Two new exhibitions at the Jepson Center celebrate the legacy of Lorlee, Arnold Tenenbaum

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

Lorlee and Arnold Tenenbaum were longtime supporters of the arts in Savannah, and their patronage played a major role in helping Telfair Museums construct the Jepson Center.

Now, nearly three years after their tragic deaths a mere five days apart near the end of March 2020, the museum they helped build is staging two exhibitions celebrating both their legacy as collectors, and how that legacy has continued on through one of their children, Ann Tenenbaum.

Bold Expressions: The Collection of Lorlee and Arnold Tenenbaum” and “Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection” combine to encompass nearly 140 works by 110 artists, a vast collection of creatives that Telfair Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs Crawford Alexander “Alex” Mann III says “could be a sort of peak of how many different artists we’re presenting at any particular moment.”

“One of the funny things about the show is that with two ensemble collections-based shows, neither of which is focused on a single artist or a single movement, you wind up with a lot of different names on the wall,” he went on to say.

Those “names” that Mann refers to are ones that many museum goers will likely be familiar with, art heavyweights like Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Diego Rivera, Kara Walker and Edward Weston, to name a few. But mixed in amongst those luminaries are a number of lesser known Savannah artists, a reflection of how the city played a major role in the Tenenbaum’s collection habits.

“They have a Phillip Hampton work that they probably collected when Hampton was working at Savannah State University as a professor during the ‘50s and ‘60s,” noted Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Erin Dunn. “So they have this drawing by him, and there are so many artists in the collection that they probably met at events around town and fell in love with their work or were really inspired by their work, and began that conversation with them and collecting them.”

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

The result is that both collections are highly eclectic, but also very relatable, gatherings of artwork that tell the very human stories of two couples who just loved art and purchased what spoke to them personally.

“We’ve been talking a lot about collecting,” explained Mann. “So there are really two levels of stories here. One level is Tennenbaum family, and the relationship between Ann and her family, and developing one’s own sense through this family relationship for collecting and an interest in art.”

“But then on the second level, what do you collect? What do you like? How do you make your choices? How is your collection a creative activity for you as an individual? And how have these different couples pursue that within their own art, and how did they live with their art as well.”

“One of the questions I always get as a curator is, ‘How do I find art for my home,’ or, ‘How do I begin to collect artists?” Dunn added. “And my advice to them is to really go out and to really start looking, and introducing yourself to artists, and start going to shows. And I think these two exhibitions are prime examples of what happens when you are able to make those connections and find things that you love and really invest in it, and know that it’s going to be in your home surrounding you, and you get to look at it everyday.”

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

Adding to the sense that these collections were built by admittedly extraordinary but remarkably “normal” art lovers are several personal touches that the curators have included to further humanize the display. At the two entrances to “Photography’s Last Century,” for example, there are QR codes that visitors can scan connecting them to a unique “exhibition soundtrack” by Icelandic composer Davíð Þór Jónsson, a nearly hour-long continuous musical piece that will have viewers feeling as though they’re experiencing the work in some place other than on museum walls.

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Another QR code accompanying Jack Leigh’s photographs of the construction of the Jepson Center link to audio of Arnold Tenenbaum explaining the trials and tribulations that he and others experienced while trying to get the building built. And they’ve also created a lounge area of sorts, with various supplementary reading materials, a place with more of a living room vibe than you’d fine in a typical gallery setting.

“They were looking at [the artworks] everyday, and really making them a part of their lives,” said Mann. “And that’s something that was true both of Lorlee and Arnold Tenenbaum, and of Ann and Tom’s collection as well. And the way we’re displaying the works in both of the exhibitions reflects that. So neither of the exhibitions is divided by medium or set up as a timeline. It is arranged visually, taking inspiration from the way that we saw the works displayed in their homes in both cases.”

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

Credit: Courtesy of Telfair Museums

As part of the exhibitions, Mann will be leading a curator’s tour through “Photography’s Last Century” on March 31 from 3-4 p.m., a special viewing that is included in the ticket price for that day. And on April 27 at 5:30 p.m., the museum will be conducting a lecture by Ann Tenenbaum herself titled “An Intersection of Art and Community,” an event that is free for members, or $20 for non-members.

“I think that it’s an important thing for all of us to remember, that when we engage with a work of art, the work comes with it’s own story … but then there is also something special that we see in it, or that the collector sees in the piece, that is equally exciting and available to us,” Mann related. “And that is the joy of visiting a museum, or building your own collection, that both of these shows present in a very direct and fun way.”

More information about both exhibitions can be found at

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Two new exhibitions at the Jepson Center celebrate the legacy of Lorlee, Arnold Tenenbaum


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