In January, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia welcomed a director and chief curator, Matthew McLendon, formerly with Tate Britain in London, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College and The Ringling Museum of Art, the state art museum of Florida.
While McLendon worked at The Ringling, the art blogazine Hyperallergic named his show “R. Luke DuBois—Now” one of the top 15 exhibitions in the United States. “For me, the most successful exhibitions are ones that pose questions and possibilities for further thought, that leave me wanting more,” McLendon writes in an email. “There is only so much visual information any of us can process in a concentrated setting.”
McLendon’s appreciation of the dynamic relationship between artwork and viewer also informs his vision for The Fralin in its community.
“One of the things I’ve realized is that a lot of people outside of UVA think of us as only the university’s museum. Our mission certainly is to serve the students, faculty and staff of UVA, but we are Charlottesville’s art museum, too,” he says. “I’m excited about a collaboration starting this month with the Violet Crown Cinema—The Fralin Downtown Film Series. We’ll be showing six documentaries on art, architecture and artists in the fall and spring, starting on September 12.”
Even as the museum expands its offerings beyond Grounds, McLendon grapples with the influence and import of recent violence on The Fralin’s future.
“I believe in the museum as steward of histories and cultures so that we understand the best, and also the worst, that we are capable of as people,” he says.
“Museums can and should provide the historical and human contexts that are woefully absent in most public discourse today. I believe that museums, even with their contested histories, can and should be places of civil discourse. We certainly have not been perfect in the past, but this ideal should be our constant goal.”