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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts APRIL 2016

One of America's great art collections

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a collection of collections – a glittering patchwork supported by the state but fuelled by generous bequests from Virginian citizens. Since 1936, the museum has blossomed from a regional attraction to a world-class cultural institution that is home to more than 33,000 objects that cover 5,000 years of history.

Generations of donors have filled the hallowed halls of the VMFA with treasures from all over the world. Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis hangs under the same roof as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse in a glorious array of the art world’s highlights. Pre-Columbian dance masks stare wildly out from glass cabinets; ceremonial garb from Peru, made up of thousand upon thousands of brilliantly-hued feathers, catches the light; classical statues adventure and fight and embrace. 

Lillian Thomas Pratt’s 1947 bequest is a prime example of the VMFA’s relationship with the people of Virginia. Fabergé eggs look like some fantastical bird has laid them – they are rare, wondrous objects that are near priceless in their scarcity and beauty. But Lillian Thomas Pratt bequeathed her collection, and the VMFA is now home to five imperial Easter eggs, the largest public collection of Fabergé outside his homeland of Russia.

And these works belong to the people. The VMFA’s mission is to enrich the lives of Virginians through artwork, and no one can deny that it fulfils this mandate – and then some. Scala’s visitor guide includes striking images of the collections, as well as fascinating background information on each of the items.