“Edward Hopper and the American Hotel” debuted at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond on October 26. The exhibition, which has been curated by Dr. Leo G. Mazow, will include more than 60 of Hopper’s paintings, drawings, watercolors and illustrations in a rare opportunity to see some of the acclaimed American artist’s most beloved works.
This exhibition also explores Hopper’s canonical imagery of hotels, motels and other hospitality settings, expanding the terms of alienation and fragmentation in which his art is often discussed. Additionally, the exhibition will feature 35 works by American artists that similarly explore the visual culture of hotels, travel and mobility from the early 20th century to the present. “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel” will be on display through February 23, 2020.
As a part of the exhibition, VMFA will recreate Western Motel, one of Hopper’s best-known paintings, as a three-dimensional simulated motel space, allowing visitors to “step inside” the artist’s work. Through this “Hopper Hotel Experience,” visitors will have the opportunity to spend the night in a room inspired by Western Motel. This is the first time VMFA has recreated a work of art as a three-dimensional space and made it available to stay overnight.
A variety of packages at different price points will be available for the “Hopper Hotel Experience.” Packages will include perks such as dinner at VMFA’s fine-dining restaurant Amuse, a guided tour by the exhibition curator and an exhibition catalog, among other options.
VMFA has had a long relationship with Hopper, beginning with his role as chairman of the jury for the museum’s first biennial exhibition in 1938. The artist returned to VMFA in 1953 as a juror for that year’s biennial exhibition. At that time, the museum purchased Hopper’s 1935 painting House at Dusk, which will be on display as part of the exhibition.
The exhibition will also include loans from New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, Spain; and numerous other museums and private collections. Among the private lenders are Bruce Hornsby and his wife Kathy, who are lending six never-before-exhibited Hopper drawings to the exhibition.
“We are thrilled that through this historic exhibition, VMFA’s visitors will be able to interact with and learn from extraordinary paintings, drawings and illustrations by Hopper, as well as works by renowned artists such as Richard Caton Woodville, John Singer Sargent, Charles Demuth, Reginald Marsh, Edward Rushca and Cindy Sherman,” says Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director Alex Nyerges.
“Edward Hopper and the American Hotel” also features selected diaries written by Hopper’s wife and fellow artist, Josephine “Jo” Hopper, which were only recently made available to the public by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Jo’s diaries describe the drive between the couple’s homes in New York and Cape Cod, as well as their many extended road trips throughout the United States and Mexico.
Along with Jo’s diary entries, the exhibition will display hotel postcards from the 1920s through the 1950s, featuring places that the couple visited together. These postcards and diary entries are rarely seen primary sources that humanize the artist and his wife, providing detailed accounts of their travels in their own words and personal responses to the places they visited, their experiences there and how these trips informed their art.
“Edward Hopper is one of the best-known 20th-century American artists, yet the public’s conception of his has largely been filtered through a time-worn biographical formula that explains his art as the product of a sullen, isolated introvert,” says Curator Mazow. “’Edward Hopper and the American Hotel’ endeavors to consider hotels, motels and other transient dwellings as vital subject matter for Hopper and as a framework with which to understand his entire body of work.”
Tickets for the exhibition are now on sale. More information can be found online.