Founded by art collector and fashion designer Larry Aldrich in 1964, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is one of the oldest contemporary art museums in the United States. The Museum is one of the few independent, non-collecting institutions in the country and the only museum in Connecticut solely dedicated to the presentation of contemporary art.
Larry Aldrich (1906-2001) founded The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in November of 1964 in the “Old Hundred” building on historic Main Street in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Mr. Aldrich, pictured at right in his office and with a work by Zao Wou-Ki in the 1950s, was a successful fashion designer who became an avid art collector. In the 1940s, his early collection centered on Impressionist and Expressionist masters, including works by Renoir, Manet, Monet, Gauguin, Klee, and Utrillo. His interests later shifted towards contemporary art and he sold his early collection to invest in contemporary art. He also made generous donations to the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, through the Aldrich Purchase Fund, which allowed those museums to acquire contemporary art for their permanent collections including works by Frank Stella, Brice Marden, Tom Wesselmann, and Agnes Martin.
In 1964, Mr. Aldrich decided to open his own museum dedicated to contemporary art in Ridgefield, Connecticut where he maintained a residence. He purchased the eighteenth-century “Old Hundred” building and transformed it into a museum. With this the property’s backyard became a sculpture garden. The scale of the building was important to Mr. Aldrich as he wanted visitors to experience contemporary art within an intimate domestic environment.
He founded the SoHo Center for Visual Arts in New York City, a nonprofit exhibition space for artists who did not yet have gallery representation, which ran until 1990. Mr. Aldrich remained an active member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees until his passing in 2001.
Read a transcript of Mr. Aldrich’s Oral History Interview with the Smithsonian Archives of American Art here.
The Aldrich is internationally recognized for its artist-centric programs and visionary exhibitions. We present first solo museum exhibitions by emerging artists, significant exhibitions of established artists, and thematic group exhibitions.
Throughout the Museum’s history, we have been among the first to exhibit now-acclaimed artists in group shows such as Frank Stella (1965), Robert Smithson (1966), Eva Hesse (1969), Jack Whitten (1972), Jean-Michel Basquiat (1983), Cindy Sherman (1986), Robert Gober (1988), Kerry James Marshall (1996), and Jeffrey Gibson (2006), among many others.
In addition, the Museum has consistently presented the first solo museum exhibitions of artists who have gone on to have renowned careers, including Olafur Eliasson, Huma Bhabha, KAWS, Michelle Lopez, B. Wurtz, Ruth Root, Hayal Pozanti, David Scanavino, David Brooks, and Eva LeWitt. We have also presented the first career surveys of Harmony Hammond, Jackie Winsor, Suzanne McClelland, and Mark Dion, to name a few, and newly commissioned projects by Virginia Overton, Michael Joo, Jessica Stockholder, and Xaviera Simmons. Pictured at right: installation views from Cool Art (1968) in the “Old Hundred” building and Jack Whitten: Evolver (2014).
The Museum was originally housed in the landmark “Old Hundred” building, which was built in 1783 and now functions as its administrative offices. The building was constructed in 1783 by Joshua King and James Dole, two lieutenants in the Revolutionary War, and was nicknamed “Old Hundred” because it served as a grocery and hardware store from 1783 to 1883, and as Ridgefield’s first post office. A descendant of Lieutenant King, Grace King Ingersoll, remodeled the building in 1883 and used it as her home. From 1929 to 1964, it had served as Ridgefield’s First Church of Christ, Scientist. From 1964 to 2003 “Old Hundred” housed The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum’s galleries. Historic image of “Old Hundred” pictured at right. Museum Building
Since 2004, The Aldrich has occupied a state-of-the-art 17,000 square-foot facility. In 2001, the Museum’s Board of Trustees, including Larry Aldrich, voted to build a new museum building. The architects were presented with the unique challenge of designing a contemporary art museum building within a colonial historic district. The new building, designed by Boston’s Tappé Associates, received a design award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), New England. The Museum’s design pays tribute to the neighboring colonial vernacular architecture. Sculpture Garden
Since The Aldrich’s founding in 1964, sculptural works been placed outdoors around the Museum’s campus. Behind the new Museum building is a 2-acre Sculpture Garden that is always free and open to the public. Land Acknowledgement
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum acknowledges that it rests on the ancestral homelands of Wappinger and Munsee Lenape Peoples. Through forced removal the Wappinger and Munsee Lenape people had to leave their homelands and travel to other parts of United States. The Wappinger joined with the Mohican Nation and the Munsee Lenape people moved into Indian Territory and Canada. These nations today are known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community located in Bowler, Wisconsin, the Delaware Tribe of Indians located in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Delaware Nation at Moraviantown, in Thamesville, Ontario and Delaware Nation located in Anadarko, Oklahoma. While these Nations are no longer located on their homelands, The Aldrich is determined to make sure that their history and stewardship of this land is not lost. This acknowledgement is but a first step in righting wrongs and bring awareness to the histories of these nations. The Aldrich honors the Wappinger and Munsee Lenape Ancestors, past and present and commits to creating a more inclusive and equitable future.
Heather Bruegl, Historian
Citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and first line descendent Stockbridge-Munsee
The New York Times writes that our exhibitions are the kind you expect at a “big-guns urban institution, but [find] at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in leafy suburban Connecticut.” – September 2019
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum offers a wide range of rewarding and enriching ways to get involved! Central to The Aldrich’s mission is the encouragement of an ever-deeper understanding and enjoyment of contemporary art. Explore below to learn more about ways to contribute, including employment, internship, and volunteer opportunities.
The Aldrich does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and characteristics, age, religion, national or ethnic origin, visible or invisible disability, veteran status, or any other protected status.
Host your special event in a setting unlike any other in Fairfield County! Our galleries are home to an ever-changing presentation of contemporary art which provides a unique and stylish space for all types of events including cocktail receptions, birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, bridal or baby showers, corporate retreats, and non-profit benefits.
Our spaces range from intimate rooms to large-scale galleries, and a functional studio space.
Our on-site event planner will ensure your event is expertly executed and can assist you with all the details. Working with a select network of event professionals, we will create the perfect environment for your occasion.
When you choose to host your event at The Aldrich you also support the Museum’s mission to connect the community to the art and artists of our time.
For more information contact Jennifer Moon, Head of Individual Giving and Events, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 203.438.4519, extension 118.
All rentals must be deemed appropriate for the facility and must not interfere with the Museum’s function accessibility during public hours. Rental fees start at $2,500.