Quick Takes: Hidden Riches

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, tucked away in a historic, colonial Connecticut town, is worth the trip.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the only institution in Connecticut devoted solely to contemporary work, boasts 17,000 square feet of gallery space and a two-acre sculpture garden. Open since 1964, it has a history of showing now-legendary artists, including Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. Admission is just ten bucks. So why haven’t you been?

For one thing, “We’re in a colonial-era town, in a historic district—not the normal place you’d expect to see contemporary art,” explains executive director Alyson Baker of its Ridgefield location. But far from displaying musty antiques, the former home of visionary collector Larry Aldrich shows only the most of-the-moment art. Aldrich grew to understand that keeping a permanent collection limited his ability to support current artists. In the 1980s, he sold his acquisitions, and the Aldrich Museum was reborn as a place able “to be nimble and responsive,” says Baker. “Often, we’re commissioning artists to make work.”

For example, take a look at Your Turn. Through April 22, artists Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley are living on either side of a wall-like structure comprising sliding modules—bed, desk, kitchen—that can only be used by one person at a time. Visitors can chat with the artists as they go about their day.

Baker hopes pieces such as Your Turn will make Ridgefield your next art destination. “Places like MASS MoCA have done a great job of making people understand that contemporary art can be seen in places that are non-traditional or unexpected,” she says. “You really have to make it a sort of pilgrimage.”

Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
Ridgefield, Connecticut
Illustration by Jen Epervary
Debbie WayQuick Takes: Hidden Riches

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