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Since its founding in 1959, the AD&A Museum has been creating a rich and diverse art collection built on aesthetic value and pedagogical import. Over time, this treasury of art has grown almost entirely through donations to include over 10,000 objects. Today, it is regularly mined and brought out for exhibitions, special programs, and most especially for class visits and instructional use. The title of this exhibition, Irresistible Delights, refers to the pleasure found in enriching and working with a unique collection. But, it also points to the reward of amassing works of art that tempt students and faculty to utilize the collection for object-based study and teaching. A peek inside the Museum’s vaults, Irresistible Delights highlights some of the numerous artworks donated to the Museum during the past decade. Focused almost entirely on contemporary and African art, two fields that have significantly increased, Irresistible Delights reveals how and why the Museum’s collection has developed a unique set of criteria and gained appreciation community-wide.
Images- scroll down to see installation shots
Contemporary Art at the AD&A Museum
Since its inception in 1959, the Museum has establisheda history of incorporating contemporary art in exhibitions and in its collection development plans. The impetus was, and remains, to present and have accessible for the University community work of innovative artists practicing anywhere from the local to the international. Currently, 25% of the Museum’s collection is dated 1965 to the present. The works on view here showcase a small portion of the recent additions tothe contemporary collection. But, just as importantly, they highlight the methodology that guides decisions about the collection’s growth. That methodology rests primarily on acquiring works of artthat are unparalleled in their aesthetic or socio-cultural importance—in essence to represent and preserve the best examples of contemporary art. Within this larger goal are more specific charges that are responsive to the Museum’s overarching teaching mission and are representative of the unique cultural region where it stands
Collecting Contemporary Art on a Campus
Situated in a large, thriving University, the Museum is responsive to its most immediate audience. For this reason, collecting work for instructional purposes has guided many an acquisition for the Museum.The Museum’sstaff works with professors and keeps abreast of courses taught on campus in order to develop the collection and foster learning opportunities. Seeing examples in person, comparing them, and even handling works of art allows for in-depth study and nurtures an enthusiasm for art among students. With this in mind, the Museum’s collection provides numerous examples of how artists have creatively worked with subject matter or utilized complex,or now obsolete techniques. Robert Rauschenberg’s Autobiography, 1965 is not only physically commanding given its scale, but it also serves as an innovative example of self-portraiture incorporating text and image. Given all the digital advancements in photography and printmaking, the Museum has made sure to collect both newer and older forms of production such as William Christenberry’s Church, Sprott, Alabama, 1971 and Richard Misrach’s Untitled (#7787), 2007.
Students and their interests influence the Museum’s collecting guidelines as well. In the 1990s the Museum began to acquire posters—a recognition of students’ long time investment in this art form as consumers and producers. Collecting continues in this field related to music, fashion and of course socio-political causes as in the case of Flowers of Life for Central America, 1984 by John Baldessari. This recent gift highlights the artist’s condemnation ofthe United States’ intervention in this region.
Just as importantly, the Museum has also begun to engage alumni artists and advance their work in the Museum’s programming and holdings. When possible, University affiliation is denoted by listing an artist’syears of attendance, and major if known. In this presentation, several alumni are included, such as Eric Beltz, Mary Heilman, Yoshiro Ikeda, John Nava, Adam Ross, and Stephanie Washburn.
African Art at the AD&A Museum
With over five hundred works, the AD&A Museum’s African collection has grown significantly over the past five and a half decades. The collection was first established in 1964, with a donation from the late filmmaker and philanthropist, Margaret Mallory. Her generous gift of over three hundred objects,which were largely acquired in Central Africa around the early twentieth century, not only laid the foundation for the donations that followed, but also established a basis for instructional use.
The Museum’s African holdings expanded again in the 1970s with contributions from Herbert M. Cole, Professor Emeritus of African Art and former interim Director of the Museum. Africanist Marla C. Berns, whoimmediately succeeded Cole as Director, would spend the next ten yearsbuilding and refiningthis area of the collection. More recently, Professor Sylvester Ogbechie has acted as a consultant, offering his expert guidance on donations that might complement the Museum’s existing works. Ogbechie’s input reflects the integral role faculty members play when they engage with the Museum as a site of research and cultural exchange. Teaching exhibitions held in partnership with UC Santa Barbara’s Library, which have included ornate accessories and figurines from different regions of the African continent, uphold the Museum’s educational mission while underscoring a dedication to creative collaboration across campus.
The majority of the African objects on view here are part of Dr. Fima andJere Lifshitz’s endowment. This promised gift marks the latest induction of African artwork to the Museum. The couplebegan acquiring African art in 1987, amassing hundreds of works over time. The selection of large-scale sculpture on displayhighlights only a portion of the seventy objects promised to the Museum, and focuses on bodily representation and aesthetic variation in sub-Saharan Africa. From royal beadedregaliato the nkisi figure punctured with metal blades, these selections exemplify major stylistic lineages found in West and Central Africa. Offering new opportunities for curricular exploration, these most recent additions to the collection bring greater wonder and complexity to the Museum’s African holdings.