New Wing, Art Exhibit Open at the Huntington

When the time came for Jonathan and Karin Fielding to find a location to donate their expansive collection of American art — and put up the funding to display it — the choice was an easy one for them.
Why the world-famous Huntington Library, one might ask?
“It’s almost a silly question to ask, if you’ve been around and seen the grounds,” Jonathan Fielding said on Friday, speaking to an invitation-only crowd that gathered to view the brand-new Fielding Wing at the institution.
Aside from the beautiful facilities at the Huntington, Jonathan Fielding cited a shared passion to make the museum a center for American art as a leading reason and added, frankly, the Huntington has a history of getting its projects done on time.
“And because it’s close to our house in Brentwood,” he quipped, chuckling along with the audience.
The 8,600-square-foot addition adds eight rooms to the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art and makes the back entrance to the building symmetrical with the front and more visually interesting than the blank wall it was before. The project cost roughly $10.3 million.
The more than 200 pieces of art on display in the wing, also courtesy of the Fieldings, are arranged by theme and include paintings, furniture and canvasses.
“This has been a decades-in-the-making special project,” Huntington President Laura Trombley told Friday’s gathering, referencing how the family had collected the artwork throughout their lives. “Because of their generosity, now they will share it all with you and the public.”
Jonathan Fielding said the project ultimately started decades ago when he and his wife were vacationing in Maine. They ended up buying a home whose open house they had attended initially as an exhibition. In their quest to furnish the home, the couple routinely bought up historic American artwork and furniture they came across. Next came the questions of where to keep it all.
“It finally got to a point where we stopped asking that question because we realized there was no good answer,” Jonathan Fielding admitted.
Karin Fielding told the group her “knees were shaking” when she and her husband first viewed the gallery in its completeness earlier last week.
“This was the dream that Jonathan and I had: to share this beautiful work with everyone,” she said.
Most of the work included in the exhibit, of which some are being gifted to the Huntington, date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. This exhibit is the first of five new ones coming to the Huntington this year.
Kevin Salatino, director of art collections for the Huntington, touted the newly exhibited work as a look back into the early development of American culture.
“A time when America, a perennial work in progress, was becoming America,” he said.

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