July 7, 2013

Colby College museum reopens as 'a major player'

The new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion was built to house more than 500 pieces of art valued at more than $100 million, an extraordinary donation by a Waterville couple.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE - When the Colby College Museum of Art reopens this week, it will become the largest museum in Maine.

click image to enlarge

"Old Man Playing Solitaire," a sculpture by Duane Hanson, circa 1973, represents an especially striking piece in the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion of the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville. The museum reopens to the public this week.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Colby College's $15 million Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, left, adds a sparkling new minimalist wing to the museum and brings contrast to a campus rich in classic red-brick structures. Inside, a three-story wall painting by artist Sol LeWitt provides a vibrant splash of color amid the glass- and metal-encased building.

Gordon Chibroski

Additional Photos Below

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WHERE: Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville

WHEN: Opens with a private viewing Saturday and with a public viewing on July 14. On view through June 8, 2014.

MUSEUM HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday


FOR MORE: 859-5600; colby.edu/academics_cs/museum

It's not in Portland or Bangor, or even in the arts-crazy midcoast city of Rockland.

It's in the central Maine community of Waterville, population 15,000. With the opening of the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion to the public on July 14, the Colby College museum will boast 38,000 square feet of exhibition space, about 13,000 more than the Portland Museum of Art.

And it's already creating a buzz not just throughout the art community in Maine but also nationwide.

The private liberal arts college expanded its museum, admission to which is free, to house a gift of art that was promised by Peter and Paula Lunder, a wealthy Maine family with deep ties to Colby, Waterville and central Maine. The gift includes a sweeping array of paintings and sculptures by some of the most important and influential artists of the past two centuries, including Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jenny Holzer and Donald Judd.

"We knew that if we left our collection to Colby, it would be shown," said Peter Lunder, a 1956 graduate of Colby and a longtime supporter of the college. "If we gave it to a big-city museum in Boston or New York or someplace else, it would end up in storage. So we decided to give it to Colby."

The Lunder Collection totals more than 500 pieces of mostly American art, and is valued at more than $100 million.

It is considered one of the most important private art collections ever assembled, and is expected to serve as a transformative gift for the museum, the community and potentially the arts landscape in Maine.

"I think the Lunder Collection does for Maine and for the Northeast what Crystal Bridges did for Arkansas and the South," said Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., citing the recently opened museum founded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton.

"Colby is no longer just a place that art lovers might drop in when they are in the neighborhood. They now will want to make a plan to fly in just for this."

Mark Bessire, director of the Portland Museum of Art, expressed a similar sentiment.

"This takes Colby to another level. Instead of being a curiosity, Colby is a major player," he said, adding that he does not view the reopening of the museum as competition. "Whatever is good for Colby is good for the PMA, Bowdoin, the Farnsworth, Ogunquit. Anyone who is going to make a pilgrimage to come to Maine to see Colby will also come to see us."


Colby spent $15 million on the new minimalist wing, which gives the classic red-brick campus its first modern building: a glass- and metal-encased prism that features as an architectural focal point a three-story Sol LeWitt wall painting visible from Mayflower Hill Drive, which traverses the campus.

The college named the new wing in recognition of the friendship between Maine philanthropist Harold Alfond and his nephew, Peter Lunder. Alfond ran Dexter Shoe Co., and put his nephew to work for him soon after Lunder graduated from Colby.

The Lunders settled in Waterville, raised their children there, and began collecting art at antique shops across Maine.

"That was our entertainment," Paula Lunder said. "There wasn't much to do in Waterville back then, so we would get in the car and drive around to all the antique shops on weekends."

They always seemed to gravitate to paintings, and eventually befriended longtime Colby museum director Hugh Gourley, who offered advice.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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The Lunder Collection, part of which is displayed here on the main floor of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, totals more than 500 pieces and is valued at more than $100 million.

Gordon Chibroski

click image to enlarge

The three-story wall painting, visible outside one of the glass walls of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, met with approval from philanthropist Peter Lunder. "They'll know there's a museum there now," the art collector said. "The (Sol) LeWitt (artwork) is drop-dead gorgeous."'

click image to enlarge

Sharon Corwin, museum director and chief curator, expects attendance will spike with the addition of the new wing. "I hope that people will travel here," she said. "I hope his museum will become a destination."

Gordon Chibroski

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