African art remains an important and lasting collection at UMMA
By Sydney Hawkins
Longtime UMMA supporters Helmut and Candis Stern have made a $1.5 million gift to establish and endow a new curatorial position in African art. With UMMA’s holdings in African art considered among the finest in North America, the Helmut and Candis Stern Curator of African Art is a welcome addition to UMMA’s curatorial posts in Western, Asian, and Contemporary art.
“We are thrilled to make this gift to support the Museum,” noted Candis Stern. “Art has always been a passion for Helmut, and of all the artifacts and paintings he collected, the African pieces were the ones I most treasured. We are pleased to know our gift will ensure that African art remains an important and lasting collection at UMMA, and that it will expand in the future through the Museum’s excellent exhibitions and programs.”
While Helmut Stern began collecting modern European and American art in the 1950s, his focus shifted to African art in the 1980s at the encouragement of former UMMA Director Evan Maurer. Ultimately his collection grew to be regarded by experts as one of the most significant collections of Central African material in private hands. In 2005, Candis and Helmut donated 90 works of Congolese art to the Museum; many of them are now among the most popular works within UMMA’s broad collections.
Helmut’s passionate advocacy for UMMA has spanned five directorships and more than 35 years. In addition to his noteworthy gifts of art, Helmut’s remarkable leadership support of the UMMA building campaign was key to the project’s success, and in recognition of his longstanding support the auditorium at UMMA bears his name.
Helmut’s philanthropy and volunteerism at the University of Michigan reach far beyond the Museum of Art, most notably to the Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Depression Center, and Kellogg Eye Center. He has also funded scholarships in public policy, engineering, nursing, and graduate studies, as well as distinguished professorships in Chinese studies and the humanities. In 2004 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree, and in 2006 he received the David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership.
“This new endowment gift from Helmut and Candis Stern will allow the Museum of Art to add an exciting curatorial voice to our exhibitions and programs in perpetuity,” stated Joseph Rosa, UMMA Director. “We are thrilled and honored to have the first named position in the history of the Museum bear the name of Helmut and Candis, whose gifts have allowed UMMA to greatly increase its impact on campus and in the community.” Recruiting for the curatorship will begin in the fall.