This Friday, March 24, the Speed Art Museum will open “Rounding the Circle: The Mary and Al Shands collection,” the first major show of collected works from the home of the eponymous late philanthropists. The exhibit is curated by ex-Speed contemporary curator and current Great Meadows Foundation director Julien Robson and will have 116 works of art on display through Sunday, Aug. 6.
The show will have a variety of works from the Shands’ 40-plus years of art collecting, including paintings, prints, ceramics, and large-scale sculptures. It will feature works by popular contemporary artists such as Elizabeth Murray, Petah Coyne, Tony Cragg, Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor, Maya Lin, Kiki Smith, Ursula von Rydingsvard, and Betty Woodman. The collection includes pieces by many Kentucky artists and artists of color.
“The exhibition at the Speed is something that Al wished to happen after he died, before the collection was completely dispersed,” Julien Robson told LEO. “The first part is on the third floor special exhibition gallery, which is a big space — 7,500 square feet, I think — and is arranged in a way in different galleries where what I’ve tried to do is to think about the way that he was interested in this conversation and to make a way in through correspondences in works so that there is a kind of dialogue going on between them.” The second part, Robson added, is made of younger and emerging artists — what he and Al Sands jokingly called “the Shands 92 Collection” when Shands was 92 years old.
Robson said the exhibition gives the public an opportunity to experience the works together, though differently than how they were within the Shands’ home, Great Meadows. He also told LEO that the exhibition begins the works’ lives as parts of larger museum collections.
“The Speed Art Museum is immensely grateful to welcome these extraordinary works into our collection, making them available as a priceless public resource for the community,” said Museum Director Raphaela Platow in a statement in 2022, when the museum first acquired the collection. “Al and Mary Shands were longtime supporters of the Speed and tireless champions of the region’s artists, and this historic gift will spark inspiration and insight for generations of visitors to come.”
Al Shands served on the Speed’s Board of Trustees for several decades, and in 2016, six years after Mary’s passing, he established the Great Meadows Foundation to strengthen the visual arts community in Kentucky.
“Al Shands would often remark that he wanted the collection to feel like a giant and welcoming dinner party, with works that present different ideas and can speak to each other in surprising and distinctive ways,” Robson said in a news release. “As many of these artworks make their way to a new home at the Speed, all are invited to reflect, connect and bring their own perspectives to the table.”
Admission to the museum is $20 for adults or free for members, UofL students and staff, and frontline healthcare workers with valid ID.