Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin’s Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art (also known as the Blanton or the BMA) is one of the largest university art museums in the United States, with 189,340 square feet devoted to temporary exhibitions, permanent collection galleries, storage, administrative offices, classrooms, a print study room, an auditorium, shop, and cafe. The permanent collection of the Blanton includes over 21,000 works, including substantial holdings of modern and contemporary art, Latin American art, Old Master paintings, and prints and drawings from Europe, the United States, and Latin America.
The University Art Museum was established on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin in 1963 as the University Art Museum. The University Art Museum was created with funds from the sale of property provided by Archer M. Huntington and was first located under the Art Department of the University of Texas (though administration of the museum was subsequently assigned to the Office of the Provost). This land was given to the university with the condition that it be utilized to establish an art museum. Donald Goodall became the museum’s first director in 1964.
By 1972, the Harry Ransom Humanities Center contained a section of the museum’s collection, but the print study room and temporary exhibition galleries remained at the Art Department. The museum was renamed the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery shortly after Eric S. McCready became its second director in 1979.
Jessie Otto Hite became the museum’s third director in 1993. Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, the wife of author James Michener, donated $5 million in 1994 towards the development of a new museum complex, which would be the museum’s first dedicated location for its permanent collection since its inception. The Houston Endowment, Inc. initiated the campaign to create a new facility in 1997 with a $12 million contribution in honor of its then-chairman, Jack S. Blanton. The museum was renamed the Blanton Museum of Art, and work on the new facility began in 2003.
Although Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects designed the museum, they were not the first architectural company selected for the project. The renowned Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron was initially commissioned for the project, but left in 1999 because to conflicts in their design and the Board of Regents’ intentions about the university’s Campus Master Plan. Lawrence Speck resigned as dean of the School of Architecture after being dismayed by the circumstances that led to Herzog & de Meuron’s departure, however he remains a faculty member.
The new Mari and James A. Michener Gallery Building opened to the public in 2006 with a 24-hour marathon celebration. In 2008, a 56,000-square-foot teaching and administration facility (the Edgar A. Smith Building) opened. Ned Rifkin was appointed director in 2009, succeeding the retiring Jessie Otto Hite. Simone Wicha was appointed director in 2011.
Snhetta is now working on a massive external makeover of the Blanton Museum’s gardens and plaza.
That campaign was considerably boosted by museum director Simone Wicha’s surprising revelation at a February 2019 gala that the museum will receive a $20 million contribution from The Moody Foundation to support the renovation and sustain free Thursday entry.
The permanent collection of more over 21,000 pieces at the Blanton is known for its European paintings, prints, and drawings, as well as modern and contemporary American and Latin American art.
Prior to 1900, European art
The Suida-Manning Collection with over 275 pieces by Parmigianino, Paolo Veronese, Tiepolo, Rubens, Claude Lorrain, and Simon Vouet, among many other European painters from the 15th to 18th century, is included in the collection of European paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts before 1900. Paintings by lesser-known but historically significant painters such as Daniele Crespi and Luca Cambiaso are also included in the collection. While the Suida-Manning Collection focuses on Italian and French painters, a series of portraits donated by Jack G. Taylor, including George Romney’s Lady Hamilton, represents eighteenth-century English painting (1791).
The Blanton has a collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman vases dating back to the sixth century BCE. Many came from the Castle Ashby Collection, which was founded in the 1820s by Spencer Compton, 2nd Marquess of Northampton, who supported extensive excavations at Vulci, an Etruscan village north of Rome.
Contemporary and modern art
The Blanton’s modern and contemporary art collection has almost 4,000 items. In the 1960s, novelist James Michener and his wife, Mari Michener, began donating their collection of 20th-century American paintings to the Blanton. The donation continued throughout the early 1990s, eventually totaling more than 300 paintings. The Micheners also donated acquisition funding to the museum, allowing them to acquire around 75 more artworks.
The museum’s collection contains works by painters from the twentieth century such as Thomas Hart Benton, Alice Neel, and Brice Marden. El Anatsui, Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Natalie Frank, Nina Katchadourian, Byron Kim, Yayoi Kusama, Glenn Ligon, Donald Moffett, Susan Philipsz, and Tavares Strachan are among the artists represented in the Blanton’s contemporary art collection. Stacked Waters, an artwork by artist Teresita Fernández commissioned by Jeanne and Michael Klein, exhibited at the Blanton Museum’s Rapoport Atrium in 2009. Drs. Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon gave the Blanton an important collection of sketches, prints, and a large painting by African-American artist Charles White in 2014.
Art from Latin America
Donald Goodall acquired for the Blanton the biggest collection of Latin American art in the United States shortly after his appointment as founding director of the University of Texas Art Museum in Austin in 1959. The Latin American collection grew greatly in the 1970s and 1980s, thanks to contributions of 277 pieces of art from patron Barbara Duncan, including 58 paintings and 112 sketches. In 1988, the museum became the first in the United States to establish a curatorial post for Latin American art. Mari Carmen Ramrez was the department’s founding curator, and she acquired one of the Latin American collection’s trademark pieces, Cildo Meireles’ Misso/Misses: How to Build Cathedrals (1987). In 2015, the museum received a significant donation of Latin American contemporary and midcentury Latin American art from donors Judy and Charles Tate. Paintings, sculptures, and sketches by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, Tarsila do Amaral, Rufino Tamayo, Joaqun Torres Garca, Wifredo Lam, Armando Reveron, Jesus Rafael Soto, and Lygia Clark, among others, are among the 114 objects in the collection.
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