Rogue van crashes into Memphis museum and destroys sculptures
A truck crashed into the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art on Saturday night, toppling two Wheeler Williams statues from 1961 that were on display in front of it. No injuries were reported, and the hit-and-run is currently under investigation, according to a Memphis Police Department spokesperson.
The two damaged statues were part of Williams’ statue Spring, summer, fall (1961), a series of three partially covered female figures representing the three seasons. The sculptures have been on display outdoors at the museum for more than 60 years. In 1998, the Foundation moved the business to its current location in front of the Beaux Arts-style pavilion built in 1916.
Police responded to a call at 9:21pm on Saturday, October 28. The driver was reportedly wedged between a tree and several safety points before crashing into the statues, the bench and the side of the building. The car sped off. The next day, the museum opened as planned and did not close any of its exhibits.
The museum broke ground last July on a $180 million expansion in downtown Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi River. Citizens filed a lawsuit to stop construction, claiming that the waterfront belongs to the people of the city, and a decision has not yet been reached.
“We are extremely grateful that no one was injured in this incident, especially in light of the fact that earlier that same day, over 3,000 people were in our plaza to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos,” Memphis Brooks Museum of Art spokesman Jeff said. Rudin told local media ABC24.
Wheeler Williams, who was born in 1897 and died in 1972, left behind a collection of sculptures that reflect the Art Deco aesthetics of his lifetime. In 1949, Williams’ aluminum work titled “Venus of Manhattan” was installed at 980 Madison Avenue, the former site of Park Burnet Galleries. Another large-scale public commission, The Coast Settlement (1942), was located in Philadelphia.
In Washington, D.C., Williams’ 10-foot bronze statue of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Robert A. Taft on the Capitol grounds. Taft, a prominent conservative leader in mid-century American politics, helped drive communist hysteria during the MacArthur era. Williams himself joined the witch hunt, writing a 1959 manuscript entitled Confusion in the Art World that sought to illuminate the links between communism and the arts.
No suspects have been identified at the time of this publication. This is a developing story and will be updated with new information as it becomes available.