Artful Summer: The Norton Museum of Art

The Norton Museum of Art will bring a dose of culture to West Palm Beach this summer with a full schedule of exhibitions and events.


From June 19 through October 26, the exhibition “Wheels and Heels: The Big Noise Around Little Toys” celebrates two iconic toys: miniature cars and the “teenage doll,” a la Barbie. For children (and adults) of a certain age, Hot Wheels and Matchbox race cars and Barbies are and were their worldview—miniatures of the outside world they can control and manipulate; keys to let their imaginations soar. The exhibition, the brainchild of the Norton’s director and CEO, Hope Alswang, and put together by guest curator Matthew Bird, associate professor of industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design, is a collection of nearly 800 Barbie dolls spanning the 1950s to 2009 (Barbie’s fiftieth anniversary) and 200 accessories including dresses, Ken dolls, the Barbie mansion, horses and dogs, while the collection of miniature cars includes hundreds of Matchbox and Hot Wheels as well as a few vertical loop racetrack sets.

Wheels and Heels exhibition - Norton Museum of Art - Barbie and Matchbox exhibition

   Much to serious toy collectors’ chagrin, most of the toys on display are not of collector quality. Forgoing borrowing from private collectors, Bird spent hours searching eBay, purchasing previously owned toys to create the exhibition. This only adds to the charm of this display—on some of the toys are the marks made by previous owners. Set up in diorama-style displays in chronological grouping and order, the exhibition will be supplemented with print and television advertisements projected onto walls, giving additional insight into the world of these toys.

Barbies from the Wheels and Heels exhbition at the Norton Museum of Art

  • “Wheels and Heels: The Big Noise Around Little Toys” will run June 19 to October 26.
  • On June 19 at 6 p.m., guest curator Matthew Bird will discuss the development and evolution of Barbie, Matchbox and Hot Wheels toys in an exhibition lecture. Open to the public; free with museum admission.


Thomas Hart Benton - Study of Pocahontas - Norton Museum of Art - Richman Gifts

Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975)

Study for Pocahontas, circa 1930s

Oil on paper mounted on canvas

Gift of Priscilla and John Richman, 2013.98

First Floor, Friedman Gallery 11


Running through July 13, the Norton’s exhibition “The Richman Gifts: American Impressionism and Realism” explores American impressionist and realist paintings from the first five decades of the twentieth century. Spurred by a gift of five American paintings by Priscilla and John Richman in 2013, the exhibition is joined by six additional pictures gifted by the Richmans in 2012.

   The exhibition focuses on a time where dramatic swings of fortune and famine, war and peace impacted the nation and an era when abstract art became vogue for American artists. But the artists spotlighted here focused on representational styles, where the world was not distorted and reimagined but rather coalesced with the visible, which sometimes has an even more powerful effect. The exhibition includes American impressionist paintings by Frederick Frieseke and Abbott Fuller Graves, depictions of working-class people by Ashcan School artists Robert Henri and John Sloan and social realist and regionalist work by 1930s artists Thomas Hart Benton and Rockwell Kent.

  • “The Richman Gifts: American Impressionism and Realism” will be on display through July 13.


The Norton’s Masterpiece of the Month program will continue into fall. Spotlighting major works by iconic artists selected by museum curators from private collections, this program allows for museum visitors to view rarely exhibited works as well as attend curator-led talks that dissect the installation, exploring the significance and context of the work. Here’s a peek at the June and July installments:

Roy Lichtenstein - Tintin Reading - Norton Museum of Art - Masterpiece of the Month

In June, the Norton will celebrate American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein with his 1993 Tintin Reading. Originally used as the cover of  the Frederic Tuten novel Tintin in the New World, the piece incorporates bold lines, bright colors and overblown Ben-Day dots, all Licthenstein hallmarks, while its reference to Henri Matisse’s Dance (I) in the background seems to posit the argument between the merits of art and crowd-pleasing illustration.

  • Tintin Reading will be on display through June 29.

Hometown News - Nroman Rockwell - Willie Gillis series - Norton Museum of Art - Masterpiece of the Month

From July 3 to August 3, the Norton shifts to wholesome Americana with Norman Rockwell’s 1942 Hometown News. Appearing on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on April 11, 1942, it was part of Rockwell’s Willie Gillis series, a collection of World War II paintings that depicted the fictional Willie Gillis’ career in the armed forces.

  • On July 3 at 6:30 p.m., Ellen Roberts, Harold and Anne Berkley Smith Curator of American Art, will discuss the painting on the Curator’s Conversation.

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