In collaboration with his wife, Emily Wei Rales, art historian and curator, Mitchell Rales, established in 2006 ‘Glenstone’, a private museum in Potomac, Maryland in which exhibitions of their private collection of modern and contemporary art are shown. Outside, in the 200 acres landscaped estate, many outdoor sculptures are installed, among which two commissioned: one by Richard Serra and one by Tony Smith.
The Glenstone Foundation emerged from their shared passion for three fundamental elements: art, architecture, and landscape, and here all three elements are blended into a serene and contemplative environment. Mitchell Rales, who has been the director of Danaher Corporation since 1983, began collecting art in the 1990s, focusing on post World War IIand Abstract Expressionist Art. The original inspiration emerged after a near-death experience in1998 when Mitchell survived a helicopter crash in Russia that killed a fellow passenger. Back home, here-evaluated his priorities and began to think about“what I wanted to do as an important legacy for the Rales family,” he recalled.
The museum will continue after the deaths of Mitchell and Emily Wei Rales to acquire work by the artists already represented in the collection with the aim, eventually, of showcasing the complete collection of150 years of art. Glenstone is one of the best endowed private museums of Modern and Contemporary Art. The original museum is a 2000 square meter single-level structure, clad in zinc panels.In2012, plans were started to expand the exhibition space by a further 15,000 sq m. The new building, designed by the American architect, Thomas Phifer, is a series of pavilions built of stacked concrete blocks and glass facing inward to a central water courtyard. When the new buildings are completed in 2018, it will be one of the largest private museums in the world.
“I imagine that in the future, people will come to Glenstone when they want to experience what it was like in the 20th and 21st centuries,” Emily Wei Rales said at a recent press briefing. Eight rooms will be dedicated to single-artist presentations, including an evolving presentation of work by Charles Ray, as well as displays of art by Roni Horn, Brice Marden, Michael Heizer, Martin Puryear, and Cy Twombly.
Three rooms will host rotating exhibitions. The final pavilion offers a framed view of the surrounding landscape. Presently the museum welcomes 10,000 visitors a year but with the new extension, visitor numbers are expected to soar to 100,000, with the current opening of four days a week extending to five.