Southern Agenda

Top of the Class

Even if you don’t know the billionaire Mitch Rales and his wife, Emily, you can still enjoy their collection of modern art. Their nearly three-hundred-acre Glenstone Museum, built on the grounds of a former Potomac fox hunting club, displays the works of such artists as Jeff Koons, Mark Rothko, and Louise Bourgeois. “We want to give people an intimate experience,” says assistant curator Yuri Stone. Although signage is minimal, the museum’s gray-tunicked guides field questions: “Everything from What year was that made? to Why is that art?” Stone says. Since opening in 2006, Glenstone has quietly become one of the nation’s wealthiest arts institutions—its $4.6 billion endowment rivals that of New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The museum’s newest exhibit, Iconoclasts, highlights artists who once shook up the art world, like Willem de Kooning, Alexander Calder, and Jackson Pollock. Today Pollock’s splattered paintings hardly raise an eyebrow, Stone says. “But I promise you, in the 1950s, people thought he was crazy.”