Building The Collection: Recent Acquisitions
April 3– May 11, 2014
The Study Gallery
One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working in an art museum is finding material that builds and improves our collection. Sometimes we look to add artwork in areas where there is an obvious need, other times we look to enrich our already strong holdings in a particular area. Recently we had the opportunity to strengthen our Boris Artzybasheff collection. We already have more than 400 works by the great Russian-American illustrator but there are several areas that could be improved. When alerted by colleagues at the Syracuse University Libraries about an available assortment of Artzybasheff materials, we carefully investigated if and how they might strengthen our collection. Another serendipitous aspect of this potential purchase was the chance to engage a long-time supporter of the University Libraries and enthusiast of Artzybasheff artwork, alumnus Harry Greenwald, ‘51. In years past, we have done several exhibitions of Artzybasheff artwork and Mr. Greenwald has shown great interest in our efforts. We added a number of World War II era posters designed by Artzybasheff and other research materials to our holdings. Mr. Greenwald quickly realized how this purchase would help us meet our goal to strengthen the Artzybasheff collection and helped finance our purchase.
Occasionally alumni make monetary gifts to the University Art Collection for the purchase of artwork. Such was the case with Robert Bradley Fritz ’51, who established a purchase fund for art that could be used for, among other things, display in offices on campus. Mr. Fritz was an arts educator in Connecticut for most his career and was interested in 17th century art in New England. He wrote a monograph about the role of fine arts in education during the early years of New England schooling. The Robert Bradley Fritz Fund has helped us acquire artwork by Robert Stackhouse, Winslow Homer, John Taylor Arms and most recently, Paul Strand’s Mexican Portfolio.
While acquisition funds are helpful, the outright donation of important works of art truly enrich our exhibition programs and teaching projects. We receive excellent assistance from alumni, faculty, and staff when looking to enhance our collection. Over the last few years distinguished alumni such as Robert Menschel ‘51, H’91, Susan Hilferty ‘75 and Paul Greenberg ‘65 have given artwork that can be used for exhibition, classroom teaching and for our active traveling exhibition program. Faculty (and former faculty) such as Susan Wadley, Dusty Herbig, David Tatham, and Michael Sickler have given artwork that will become important parts of our future exhibition programing.
Over the course of 40 years, Professor of Printmaking Don Cortese has been an invaluable source of collegial cooperation. Not only generous with his own work, he was committed to giving his students the experience of utilizing our encyclopedic collection of prints and works on paper. This past summer the Collection accepted a selection of drawings and etchings by Cortese that exemplify his success as an influential artist and educator- securing his place among contemporaries like Robert Marx, Leonard Baskin and Gabor Peterdi. Early experiments in photo-etching and digital printing illustrate Don’s commitment to experimentation. Of note is In Memoriam: The Lockerbie Portfolio, a series of images created immediately following the Pan Am 103 disaster that claimed the lives of 270 men, women and children and 35 Syracuse University students. Cortese’s use of digital inkjet printing in its infancy, fused with delicate handmade papers and ghost-like transfers make this piece an important addition to the collection notwithstanding its inherent institutional relevance.
This past fall the Art Galleries presented the exhibition Rembrandt: the Consummate Etcher and other 17th Century Printmakers at the Palitz Gallery in New York City. A visitor to the exhibition, Louise Yamada, offered several prints from her collection as gifts to the University Art Collection. Two of the prints are by Anthonie Waterloo, the French-born Dutch artist whose work was included in the Rembrandt exhibition, and a third was by an American artist Samuel Margolies. This latter artist was represented by the famous New York dealer Sylvan Cole who was a personal friend of Louise Yamada and the subject of the 2010 exhibition at the Palitz Gallery Sylvan Cole and American Prints.
We also engage artists directly. A recent conversation with Robert Birmelin prompted his interest in gifting additional work to the University’s permanent collection. A series of studio visits revealed his long term involvement with intaglio printmaking that began in his student days at Yale working with Gabor Peterdi. An offer was extended, and accepted, to develop a more comprehensive gift that would better illustrate Birmelin’s involvement with the medium. Bob donated a group of twenty-five prints reflecting his work from 1955 through 2007.