“A National Treasure: Fred Meijer, His Collection and Legacy” Closes with Lecture

By Anu Teodorescu | photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park 

Few people ever get the chance to build their own world-famous sculpture collections and even fewer do so for the sole purpose of sharing it with the general public. But that’s exactly what Fred Meijer did in “A National Treasure: Fred Meijer, His Collection and Legacy,” on display now at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (FMG). 

The 11 “chapter” exhibition, which opened on Feb.1, traces Meijer’s interest in sculpture as it developed throughout his lifetime. It concludes on Aug. 25 with a closing lecture by former Chief Curator and Vice President for Collections and Exhibitions, Joseph Becherer. 

Built through the curatorial work of Becherer and Meijer’s understanding
and vision of sculpture, “A National Treasure” is especially unique because
of its origin story. 

“Most people that have great art collections have it themselves first, and then they give it away,” Becherer said. “And, oftentimes, they give it away posthumously. That’s the situation you see from coast to coast, from top to bottom — not just in America, but in the West in particular. But here you have a situation where somebody never collected for their own personal purposes — it was always for the public … to enjoy, for the public to learn from, for the public to grow with.” 

Incorporating sculpture and horticulture, the collection showcases pieces by Marshall Fredericks, Auguste Rodin, Arnaldo Pomodoro, and Mark di Suvero — all sculptors with whom Meijer had a close, personal relationship.

“Any opportunity he had to actually meet the artist, and go to their studio and really talk to them directly, […] he cherished that experience,” Laurene Grunwald, Director of Sculpture, Art Collections, Exhibitions & Installations at FMG, commented. “Art historians love to talk about why something is made, or how it’s made, or what it means, but to be able
to really hear that from the artist is a special thing.” 

The closing lecture on Aug. 25 will detail Becherer’s experience working with Meijer, including how Becherer developed the sculpture program and helped Meijer realize his vision of creating a distinguished collection.

The lecture also marks what would have been the centenary of Meijer’s birth—a cause for celebration in the eyes of those who knew him personally. 

“Ultimately, [the lecture] is a way to learn and to get new information,” Becherer said. “But I think, most importantly, that it’s a way to celebrate Fred Meijer. And it’s a way to say thank you for allowing something really great to happen.” 

What: Exhibition Closing Lecture — “A National Treasure: Fred Meijer, His Collection and Legacy”
When: Aug. 25, 2-4 p.m.
Where: Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, 1000 E Beltline Ave NE
Cost: Adult/$14.50; Senior/$11; Student/$11; Children/$0-$7

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