NORMAN — The director of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery gave high praise to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art on Friday, ahead of today’s public opening of the Stuart Wing.
“This is a gorgeous museum,” Martin Sullivan said during a President’s Associates dinner at the Oklahoma Memorial Union ballroom. “It is a beautiful addition to what is already a fabulous (campus).”
The museum at 555 Elm Ave. is offering free admission today and Sunday to celebrate the opening of the Stuart Wing, a $13 million, 18,000-square-foot expansion that will house the Eugene B. Adkins Collection, a large, acclaimed collection of Taos and American Indian artists.
The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Adkins Collection, to be split between the Fred Jones Jr. museum in Norman and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, is valued at about $50 million. It has about 3,300 objects, including more than 400 American Indian paintings.
OU President David Boren said the Stuart Wing’s opening coincides with the university museum’s 75th anniversary.
OU received its first art collection in 1936, yet Boren said 90 percent of the museum’s total collection was received in the past 14 years — a statement that elicited reactions of surprise from a number of the more than 1,000 people in attendance.
Sullivan, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery director, called the new wing and its collection an “early Christmas present” for the university. But he also said the Fred Jones Jr. museum was already a special place in five key areas: mission, vision, values, scope and spirit.
He said the museum’s beautiful showcase of a building, coupled with its virtual exhibits through social media and the museum’s website, serves the mission of making the museum accessible to people, no matter where they are.