Phoenix Art Museum’s Artful Anniversary

Writer Shannon Severson

Photography Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

The Phoenix Art Museum has big plans to celebrate its 60th Anniversary in grand style. It all starts with the pARTy in the Garden Nov. 2 when long-time supporters Ellen and Howard Katz will be honored. 

The fall gala will also premiere two major exhibits: Legends of Speed and PhxArt60: The Past Decade.

Elegance will abound as guests enjoy custom cocktails and a seated dinner in Cummings Great Hall, followed by dancing under the stars in the verdant Dorrance Sculpture Garden. 

The afterpARTy will be open to the public at 9 p.m., and will feature music and a hosted bar, along with spirits and beer tastings, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and light desserts. 

Attendees will have access to Legends of Speed from 9 to 11 p.m., and the 60th Anniversary exhibition until 1 a.m. 

The annual event plays a vital role in the financial support of the museum. Since its debut in 2007, the gala has raised nearly $10.5 million to support exhibitions and art education programs at the museum, which welcomed its first visitors Nov. 18, 1959. 

Since a major retrospective display was done for the 50th anniversary, chief curator Gilbert Vicario decided to focus on the past 10 years for PhxArt60: The Past Decade and its landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. The exhibit runs through Jan. 26.

“I focused on the very recent decision we made to collect photography that is historically relevant and that fits into our other five departments,” says Vicario. 

“It occurred to me to structure an exhibit around documentary photographs that go beyond mere aesthetics. I’ve installed them alongside our existing art collection. It really demonstrates what the museum has been collecting, but allows me to have some curatorial play and to make a statement about diversity and identity in this country and how that can help define the institution moving forward.”

Legends of Speed will have hearts racing with its display of 20 cars by Maserati, Ferrari, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and more. Among these wonders of automotive design are the actual vehicles that crossed finish lines to win iconic races at Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and Italian Grand Prix, among others. 

Profiles of men and women behind the wheel of these speedsters give the glass, steel and pure horsepower a separate, more human dimension.

“The relationship between design and art has always been tightly wound together,” says Vicario. “Form and function have also been intertwined. 

“It’s not just the aesthetics of the automobile, but how it functions, the technical aspects, that are of interest to visitors. We take it a step further to draw in the relationships of the cars to the drivers. These really are historic artifacts, and part of that history are the vivid stories of those who drove them.”

The exhibition officially opens to the public Nov. 3 and will run through March 15.

“The museum continues to grow, innovate and present extraordinary exhibitions to its diverse community due to the generosity and undaunted determination of countless advocates, supporters and friends like the Katz family,” says Jon Hulburd, chair of the museum’s board of trustees. 

The Katzes have been an essential part of the museum’s growth, endowing funds to support the construction of the 25,000-square-foot Ellen and Howard C. Katz Wing for Modern Art. 

Ellen Katz served as trustee chair, and in 2007 and 2011 respectively, she created and served as the inaugural committee chair for The pARTy in the Garden and the Independent Woman luncheon. These events have raised nearly $13 million to-date in gifts of support for the museum’s programs. 

The pARTy in the Garden Phoenix Art Museum Fall Gala

Nov. 2 | 6:30 p.m. | Phoenix Art Museum | 1625 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix | $750+ per person | 602-307-2012 |

The afterpARTy 

Nov. 2 | 9 p.m. | Phoenix Art Museum | 1625 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix | $100 general admission; member discounts available | Cocktail attire

602-307-2012 |

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