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The Museum in the 1970's

Georgia Museum of Art

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our museum, we’re looking back at our history. This time: the 1970s. Founding museum director Alfred H. Holbrook retired for the second time in his life in 1967, and William D. “Bill” Paul Jr. stepped into his shoes in 1969, helping to professionalize the museum and increasing awareness of it throughout the state and the country.

Paul helped found the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art in 1971, alongside Edda Agee, Mel Fuller, and M. Smith “Smitty” Griffith, in conjunction with an exhibition focusing on the artist John Sloan. They focused on growing the collection, facilitating art education, and, of course, fundraising. Today, this vibrant organization continues to support and contribute to the museum’s mission. A busy exhibition schedule included many notable shows that often attracted national attention, including one by the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, who used furniture that appeared to be growing out of trees and mirrors to make the galleries feel like a strange new place. The exhibition “Open to New Ideas: A Collection of New Art for Jimmy Carter” featured conceptual art by artists including Laurie Anderson and Gordon Matta Clark, dedicated to the president-elect from Georgia.

The collection grew significantly, to around 5,000 objects, with works by Alice Neel and Joan Mitchell among major acquisitions in this decade. Newspaper articles lamented that the museum was outgrowing its current facilities even as it was accredited for the first time in its history, a mark of distinction in the field.