For Immediate Release
The Hyde Collection Receives Record Donation
$11 million donation of cash and art leads to plans for new 1,500 square foot Feibes & Schmitt Gallery to display Post-war paintings, prints, and sculpture
GLENS FALLS, NY — The Hyde Collection announced today it received the largest donation since Charlotte Pruyn Hyde bequeathed her home and artwork to establish the Museum in 1952. The gift is also believed to be one of the largest gifts to any Capital Region arts institution in over a decade.
Art collector, architect, and Schenectady resident Werner Feibes provided a major bequest of art and cash totaling more than $11 million. With the gift, The Hyde will create a new 1,500 square foot gallery dedicated to the display of Modern and Contemporary art. Named in honor of the donor and his late partner, the Feibes & Schmitt Gallery, will open to the public in the summer of 2017.
The leadership donation by Werner Feibes also aims to inspires others to give to The Hyde Collection. This August, the Museum will kick off a major fundraising initiative, which is designed to match a portion of his cash gift to support the new gallery space. Funds raised will expand The Hyde’s reputation as the leading visual arts institution in the region, positioning it to present the “art of our time” alongside its Old Masters and distinguished works of European and American art.
For more than four decades, Werner Feibes and the late James Schmitt built a world-class art collection that aligned with their personal tastes and interest in non-objective art, Pop art, abstract art, and Minimalism. Building on Mr. Feibes’ previous donation of 55 Modern and Contemporary works to The Hyde in 2015, the bequest includes the remainder of the collection (105 works). Combined, the Feibes and Schmitt gift more than doubles The Hyde’s holdings of Modern and Contemporary art, situating the Museum as a regional hub for Post-war art.
“Jim Schmitt and I always considered Art as Ideas expressed through a visual medium. So a collection of art is a collection of ideas; therefore, an exhibition of art is actually an exhibition of ideas,” noted Mr. Feibes. “For more than four decades, we collected these ideas, and it gives me great pleasure to share them with The Hyde and with the public.”
“On behalf of The Hyde, I want to express our profound gratitude for Werner’s generosity and his confidence in the Museum. To say this is a transformational gift is an understatement,” said Erin Coe, Director of The Hyde Collection. “His gift of art and his donation offers the greater Hyde community an unprecedented opportunity to view, study, and engage with Modern and Contemporary art. The gifted works will have a tremendous impact on the educational and programming opportunities we provide as well.”
(Photo: the late James Schmitt – left, and Werner Feibes – right)
Mr. Feibes and Mr. Schmitt began collecting in the 1950s. Their collection of paintings, drawings, prints, mixed media, and sculpture includes work from some of the best known and most respected artists of the twentieth century, including Josef Albers, Jean Arp, Grace Hartigan, Keith Haring, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Robert Motherwell, George Rickey, Louise Nevelson, Bridget Riley, Robert Rauschenberg, and David Smith.
“The depth and breadth of the Feibes & Schmitt Collection both compliment and strengthen The Hyde’s permanent collection,” added Coe. “It extends Mrs. Hyde’s legacy by adding significant work from artists of our time, which is something Mrs. Hyde did herself during the first half of the twentieth century.”
Beyond the artwork, the cash donation comes at a time when the Museum is experiencing growth and success. The recently completed Marquee project bolstered the visitor experience by adding additional gallery space for the permanent collection, providing more visitor amenities (such as Wi-Fi in the museum, admission desk upgrades, and Lobby renovation), and updating the security system and gallery lighting.
“Werner’s gift is a vote of confidence in the Director’s vision and the progress the Museum has made over the last year,” added Karl Seitz, Chairman of The Hyde’s Board of Trustees. “It is a testament to the energy, excitement, and momentum the Museum is experiencing at this moment. The Hyde isn’t just a hidden gem, it’s a cultural hub, and the future is bright.”
“Werner has made a gift of a lifetime,” Coe said. “Like Mrs. Hyde’s founding gift that established the Museum and Charles Wood’s gifts to the Education Wing and gallery that bears his name, Werner and Jim’s philanthropy will increase access to the fine arts and bolster our community’s reputation as a cultural destination.”
The Museum will begin work on the Feibes & Schmitt Gallery this fall, with a target date of completion of June 2017.
Background on Werner Feibes and Jim Schmitt
Mr. Feibes was just nine in December 1938 when he and his family fled Nazi Germany, his physician father having escaped a concentration camp. The Feibes family settled first in New York City where Dr. Erich Feibes passed the medical boards, allowing him to continue the practice of pediatrics. The spirit of exploration that Mr. Feibes inherited animated the whole family: Dr. Feibes, his wife Gertrud, Werner, and his brother Walter set out one weekend to visit the bustling industrial center to the north, the City of Schenectady. A local physician named Van Der Bogert persuaded Dr. Feibes to set up a practice to serve Schenectady’s growing population. In 1940, the Feibes family bought a home in Schenectady, and Dr. Feibes set up a general practice. A renowned diagnostician, he made house calls until he was 75.
After graduating high school, Werner Feibes studied architecture at the University of Cincinnati. There he met Mr. Schmitt, four years his senior. Mr. Feibes graduated in 1954 and returned to Schenectady where he joined the local architectural firm headed by Dr. Van Der Bogert’s son. A year later, wanderlust struck and he took time off to explore Europe.
After college, Mr. Schmitt, a native of Erie, PA, served in the Army in World War II and, after his service, stayed in Europe to study under the GI Bill. Mr. Schmitt was ready to return to the United States just as Mr. Feibes headed off to see Europe. Mr. Feibes arranged for him to take his job at the architecture firm in Schenectady.
Mr. Feibes and Mr. Schmitt reunited in Schenectady in 1956. Mr. Feibes returned to work at the Van Der Bogert firm, which changed its name to Van Der Bogert, Feibes and Schmitt, and later became Feibes and Schmitt after Mr. Van Der Bogert’s early death. Messrs.Feibes and Schmitt practiced architecture together for 55 years, handling many major commissions, including Ellsworth Kelly’s studio in Spencertown, the Schenectady County Public Library, the Daughters of Charity’s St. Vincent de Paul House in Menands, St. Pius X Church in Loudonville, and the restoration of the Assembly Chambers in the New York State Capitol in Albany.
They discovered the potential of the then-rundown neighborhood in Schenectady which became known as the Stockade. Mr. Feibes and Mr. Schmitt helped to organize the Stockade Association, published a neighborhood newspaper, and spearheaded the first historic zoning ordinance in the State of New York that led to the preservation of Schenectady’s oldest neighborhood.
In retirement, Mr. Feibes and Mr. Schmitt traveled widely in pursuit of their love of art, music, and opera. They maintained an apartment in the Bronx to be close to the center of the art world in New York and a residence on Block Island, but home was always the Stockade, and they remained active in the cultural and civic life of the neighborhood, the City of Schenectady, and the broader Capital Region. Both were honored as Patroons, the highest honor the City of Schenectady bestows, for their efforts to “make a difference” in their community. The couple was married on March 22, 2013. Mr. Schmitt died just two months later at 87.