It is said that life is not old if you are forty and a tree; this is even truer for art. It has taken a generation – 25 years of building the Masterworks Museum and the Bermudiana Collection and it seems like a lifetime. A real lifetime, for 25 years ago art was not really on our collective minds. It was something tolerated, and gave us the opportunity to say we attended an opening for the sake of attending. Art museums served the general public at their whim, and the notion that a collection about Bermuda would be viable was met with varying opinions. Some thought it was narcissistic, some embraced the idea with a sense of pride, while others said “are you cuckoo?!”. Well, we thought we might as well give it a try as culturally the environment looked arid. Perhaps it would be an awakening, and a chance to share educational opportunities with students and visitors…something was afoot! We were consumed with how to bring Bermuda up to date and out of its insular sensibility to join the notion of art beyond the reef line.
Names like O’Keeffe and Homer, well known to our visitors, were a daunting task, so the efforts were a little slow to gain credibility. But 1987 was all change – a “see” change. Some of us gathered together and brought Bermuda into the living rooms of our minds. What really changed was the art of survival. We were an orphan with no parentage, and no lineage, but resiliency. The call was “yes we can, and yes we will!” and so it was that a new “notion in the ocean” was born. 25 years later we ask if we can imagine a Bermuda without Masterworks? Names in the collection who are from the past, but are so familiar – aliens who have landed permanently on our shores and we share them with pride! A generation – 25 years of discovering an island so rich in treasures; there is no other collection in the world to emerge from a population of a mere 60,000.
Tom Butterfield MBE, Founder and Director of the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.