Tennessee State Museum to Receive Gift of Artist Red Grooms Graphic Works

Monday, July 11, 2016 | 4:29pm

NASHVILLE — July 11, 2016 — The Tennessee State Museum is pleased to announce that it has entered into a promised gift agreement with Walter and Sarah Knestrick of Nashville to receive a donation of 238 graphic artworks created by internationally acclaimed artist Red Grooms. Additionally, the museum will receive 52 commercially printed posters as part of the gift.

Grooms, who was born and raised in Nashville, currently resides in New York City and maintains a home near Beersheba Springs, TN. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States, as well as in Europe, and Japan. Grooms’ art is included in the collections of more than 39 museums, including the State Museum.

Knestrick, the retired founder of Walter Knestrick Contractor, Inc. and a longtime friend of the State Museum, was a boyhood classmate of Grooms. He began collecting Grooms’ prints in the 1970s and has helped organize traveling exhibitions of the works since the 1980s.

In 2001, Knestrick's collection comprised a State Museum traveling exhibition in conjunction with the publication of a catalog raisonné of Grooms’ graphic work entitled, Red Grooms: The Graphic Work, which Knestrick authored. The show, which opened at the National Academy Museum in New York and then traveled to the Chicago Cultural Center, was also presented at 10 other American museums. The Knestricks' donation includes the artwork that was featured in the traveling exhibition and catalog.

Grooms is an American multimedia artist best known for his colorful pop-art constructions depicting frenetic scenes of modern urban life. Many contemporary art historians consider Grooms to be one of Tennessee's most accomplished artists. Besides painting and sculpture, Grooms is also known for his prolific printmaking. He has experimented with numerous techniques, creating woodblock prints, spray-painted stencils, soft-ground etchings, and elaborate three-dimensional lithograph constructions.

Grooms, born in Nashville in 1937 and raised in Tennessee, began his artistic exploration while attending public schools. In 1955, while they were both Hillsboro High School seniors, Grooms and Knestrick's work was featured in a two-man show of 35 paintings at Nashville's Lyzon Gallery.

In 1958 Grooms moved to New York City to immerse himself in its art scene while working at such odd jobs as a movie house usher. The vibrant color of his hair earned him the name “Red,” and his art “Happenings,” unstructured live performances, began to earn him a measure of notoriety in the art world.

"The Knestricks’ extraordinarily generous promised gift of the Grooms’ graphic works is, undoubtedly, the singularly most significant collection of contemporary art ever donated to the Tennessee State Museum. It now belongs to the Volunteer State’s citizens, children, and scholars,” State Museum Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell said. “For decades to come, the Grooms’ collection will be available for the enrichment, study, contemplation, and laugh-out-loud joy for everyone to experience. Red’s work brings his serious, yet humorous, world perspective into sharp focus for all to interpret and embrace. Certainly there is no other American artist painting today who chronicles popular culture with such an incisively whimsical delight." 

With regard to the Knestricks’ gift, Grooms said: "I so appreciate my dear old friend Walter Knestrick taking it upon himself to collect each and every one of my graphic works over the years, which makes the Knestrick Collection gift to my home state museum both unique and particularly special."

Noted New York art appraiser Dr. Alex J. Rosenberg said: "One usually begins to collect an artist's work after he or she has established their reputation, making it very difficult to succeed in collecting the artist's entire oeuvre. Either the cost of obtaining several works or their lack of availability on the market prevents reaching one's goal. However, the Knestricks are the rare exceptions who began to collect Red Grooms’ printed art when it was readily available and affordable and have continued to do so. Without their foresight, I doubt that this unique, valuable and complete collection of Grooms’ printed work would exist. I extend my admiration and congratulations to the Knestricks for their magnificent and irreplaceable promised gift to the people of Tennessee."

There are plans for Grooms’ graphic work to be on exhibit in one of the art galleries in the new State Museum, scheduled to open in 2018.

Pictured L to R: Walter and Sarah Knestrick, Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam and State Museum Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell with a lithographic print entitled Elvis by artist Red Grooms.

About the Tennessee State Museum:

In 1937, the Tennessee General Assembly created a state museum to care for World War I artifacts and other collections from the state and other groups. The museum was located in the lower level of the War Memorial Building until it was moved into the new James K. Polk Cultural Center in 1981. The Tennessee State Museum currently occupies three floors, covering approximately 120,000 square feet with more than 60,000 square feet devoted to exhibits. The museum’s Civil War holdings of uniforms, battle flags and weapons are among the finest in the nation. For more information please visit: www.tnmuseum.org.

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