After nearly 15 years of planning and multiple delays, the new Institute for Contemporary Art at Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University opens this Saturday, April 21, with a site-wide exhibition and daylong block party. Designed by New York-based Steven Holl Architects, which also recently completed the new Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, the 41,000-square-foot museum is situated at the corner of Belvidere and Broad streets in Richmond’s Downtown Arts District. After previously announcing an October 2017 opening last February, the ICA at VCU later delayed the event until this spring because of concerns about monitoring the building’s climate control before installing artworks.
Lisa Freiman, the inaugural director of the ICA, unexpectedly stepped down in January after spearheading a $37-million campaign for the museum. Freiman, who served as commissioner of the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, remains on the faculty at VCU and is completing a monograph about Claes Oldenburg. Joseph Seipel, Dean Emeritus for the VCU School of Arts, is serving as interim director until a new director can be found. The curatorial staff of the ICA includes chief curator Stephanie Smith, formerly chief curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, assistant curator Amber Esseiva, and education curator Johanna Pummer.
The team-curated inaugural exhibition “Declaration” features work by highly regarded contemporary artists including Tania Bruguera, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Titus Kaphar, and VCU faculty member Sonya Clark, along with contributions from more unexpected sources such as Richmond-based heavy metal band GWAR. A preview of the building and exhibition published in the local Richmond Times-Dispatch last month noted what it called “KKK robes in pink camouflage”—the work of Guggenheim fellow and VCU artist-in-residence Paul Rucker, who refashions Klan robes in ironic fabrics including kente cloth, camouflage, and white satin.
With festivities lasting from 10 am until 4 pm on Saturday, visitors can expect a block party featuring art workshops, live performances, and food vendors outside on the Markel Center grounds. Admission to the museum is free, but tickets reserving timed entry slots are required.
As anticipation about the opening of the ICA at VCU has increased in recent years, BURNAWAY has closely followed the museum’s development. After first announcing news of the ICA in 2014, we published an in-depth feature on its construction the following August, which includes conversations with former staff members Freiman and Ross.
Partially due to growing excitement about the ICA, Richmond has seen a surge of interest in contemporary art in recent years, hosting its second annual CURRENT art fair last fall.