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Cultural Collections

'Victors for Art' exhibition celebrates U-M's alumni collectors

By Dave Lawrence

University of Michigan Museum of Art, "Orion" sculpture by Mark Di Suvero in the foreground, Photo by Leisa Thompson

Commemorating the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial in 2017, the U-M Museum of Art has organized a major exhibition drawn from the collections of university alumni.

“Victors for Art: Michigan’s Alumni Collectors” comprises 115 exceptional works of art spanning 3,500 years of art-making from around the world. It is presented in two parts: “Figuration” will be on view from Feb.18-June 11 and “Abstraction” from July 1-Oct. 29.

Alumni from all walks of life representing seven decades of graduating classes and 15 of the university’s schools and colleges are participating with loans of work that are emblematic of their interests as collectors.

“Victors for Art” provides an extraordinary opportunity to view artworks that, in some cases, have never been publicly displayed and never all together. For visitors, and especially for future generations of university graduates, the exhibition illuminates the shared passion for art fostered by the Michigan experience.

“UMMA recognizes the extraordinary role of the university in the development of many of the world’s most influential art collectors,” said UMMA interim director Kathryn Huss. “One of the founding pillars of a U-M education, art remains a vibrant opportunity for engagement, edification, conversation and enjoyment.

Mickalene Thomas, I’m Not the Woman You Think I Am, 2010, rhinestones, acrylic and enamel on wood panel. Collection of Robert B. Feldman. Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“We welcome the community and alumni Victors—a nickname from the university’s beloved fight song—to explore this very special exhibition created in celebration of the ]university’s 200th anniversary. We are deeply grateful to our alumni for their enthusiastic support of this exhibition.”

This exhibition was organized by Joseph Rosa, guest curator and former UMMA director, in collaboration with Laura De Becker, the Helmut & Candis Stern Associate Curator of African Art; Jennifer Friess, assistant curator of photography; Lehti Mairike Keelmann, assistant curator of Western art; and Natsu Oyobe, curator of Asian art.

“UMMA is uniquely positioned to celebrate the university’s bicentennial in this expansive and multifaceted way,” Rosa said. “‘Victors for Art’ builds on UMMA’s tradition of presenting a rigorous program about art and cultures throughout history, stimulating ideas and discussions, and encouraging connection-making across artistic and academic disciplines.”  

While figuration and abstraction are broad and fluid categories that defy conclusive characterization, “Victors for Art” provides visitors with the opportunity to explore the substance and limits of these groupings across a spectrum of media, time periods and geographies.

Works by a range of artists, including Peter Campus, Rineke Dijkstra, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Henri Matisse, Collier Schorr, Mickalene Thomas and Andy Warhol among others, speak to the diversity of motivations for artistic representation across many contexts. By juxtaposing these works, viewers may discern common threads, yet also appreciate the great variety of artistic responses encompassed by the term “figuration.”

The U-M Museum of Art, located at 525 S. State St. in Ann Arbor, is free and open to the public 11 a.m-5 p.m Tues.–Sat., and 12 p.m–5 p.m on Sun.

Lead support for “Victors for Art: Michigan’s Alumni Collectors” is provided by the U-M Office of the Provost, Michigan Medicine, U-M Office of the President, U-M Bicentennial Office, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and National Endowment for the Arts.

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