Reynolds’ art collection benefits Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County
Sculptor Catherine Ryan’s “Maddening Chess Set” is one of 37 pieces selected from 3,000 works of art on display at the Womble Carlyle Gallery at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts through Sept. 24. (photo by Keith T. Barber)
Sculptor Catherine Ryan’s “Maddening Chess Set,” an oversized chessboard that uses ceramic figurines of characters from Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland as chess pieces, sits at the center of the Womble Carlyle Gallery at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. Ryan’s whimsical work is just a few feet from “Tea Table,” comprised of three pieces of handcrafted furniture by local master craftsman Bob Trotman. Ryan and Trotman’s work are two of the 37 select works from the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company Collection currently on display through Sept. 24. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company recently donated 3,000 works of art from its private collection to the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, said Catherine Heitz New, the nonprofit’s director of major gifts. “RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company has been collecting [artwork] for over 100 years,” New said. “So as an entity they’ve been amassing this collection — they’ve been doing so for the enjoyment of their employees. Now, they find themselves in a situation where they don’t have enough space to house all of it.” A six-member committee helped select the 37 pieces with an eye toward showing the depth and breadth of the Reynolds collection. The committee spent the past six months creating a comprehensive inventory of the 3,000 pieces, which will come in handy during the public sale slated for February 2012. The 37 pieces on display at the Womble Carlyle Gallery are available to the public via online auction. Art enthusiasts can bid on individual pieces online by visiting the website at winstonsalemartauction.com. Exhibition will be up until Sept. 24 but the online auction will end on Friday, Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. “The bidding is getting more heated, which is exciting to see because all of the proceeds from this go to benefit the Arts Council and all their funded partners and member organizations,” New said. The public sale will feature a wide variety of artwork from three-dimensional to two-dimensional pieces at affordable prices. “We probably have over 1,000 pieces in the collection that are valued between $100 and $250,” New said. “These are very accessible works that we hope will soon grace the homes of many people in this community.” On Monday, New walked through the gallery and touched on a few of the featured works in the collection. The Claude Howell painting “Fish Market” exemplifies the great benefit of making the collection public, New said. “I’ve been told that an original of Claude Howell’s work has not been available in [many] years,” New said. “It’s pretty exciting to have this.” A Wilmington native, Howell represents one of many North Carolina artists featured in the Reynolds collection. Hanging near Howell’s work is Maud Gatewood’s “Barn in Snow.” Gatewood is one of a number of internationally renowned artists in the Reynolds collection. “This is a quintessential Maud Gatewood piece,” New said. “The piece obviously shows her love of lines and using lines as delineation and to create the image. It also shows her love of contrast and using the whites, grays and blacks to represent the image. She’s very influenced by Asian practices and Asian printmaking.” Gatewood’s work is one of seven pieces that have already received bids, New added. The collection also features the work of Winston-Salem artist Elsie Popkin. Her pastel figurative piece “Girl with Fan” has a reserve price of $800, the point at which the bidding starts. New pointed out another fascinating sculpture by Ryan entitled “33 1/3.” A quilt with a couple of dozen ceramic figures attached to it, “33 1/3” represents the artist’s progression of sleep through the night. On the far wall hangs a landscape by Consalvo Carelli, a 19th century Italian painter, and closer to the center of the gallery is a handcrafted dulcimer by master craftsman Edd Presnell, which underscored the broad spectrum of artwork in the Reynolds collection currently on display at Womble Carlyle Gallery. “If you are interested in a piece from this collection or coming back in February for the public sale, not only are you finding a wonderful piece for your own enjoyment or the enjoyment of your employees if you’re looking to fill an office or business, but you’re also helping the local arts community,” New said.