everything; I thought I would take less time, which probably would’ve been the case if I just quickly glanced at everything, but because I spent time reading up on some of the pieces , it took longer. (I actually had to skip some because I had to leave by a certain time to beat rush hour traffic.) I assumed I wouldn’t enjoy the museum because of my own bias-ness, but the museum proved me wrong. I enjoyed the hour I spent there, and honed my art appreciation skills a bit. For the price I paid (free), I thought the museum was worth it, for the reduced admission price, $6, I think it’s still a pretty good deal because the museum has enough on display to warrant that price. As for the regular admission price, I can’t say because I don’t know if the additional gallery is worth the extra $6.  Nevertheless, give the Montclair Art museum a chance to give you a glimpse of all the culture hiding in the suburbs known as New Jersey.

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