Published: May 29, 2001
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – The Harvard University Art Museums have announced the acquisition of 29 drawings and one painting by leading contemporary American artists in honor of Neil Rudenstine, the retiring president of Harvard University, and his wife Angelica, an art historian and curator. The acquisitions were made possible through gifts from the artists in combination with support from numerous patrons and the museums’ Margaret Fisher Fund.
Acquired in recognition of the Rudenstines’ support for Harvard University Art Museums’ role as the world’s leading academic art museum, the group includes works by Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Joel Shapiro, Richard Serra and Ellen Phelan. The works contribute significantly to the museums’ continuing endeavor to expand their growing collection of modern and contemporary art and to reinforce their position as a major center for scholarship in the field.
Among the works acquired are the first drawings by Johns, Lichtenstein and Kelly to enter the art museums’ collections. Also included are important groups of drawings by Marden and Shapiro, and a drawing by Serra that complement other noteworthy works by these artists in the collections.
A wall drawing by Sol LeWitt is a major addition to the museums’ rich holdings of the artist’s work. A painting by Ellen Phelan joins a drawing by the artist already in the collections.
All of the artists represented in the acquisitions know the Rudenstines personally and have participated in the initiative to honor the Rudenstines and their work on behalf of the art museums. Several patrons, including Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro and Sarah-Ann and Werner H. Kramarsky, also provided support for the acquisitions, recognizing how the Rudenstines’ involvement has helped foster new opportunities for scholarship and programming at the art museums.
During their ten-year tenure at Harvard, Neil and Angelica Rudenstine have been champions of the art museums. Neil Rudenstine has been committed to increasing university-wide collaboration and developing new programs that span traditional academic disciplines.
Angelica Zander Rudenstine is a respected art historian who was the lead curator of the 1994-96 Mondrian retrospective organized by the National Gallery of Art. Rudenstine retires from his position as president of Harvard University on June 30, 2001.
The works presented in honor of the Rudenstines will provide important new platforms for research and scholarship on the development of American art in the period following World War II. Five Ellsworth Kelly drawings from the early 1950s demonstrate the evolution of the artist’s unique approach to abstraction. These five drawings were previously featured in the Fogg Art Museum’s exhibition “Ellsworth Kelly: The Early Drawings, 1948-1955.” The works have remained in the artist’s personal collection until now. The acquisition also includes Jasper Johns’s 1995 drawing “0-9,” and Roy Lichtenstein’s 1980 drawing “Reclining Nude.”
Many of the works included in this acquisition build upon existing strengths in the collection. The Sol LeWitt wall drawing from 1972 joins a wall drawing already held by the museums, installed in the lobby of the Sackler Museum. Four of LeWitt’s important 1974 “Incomplete Open Cube Drawings,” as well as a large 1995 gouache, “Wavy Brushstrokes,” are also among the 29 acquired drawings. Added to the museums’ existing holdings of LeWitt’s works, these new acquisitions will help make the art museums one of the primary resources for scholarship on this seminal figure in late-Twentieth Century art history.
A 1993 drawing by Richard Serra joins earlier and later examples of this artist’s drawings in the Fogg Museum’s collection, adding to its variety and comprehensiveness. A series of ten important Joel Shapiro gouache drawings complement the art museums’ current collection of works by thE artist, affording the museum an excellent representation of works spanning Shapiro’s career. Five of Bruce Marden’s “Untitled Work Book” drawings join eight other drawings by the artist already in the drawing department.
The Harvard University Art Museum’s commitment to modern and contemporary art stretches back to the 1930s, when the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, as well as Busch-Reisinger Museum, began hosting a series of significant exhibitions of contemporary art and acquiring important examples for their collections.
A commitment to modern and contemporary art continues to be a priority for the art museums, which established a department of modern and contemporary art in 1997.
For information, visit www.artmuseums.harvard.edu.
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