To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Blanton Museum of Art, director Simone J. Wicha and art curator Annette DiMeo Carlozzi scoured University of Texas alumni collections for rare and impressive artworks to display in their Through the Eyes of Texas exhibition.
“Throughout the museum’s history there’s been a history of collectors giving major gifts to grow the collection,” said Claire Howard, a graduate research assistant at the Blanton. “The 50th anniversary gives us the opportunity to stop and look back on the major points on the museum’s history and to where it’s going. We can look to the role alumni and UT students have played in the development of the museum in the past and in the future.”
Displaying works from different centuries, styles and regions, the collection serves as a representation of the changing tastes of UT art aficionados. The connecting thread is that UT alumni of all majors and disciplines contributed the works.
“What is so great about the exhibition is that there are over 200 works, and they span from ancient objects to modern and contemporary,” said Kimberly Theel, director of membership and museum services. “What is so phenomenal is that they haven’t been seen together and many have never been seen in public because they are in private collections. It provided opportunities for the curators to make connections between works that aren’t necessarily so obvious.”
Works featured in the exhibition range from Egyptian sculpture to Monet’s water lilies. Some of the most prominent artists include Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Andy Warhol.
“It provides students and the Austin community with a chance to see not only some very rare works, like Mayan artifacts, but also artworks that have never been exhibited in one place before,” said Samantha Youngblood, public relations and marketing manager for the Blanton. “It’s going to take multiple visits to see all of the nearly 200 works in the exhibition. There’s something unexpected and beautiful around every corner.”
The show encapsulates the extent of the Blanton’s history of diverse works. For the past fifty years, the Blanton has attempted to cater to the changing cultural makeup of the Austin community. It embraces a variety of shows with the intention of broadening the scope of arts appreciation.
“We want to be a hub for creativity, and we really want to share with them the life-enhancing power of art,” Theel said. “Just knowing that these works have never been seen in public before because they have been hanging in someone’s dining room, and having that one-on-one experience with works of art, and seeing the connections and the way that works are situated in the galleries is really powerful.”
To better connect past students with current campus culture, the audio tour of the exhibit features commentary from distinguished UT art professors. By working to incorporate the interests of faculty members, the show offers the opportunity for classes to get engaged in the arts community.
“We work frequently with faculty to bring their classes to the Blanton, so it’s not just art history classes that come to the Blanton. Classes from across the curriculum come, and we try to connect with different teaching interests of the faculty,” Howard said. “When Annette went out and saw different collections, she had in mind the interests of faculty that we work with and how classes might benefit from the show.”
But bringing high-caliber works to the University has posed a challenge for curator Carlozzi. She flew around the world, visiting over 150 collections, to bring prominent works to the Blanton. Meanwhile, Howard worked relentlessly matching pieces with information crucial for display. Because many of the works have never been publicly displayed, Blanton staff lacked crucial information like titles and dates. Howard had to rely on library catalogues, auction records and the cooperation of alumni.
“Something that’s been impressive is the level of leadership among the alumni that we have worked with on this show,” Howard said. “There’s a huge range of types of collectors, but this uniting thing is the passion they have for art and their willingness to assume a leadership position. I think something that UT incorporates into its mission is training leaders, and we have been pleased to see alums that have taken positions of art leadership.”