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The Evolution of the Nasher Collection


02.10.05-13.05.06

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
Duke University Museum of Art
2001 Campus Drive
NC-27701 Durham
USA
fon (919) 684-5135
homepage


The Evolution of the Nasher Collection

mit Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stuart Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Jean Dubuffet, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, Julio González, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Medardo Rosso, Ben Shahn, Charles Sheeler, David Smith, Mark di Suvero, Max Weber, u.a.


Drawn from the internationally renowned collection of the museum’s namesake, Raymond D. Nasher and his late wife, Patsy, The Evolution of the Nasher Collection will examine the development of one of the world’s major collections of 20th-century sculpture. Starting with the Nashers’ first acquisition in 1954, a work on paper by Ben Shahn, the exhibition will trace the collection’s growth through the creation of the Nasher Sculpture Center in 2003. Along with sculpture, the show will represent the Nashers’ interests in emerging artists, tribal and ancient American art, textiles, early American modernism and contemporary architecture. Most works in the exhibition will be on public display for the first time.

The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas houses the collection of more than 300 works of modern and contemporary sculpture from the late 19th century to present. Distinguished by its remarkable range and depth, the Nasher Collection contains comprehensive representations of seminal works by Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, David Smith, Henry Moore and Mark di Suvero, as well as Medardo Rosso and Raymond Duchamp-Villon. Surveyed as a whole, the Nasher Collection demonstrates considerable balance between early modern works and art of the postwar period, abstraction and figuration, monumental outdoor and more intimately scaled indoor works and the many different materials used in the production of modern art.
The Evolution of the Nasher Collection, divided into four sections, will shed light on the artists, dealers and personal preferences that influenced how the Nashers built their collection. “Early Interests,” “Early American modernism,” “Contemporary Art” and “Sculpture,” grouped chronologically, will explore how early acquisitions influenced the purchase of later works.

“Early Interests” features selections of tribal and ancient American art that the Nashers acquired in the 1960s for their home. The works in this introductory section will provide context for later pieces in the collection, purchased when the couple began to concentrate on modern and contemporary sculpture. The Nashers’ interest in other cultures and the formal aspects of volume, shape and three-dimensionality of these early acquisitions will be presented as formative influences. Giacometti’s Spoon Woman (1926, cast 1954) and Gonzalez’s Mask: Reclining Head (ca. 1930), for example, will be juxtaposed with an ancient American ceramic vessel and an African figure in the collection.

“Raymond and Patsy Nasher spent 40 years building an amazing collection,” said Sarah Schroth, Nancy Hanks Senior Curator, who organized the exhibition. “They are best known for their holdings of 19th- and 20th-century sculpture, but this exhibition will shed light on the Nashers' wider range of interests, which may come as a surprise to many.”

The second section will focus on another interest of the Nashers, early American modernism. Paintings and works on paper by Ben Shahn, Stuart Davis, Max Weber and Charles Sheeler will be exhibited with early American modernist sculptures. The works will demonstrate the relationship and influence of the art dealer on the education and decisions of the collector.

The “Contemporary Art” section will concentrate on the less well-known aspects of the collection in which Patsy Nasher took a special interest, illustrating her adventurous spirit and intuitive search for new talent. An art patron who supported young artists, she played a pivotal role in the art scene in Dallas until her death in 1988. Selected works, drawn from the Nashers’ extensive collection dating from the 1960s and ’70s, will include paintings purchased directly from Jean-Michel Basquiat and contemporary prints by Jasper Johns and Richard Diebenkorn purchased soon after they were created. Works in this section will be juxtaposed with Navajo rugs, Guatemalan textiles and other objects that the Nashers admired for their contemporary designs.

Highlights of the sculpture in the Nasher collection will be presented in the final section, which will continue outside the pavilion gallery into the atrium, terraces, entrance areas and outdoors. Works, including Auguste Rodin’s Head of Balzac (1897), Jeff Koons’ Louis XIV (1986), Paul Gauguin’s Torso of a Woman (1896) and David Smith’s Head (1938), will be presented in roughly the order in which they were acquired, to convey a sense of when they were available on the market, and how the collector’s eye was refined over time. The visitor also will be introduced to the Nashers’ architectural patronage and their interest in monumental sculpture for public places—largely through photographs placed near pertinent pieces—as well as their civic spirit in sharing their sculptural collection with the public.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue with images of works in the show, many of which have never been published. An essay by Nancy Hanks Senior Curator Sarah Schroth will contextualize the Nashers as collectors within the history of collecting practices in the United States in the second half of the 20th century.

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