When Tom Butterfield bought a dozen pictures of Bermuda, 25 years ago, he spent his limited funds on a range of art rather than on one or two pieces of the most famous, and most expensive, artists. He took an inspired decision which has, I suspect, set the pattern for Masterworks’ acquisitions since 1987. Masterworks is rightly proud of the broadest range of art, 19th Century, 20th Century and the very modern, painted in Bermuda, or of and about Bermuda. Here on Langton Hill, Government House enjoys displaying some of Masterworks’ outstanding works of local artists. And for the Masterworks collection as a whole, works of famous artists have followed from their initial purchases of more modest works: Georgia O’Keeffe, Henry Moore’s drawings, E. Ambrose Webster and, perhaps most famous of all, the stunning Winslow Homer watercolours.
When, 21 years later, Tom Butterfield, Elise Outerbridge and their team first opened their very special and permanent home for the Masterworks collected in a transformed arrowroot factory in the Botanical Gardens, some of us wondered whether the museum would gather broad support across Bermuda. I believe that it has because twice I have seen the audience attending the opening night of the exhibition of the entries for the prestigious Charman Prize: everyone and anyone in Bermuda with a feeling for modern Bermudian art. The turnouts were, frankly, a thrill.
What the next 25 years hold for Masterworks is impossible to predict. It would be lovely to think of more space in the Arrowroot Factory, in due course, to hang more of the Masterworks Collection. No-one expects little Bermuda to mimic the Tate Gallery in London or the Metropolitan Museum in New York. But perhaps a Bermudian echo of the Frick Museum of New York might form something of an aspiration: a high quality and eclectic collection of art, hung according to the personal tastes and associations of one or two guiding spirits, bucking convention and enthralling all who step over the threshold.
Sir Richard Gozney,
Governor of Bermuda.