Inka Essenhigh in ROUNDING THE CIRCLE: THE MARY AND AL SHANDS COLLECTION: Louisville, Kentucky
The Speed Art Museum presents Rounding the Circle: The Mary and Al Shands Collection, a major exhibition celebrating the extensive and significant collection of contemporary artworks assembled by the late Alfred R. Shands III (1928-2021) and Mary Norton Shands (1930-2009). This presentation also commemorates the transformative gift of art made to the Speed Art Museum, numbering over 100 artworks.
It was Al Shands’s wish that the contemporary art collection he and his late wife, Mary, amassed at their Great Meadows estate in Crestwood, Kentucky be displayed together in a public exhibition before being dispersed to museums across the state. In this way, he sought not only a closure to the collection’s life at Great Meadows, but also a bridge to the works’ future lives in other contexts. Shands, a former Episcopalian priest, hoped to mount an exhibition that would be dynamic but also contemplative—a place where museum visitors could be inspired and explore what meaning the works could spark in their own lives.
This exhibition fulfills Shands’s desire to allow a greater audience to engage with works of art that gave him such pleasure over the years and to allow them the same opportunities to connect with the art—and each other—before the works become part of different collections and different stories. Rounding the Circle is curated by Julien Robson, director of the Great Meadows Foundation as well as a close friend and private curator to Al Shands. Having worked with Shands for more than twenty years, Robson is intimately familiar with Shands’s unique interest in the relationship between the works in the collection, as well as their connections to the surrounding architecture at Great Meadows. This knowledge will deeply inform the exhibition, creating a display of the artworks in an inspiring new context while also honoring Shands’s keen aesthetic sensibility.