By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | December 4, 2021
The Musical Instrument Museum is filled with impressive instruments from around the world. But for the next year, the North Phoenix destination is showcasing its and the world’s most notable musical moments in “Treasures: Legendary Musical Instruments.”
“It is a really cool opportunity for us to put some of our most recent acquisitions into a gallery space and really help explain the various levels and dimensions of importance that they represent,” says Rich Walter, MIM’s curator for the United States, Canada and Europe.
“We also have a number of really spectacular loans from partners who have all contributed to this. They know MIM is so focused on music and the music industry, of course. Some of these lending institutions — other art museums and private collectors — were excited to lend some really special items to this project as well.”
Partner institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Penn Museum in Philadelphia, and Museu de la Música de Barcelona share loans.
The exhibition features one of the earliest surviving violins by Italian luthier Andrea Amati, a ceramic drum from China’s Neolithic period, and lyre fragments from the cradle of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia.
The Collection of Experience Hendrix LLC loaned a Black Widow guitar, one of only three left-handed examples. Jimi Hendrix played it in late October 1968, when he was at the height of his fame.
“We want people to really think of MIM as a resource,” he says. “These pieces do not exist in a lot of other places, especially these historic objects. They’re different, simply different. They’re really special examples.
“They’re all special (the instruments on display), but often they are contextualized as part of separate nations or genres. Bringing them to the forefront in this ‘Treasures’ exhibition helps us show the singular qualities that make each instrument stand out on a global stage.”
The pieces, Walter says, were chosen for the exhibition for their own reasons. Co-curated by MIM’s full curatorial team, it wraps everyone’s interests and expertise into a tight package.
“The physical centerpiece is an Erard grand piano made especially for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, and it’s a total stunner,” he says. “It has gilded bronze mounts and incredible woodwork. It’s an amazing grand piano. It’s one of the greatest grand pianos that the company has ever made. That’s really special.”
MIM Executive Director April Salomon is just as fond of the piano.
“One of the major highlights in the show — which is getting the most attention because it’s a showstopper — is the grand piano in the middle of the gallery that is ornately gilded and gorgeous,” she says. “It’s really intricately crafted.
“It’s a piece that captivates your imagination. You can’t help but be just awestruck by its beauty. One of our volunteers played the piano for the accompanying video so guests can hear how it sounds, which is absolutely beautiful. It’s really significant in its own right.”
Salomon calls the exhibition different than anything the museum has done. “‘Treasures’ was meant to celebrate MIM’s 10th anniversary in 2020, but we lost the opportunity due to COVID-19.”
“Because of the many acquisitions and relationships we had been developing previously, we knew this would culminate into something really special,” she says.
“I don’t think it could have been any better. Guests walk in and see these incredible instruments on display. They read their stories. They understand this is 6,000 years of music history. This is human ingenuity at its very best. It’s the story of our musical and cultural heritage told in a way you don’t get to see every day and you certainly don’t get to hear.”
“Treasures: Legendary Musical Instruments”
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
WHERE: Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $20, with discounts for teens and children for the museum only; $10 additional for “Treasures”
INFO: 480-478-6000, mim.org