Collections are a museum’s lifeblood, and KAM has been blessed with truly remarkable holdings. Our collection is 10,000 objects and growing, thanks to our supporters’ generosity and the acumen of our curatorial team. Lately, acquisitions have been top of mind, especially following our recent fundraising initiative, which brought such remarkable gifts of art and long-needed funds to secure new works, as well as our new fundraiser, Acquired Taste, which brought six objects into the collection in May.
It would be difficult to overestimate this year’s transformative acquisitions, made possible by funds provided by Robert and Sonia Carringer, John N. Chester, and Harlan and Theresa Moore. A breathtaking 1995 painting by U of I graduate (MFA ’65) Louise Fishman, Blonde Ambition, recasts and expands KAM’s legendary collection of postwar abstraction.
Maureen Warren has assembled more than 80 Dutch political prints from the 1600s—in one stroke making the University of Illinois one of the greatest collections of this material outside of Europe.
Meanwhile, Amy L. Powell obtained three portfolios from the 1970s for KAM by the pioneering gay, conceptual photographer Hal Fischer. KAM is now only one of two institutions to hold Fischer’s complete body of work.
And, showing her mettle at auction, Warren also acquired an extraordinary face jug by an enslaved potter from Edgefield, South Carolina—a perfect example of how one work (our first by an African American artist prior to the twentieth century, and one of only a handful of objects from the American South), can transform the collection and forge more complex and inclusive stories.
Of course our goal is to connect our visitors to these extraordinary new works. So we’ve designated 2019–2020 as the year of the collection, initiating the first full-dress reinstallations of KAM’s collections since 2012. Over the summer, Maureen Warren has reimagined the historical European and American collections by mixing media and introducing thematic groupings, provenance stories, new wall colors, and surprises from storage, that bring new life into the Bow, Trees, and Kinkead galleries.
And in August Amy L. Powell unleashed a provocative installation of the museum’s stellar holdings of art since 1948 (our first long-term installation of these works in well over a decade), complete with a striking exhibition design.
These installations—and more to come—are bold, imaginative, intellectually rich, and visually gripping, as you would expect, so we invite you to come and experience both new acquisitions and old friends in surprising ways.
And, finally, I want to draw your attention to some critical work behind the scenes. Our collection manager Kim Sissons has been working tirelessly on getting our entire holdings online. When I started as director last year, we had about 36% available, and as I write now we are at 82%—a heroic accomplishment!
Let me know what you think,
Jon L. Seydl, Director