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Dahesh Museum of Art

Dahesh Museum of Art

Landscape with Animals, Jean-Achille Benouville

Dahesh Museum of Art

Dante and Beatrice, John William Waterhouse

The Dahesh Museum of Art is the only museum in the United States devoted to the collection and exhibition of European academic art of the 19th and 20th century. The collection, located in Manhattan, New York City, originated with Lebanese writer, humanist, and philosopher Saleem Moussa Ashi (1909–1984), whose pen name was Dr. Dahesh. The core of the museum's exhibit is Dahesh's collection of more than 2,000 academic paintings created in a style that struggled for years to compete with Impressionism.[1] From 2008 through early 2012, the museum was without a home since 2008 with the collection available online and in a traveling exhibition. In early 2012, the Museum reopened in Manhattan's Hudson Square neighborhood, near SoHo.

In January 2015 the museum announced the acquisition of a permanent home at 178 East 64th Street.[2]


The museum is particularly noted for its outstanding collection of orientalist paintings[3] and for its collection of works by American illustrators.[4]

The museum's creation stems from the Zahid family's inheritance of Dahesh's collection upon his death. Five members of the family serve on the Museum's Board and chose to create the museum in Manhattan rather than Lebanon due to the challenges of the city's art community arising from the political instability of the country.[1] Despite some concerns about the art's origins,[5] the Museum was incorporated in 1987 and opened officially in 1995 at an 1,800-square-foot (170 m2) gallery on Fifth Avenue. It struggled in the early years, due in part to the relatively obscure nature of its founder's legacy,[6] and the perception of illustration as an art form.[7] Despite the struggles, the museum attracted an annual attendance of about 20,000 people and it was able to amass a $30m endowment in a little more than five years, rivaling that of the Guggenheim Museum.[1]

In September 2003, it opened in a new 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) space at 580 Madison Avenue and 56th Street three years after an unsuccessful bid on a Columbus Circle property[1] and a year after the new location was announced.[8] This property, the former IBM Gallery, was completely redesigned by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates.[9] The museum moved out of the Madison Avenue space in January 2008,[10] due to rent related issues that caused it to look for a subletter for the remainder of its lease.[11] While the museum did not have a physical presence in New York City, the collection continued to travel[12] and the website has been redesigned in order to make the collection virtual.[13]

Although the museum continues its mission as a museum without walls, in early 2012 it opened a gift shop and salon space on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan's Hudson Square neighborhood. The new space allows for some public programming and a small presentation of the museum's holdings.[14]

As of 2012 the Museum was engaged in a regular program of loan exhibitions to museums and galleries.[15]
See also

Art Renewal Center


Doreen Carvajal (2000-08-09). "The Little Museum That Could; Dahesh Tries to Shake Founder's Mystical Image and Move into the Mainstream". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
"Dahesh Museum of Art, Homeless for 7 Years, Has a New Residence". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
[1] Lessons of the Academy, Maureen Mullarkey, Aug. 4, 2005, New York Sun.
[2] Illustrations by American Artists at the Dahesh Museum, Ken Johnson, April 13, 2006, New York Times.
Panero, James (December 2003). "What's So Strange About the Dahesh Museum?". The New Criterion. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
"What is Strange About the Dahesh Museum?". New Criterion. 2003-12-01. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
Ken Johnson (2006-04-13). "Illustrations by American Artists at the Dahesh Museum". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
"Dahesh Museum Relocates". Art in America. 2002-11-01. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
Barrymore Laurence Scherer (2003-09-09). "It's Academic: Thriving, the Dahesh Museum Moves to a New Site". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
Lita Solis-Cohen. "Bonhams Expands in New York City". Maine Antique Digest. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
Peter Edidin (2007-08-21). "A Museum in Search of a Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
"Director's Letter" (PDF). Dahesh Museum of Art. 2008-01. Retrieved 2008-03-12. [dead link]
Carol Vogel (2007-09-14). "Dahesh Shutting Down". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
"About". About. The Dahesh Museum. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
[3] A Wave of Public Art for New York City, Carol Vogel, March 7, 2013.


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