Published: January 30, 2001
Smithsonian American Art Museum Receives $10 Million from the Luce Foundation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Smithsonian American Art Museum announced January 24 that the Henry Luce Foundation has made a $10 million gift to establish the Luce Foundation Center for American Art.
The center will be housed in the museum’s main building, currently under renovation, and will accommodate over 5,000 artworks, densely installed in secure glass cases for public viewing. It is expected that the Luce Foundation Center will open in fall 2004.
Among the major collections expected to be on view are George Catlin’s Indian Gallery; Impressionist and Gilded Age paintings; extensive holdings of Nineteenth Century sculpture, portrait miniatures, African-American and Latino art; and 1930s artworks made under New Deal programs. Before this new center, less than five percent of the museum’s paintings and sculptures could be displayed in the galleries; the new Luce Foundation Center will increase the number on public view to approximately 40 percent.
Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small commented, “In a single stroke, the Luce Foundation has rescued from oblivion thousands of exceptional American artworks that have languished unseen in the museum’s storeroom for decades.”
Henry R. Luce III, chairman of the Luce Foundation and a member of the museum’s advisory commission since 1998, said, “The new Luce Foundation Center will be an exciting place for people to explore the extended and voluminous riches of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collections. No visitor to Washington should miss it.”
The gift provides for equipping the center and for a programmatic endowment. While the center is being designed and built, museum curators will review the entire collection of American paintings and sculptures – one of the largest American art collections anywhere – and select those to be displayed in the center. The museum staff also will plan for computerized access to the objects and interactive educational programs to encourage exploration of the center.
“This is the most rewarding kind of work for us – sharing the art we love so much, which tells the story of America,” said Elizabeth Broun, the museum’s Margaret and Terry Stent Director. “It’s a dream come true to know that these long-hidden works will at last have a place in that story, thanks to the Luce Foundation.”
The Luce Foundation Center for American Art will occupy space on the third floor of the historic Old Patent Office Building, which has been the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery since 1968. Many special architectural features of the landmark neo-Classical building will grace the Luce Foundation Center – soaring ceilings, skylights and decorative moldings – providing an elegant setting for the collections.
The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by the late Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc. With assets of approximately $1 billion, making it among the 50 largest foundations in the United States, the Luce Foundation also supports higher education, Asian affairs, theology, women in science and engineering, and public policy and the environment.
Since the Luce Foundation’s program in American Art was created in 1982, the Luce Foundation has distributed more than $60 million to some 200 museums, universities, and service organizations in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
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