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Skidmore College

Tang Museum receives $1 million in gifts

October 18, 2019
by Michael Janairo

The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, known for its innovative interdisciplinary exhibitions and art programs, has received two gifts totaling $1 million: $500,000 from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation to support the Tang collection’s endowment, and a $500,000 challenge grant from photographer, curator and collector Jack Shear to support the museum’s award-winning publications program.
The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation gift will allow the Tang to expand research, scholarship and digital access to the more than 16,700 objects in its collection. The many works by renowned contemporary artists in the collection act as catalysts for research and creative responses from Skidmore faculty and students, as well as visiting scholars and artists. The gift will enable new scholarship and learning and be part of the early documentation that brings the work into art history. The research will find a home on the Tang collection website.

Shear’s challenge grant aims to create a $1 million endowment to support the museum’s robust publications program. The Tang has produced more than 70 exhibition catalogues, including 30 in its Opener Series that focus on emerging artists for whom a Tang publication often represents their first catalogue. The museum’s publications have also garnered numerous prizes and recognition, including three awards in the recently announced 2019 American Alliance for Museums’ annual publication contest.

Tang at Skidmore

 “On behalf of Skidmore College, I’m delighted to accept these gifts from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Jack Shear with the deepest gratitude,” said Michael Orr, Skidmore’s dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs. “This generosity reflects the Tang Teaching Museum’s leadership among academic museums in integrating contemporary art with scholarship across disciplines, and in sharing that research on campus and with the world at large. We are excited to see the new ideas this support will make possible.”
The gifts represent a continuation of support from both the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Jack Shear. In 2015, the foundation contributed $100,000 to the Tang for conservation care of work in its collection. Also in 2015, Jack Shear announced the beginning of a transformative gift of photography. Shear’s extensive donation includes more than 1,500 works and serves as a visual history of photography from its inception in the 1840s to the present day.
The collection chronicles different photographic processes, techniques and artistic approaches from an early half-plate ambrotype of Niagara Falls to a Polaroid self-portrait by a young Robert Mapplethorpe. Historic works include important examples by photographic pioneers such as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston. Important contemporary photographers are also well represented in Shear’s collection, including Tina Barney, Wendy Ewald, Nan Goldin, Katy Grannan, Sally Mann, Vik Muniz, Catherine Opie, Yinka Shonibare and Carrie Mae Weems.
“What I love about the Tang Teaching Museum is that it cares about its teaching mission,” Shear said. “I was impressed when I visited the museum just a week after the first gift of photographs and saw geology students using the photographs in their class. That was a great example of how the museum fosters teaching and learning, and I am delighted to be able to support their work.”

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