Atomicflowers by Janet Culbertson
a permanent collection is born on long island
by Mary Lou Cohalan
Former Director, Islip Art Museum
The single feature that sets a museum apart from other exhibition spaces is a permanent collection. No matter the loction, no matter the size, all museums are tasked with collecting, preserving and conserving the world’s cultural heritage. It is an enormous undertaking and responsibility—whether it is executed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Islip Art Museum.
In 1985, with the first donation of a single work of art from Eloise Nelson of Brightwaters, NY, both the Permanent Collection and the Islip Art Museum was born. With the acceptance of this large abstract painting by Hungarian immigrant artist Anton Visy, the Islip Art Museum affirmed their commitment to contemporary art, and to furthering the careers of artists everywhere.
More than half the collection is painting and sculpture by Long Island artists, including artists who formed the backbone of many Long Island college and high school art departments. This is reflective of the way in which various art movements in the global world—particularly abstraction—found astonishing expression here in our own backyard.
The Islip Art Museum Permanent Collection includes important works and some intriguing ones as well. In the mid-90’s, a visitor donated an abstract painting on masonite that he claimed was by Jackson Pollock. Shortly afterwards, newspapers announced the discovery of dozens of similar works in an East End barn that the barn owner claimed were by Pollock. The authenticity of the works is still hotly debated today.
While the Museum is accepting fewer works into the collection these days due to lack of storage space, it is still growing through the addition of new media such as film and sound. In 2020 the Permanent Collection celebrates 35 years as the foundational arm of the Museum.