Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

| September 4, 2015

The contemporary arts community in historic Richmond, Virginia is impressively vibrant and in a continuous expansion. Its main concern is to bring internationally famous artists into the city and use their fame to promote local Virginian talents. Richmond has a fascinating cultural richness that ranges from the privately owned Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to Richmond First Fridays and artist-run galleries. The city is well known as an important arts destination. Its galleries are ideal for complementing any cultural tour of the city.


One of the most representative and iconic presence in Richmond’s arts community is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that was founded in 1936 with the purpose of collecting, promoting and exhibiting art to a large range of public audience. The building where the museum is located was designed by the architects Peebles and Ferguson in the English Renaissance style. At the beginning only certain wings of the building were occupied by the art gallery, but in time due to the continuously growing number of art pieces the Museum of Fine Arts Virginia ended up by taking over the entire space. The last addition was in 1985 when the west wing also started hosting its exhibitions.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts includes a very wide and diversified collection that ranges from art deco, ancient American art and early 20th century European art pieces to modern masterpieces, such as the ones created by Sally Mann’s with her intriguing black and white photography and Robert Lazzarini with its fascinating sculptures.


Among the most successful and appreciated past exhibitions displayed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art we mention the award-winning touring collection of works by Tom Wesselman, an important figure in the American pop art section and works of Diana Al-Hadid, a New York based Syrian-American sculptural artist.

The mission of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art is to be a primary educational institution that focuses on the cultural benefits of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its main goal is to collect, exhibit, preserve, and interpret art, to inspire people to admire and study art, and thus to enrich our creative perspectives.

VMFA Exhibit 2011. Tristin Lowe: Mocha Dick Jul 23 – Nov 27, 2011 21st Century Gallery photo: Travis Fullerton ©Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Tristin Lowe’s colossal sculpture Mocha Dick is a fifty-two-feet-long recreation of the real-life albino sperm whale that terrorized early 19th-century whaling vessels near Mocha Island in the South Pacific. Mocha Dick, described in appearance as “white as wool,” engaged in battle with numerous whaling expeditions and inspired Herman Melville’s epic Moby-Dick (1851). Lowe worked with the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia to make the sculpture: a large-scale vinyl inflatable understructure sheathed in white industrial felt. Tristin Lowe’s massive sculpture takes its name, anatomy, color, and inspiration from a legendary albino sperm whale that inhabited the South Pacific waters near Mocha Island in the early 19th century. Vividly chronicled by a New England seafarer and published in the monthly Knickerbocker magazine (1839), the creature was said to have attacked as many as twenty whaling vessels. The graphic account describes the elusive behemoth, known as Mocha Dick, as a ghostly presence: “As white as wool . . . as white as a snow drift . . . white as the surf around him.” This notorious creature was especially striking because sperm whales are commonly dark gray, brown, or black. The great 19th-century work of art that also drew its inspiration from this infamous white whale is Herman Melville’s epic Moby-Dick, published in 1851. Lowe’s reckoning with the mythic mammal can be traced to his fascination with Melville’s novel and his research into maritime history. He built his fifty-two-foot sculpture true to the scale of a sperm whale. The work has a coat of thick wool felt covering an inflated vinyl armature. Clusters of handcrafted barnacles are appliquéd to the whale’s body and scar-like stitches zigzag across its surface. These naturalistic embellishments attest to the creature

The Pauley Center was opened in 1999 as a new addition to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ campus. The purpose of this center is to house the Office of Statewide Partnership which is an initiative focused on offering exhibitions and programs sponsored by over 200 nonprofit institutions, such as museums, art organizations, galleries, colleges, schools and universities.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Art is located at 200 N. Boulevard Richmond, Virginia USA and it is opened Monday to Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Category: Art

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