60 Second Tour: High Museum of Art

Where is the High Museum of Art?

Many recognise Atlanta as a US city, but don’t know exactly where it is or what’s there.  Atlanta is located in the southern east coast state of Georgia.  Its population is majority African American and is the birthplace of Martin Luther King. It’s where the headquarters of Coca-Cola and international news network CNN are located. Atlanta hosted the 1996 summer Olympics and is considered the 17th biggest economy in the world.  All of these facts feed into the character of the High Museum of Art, which has a growing local, national and international reputation.

Origins of High Museum

The origins of the Museum are local – the High Museum of Art was established in 1926 when the High Family donated its home to house the collection of the Atlanta Art Association.  A number of wealthy Georgia families were patrons of the High Museum, donating world-class European and American paintings.

World Class Architecture

The High’s reputation went from local to international in 1983 when Robert Woodruff, President of Coca-Cola, donated $7.9 million toward the construction of a new museum designed by world famous architect Richard Meier. In 2002, the Museum was expanded by architect Renzo Piano. The stark white modern buildings that now comprise the High holds over 150,000 works of fine and decorative art. Of the more classical pieces, the sculptural works are particularly strong.

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 Contemporary craft is another strength of the collection.

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Self-Taught Artists of the American South

However, what makes the High unique and what gives it a sense of place is its collection of work by self-taught, primarily African American, artists. This is the focus of the 60 Second Tour.  Throughout the Museum you see artists who play with different types of materials and forms as an intellectual exercise.  The cardboard, beer bottle caps, and door frames used by featured self-taught artists reflect a passion to create and the ingenuity to see everyday objects as substitutes for linen canvas, oil paint and marble.  The subject matter of the works express the unique experience of people living in the American south – not just the poverty or racism, but the hope, humour and strength that characterise the way they live their lives.

The High was one of the first museums in the United States to have a dedicated curator of self-taught artists and continues to develop its collection in the area: https://www.high.org/Art/Permanent-Collection/Folk-Art


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