For more than 20 years, former St. Louis Cardinals catcher and Hall of Famer Ted Simmons has collected contemporary art with his wife, Maryanne Ellison Simmons, master printer and fine art publisher. Together the couple have collected over 800 works on paper, and in 2020 they approached the Saint Louis Museum of Art for a joint gift purchase of the collection.
“They had such a great experience in St. Louis and felt very welcome and really wanted to give back,” says curator Andrea Ferber. “We’ve been cataloging it since 2020.”
The museum is now showcasing this newly acquired collection with an exhibit called “Catching the Moment,” from June 26 to September 11. The exhibition will feature approximately 200 works from the global collection and showcase the breadth of contemporary art.
“There is no answer to ‘What is contemporary art?’, and this is an invitation to engage with it,” says curator Clare Kobasa. “This exhibition reflects the multiplicity and variety of contemporary art. The wealth of ways of looking at the world are all artists who have transformed my way of seeing things.
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The exhibit delves into select artists, including Missouri printmaker and satirist Tom Huck, Mexican-American Enrique Chagoya, and one of Maryanne Ellison Simmons’ colleagues, Yellow Native artist Quick-to-See Smith. Each artist’s work follows how that artist saw the surrounding world at the time and place where they lived.
“One artist that I loved getting to know about her work is Lilliana Porter, an artist from Argentina,” adds Kobasa. “She uses small figurines that she has gotten from flea markets and other places over the years. She calls them her cast of characters and builds narratives around them.
There’s an audio guide to the exhibition where artists and scholars – plus Ted and Maryanne Ellison Simmons themselves – talk about the works during your visit; It is also available online. Kobasa and Ferber encourage exploration of the collection through videos, essays and interviews, available in the website’s study room.
“These works all remain at SLAM – they will be able to be evaluated even after the end of the exhibition,” concludes Kobasa. “This is the opening of the collection and the beginning of a long and fruitful access to this art.”
St. Louis Museum of Art, One Fine Arts Drive, St. Louis, 314-721-0072, slam.org