First Display of Art from the University of Iowa Museum to Open at the Figge Art Museum

Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 126, 1965-1975, acrylic on canvas. University of Iowa Museum of Art

Modern masterworks by celebrated artists including Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse will be featured in an upcoming University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA)-organized exhibition at the Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second St. in downtown Davenport, IA.

The exhibition, “A Legacy for Iowa: Pollock’s ‘Mural’ and Modern Masterworks from the University of Iowa Museum of Art,” opens Sunday, April 19 and runs through Sunday, August 2. The two museums will celebrate the opening from noon to 5 p.m. on April 19 with a reception at the Figge Art Museum. Tours of the exhibition will be available at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 p.m., and volunteers from both museums will be stationed in the galleries throughout the day to answer visitors’ questions.

“A Legacy for Iowa,” the first display of art from the UIMA at the Figge Art Museum, features 22 of the most important works in the UIMA collection.

Nearly all of the paintings in the exhibition were fully or partially donated to the UIMA, said UIMA Chief Curator Kathleen Edwards, who organized the show.

“The word ‘legacy’ has to do with what we are given and how we build on that,” Edwards said. “In this exhibition, we explore both why donors give works of art to museums and the important role museums have as caretakers of these objects.”

Robert Motherwell’s “Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 126″ (1965-75), which was commissioned for the UIMA by Ulfert Wilke, the UIMA’s first director, will greet exhibition visitors in the Figge’s second-floor orientation gallery,” Edwards said. In the next room, visitors will find works donated to the UIMA by various patrons, including Cedar Rapids couple Owen and Leone Elliott, whose gift triggered the construction of the original UI Museum of Art building, and world-famous art patron Peggy Guggenheim, whose gift includes Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” (1943), the UIMA’s most famous painting and the centerpiece of the exhibition.

Many historians consider “Mural” to be one of the most important modern American paintings ever made, Edwards said. ” ‘Mural’ represents a synthesis of Pollock’s myriad influences, ranging from Mexican murals and Regionalist art to Asian calligraphy and Jungian psychotherapy,” she said.

“As stewards entrusted with the care of this and other magnificent works of art, museums have both an immense opportunity and a great responsibility,” said UIMA Interim Director Pamela White. “We are charged both with making ‘Mural’ available for our public and building and preserving the legacy of this work for future generations.”

Hosting UIMA-organized exhibitions such as “A Legacy for Iowa” is just one aspect of the larger partnership between the UIMA and the Figge; the Figge will also store the UIMA collection until a permanent museum space in Iowa City becomes available.

Figge Art Museum Executive Director Sean O’Harrow noted that the collaboration will bring benefits for both institutions. “Cooperation between institutions is not only the best way forward in tough times, but also the best way forward in the best of times,” O’Harrow said. “This partnership will raise the profile of both museums and, we hope, Davenport’s arts and culture district, which the Figge anchors.”

In addition to twentieth-century European and American paintings, many of which are featured in “A Legacy for Iowa,” the UIMA’s more than 12,000-piece collection includes a world-famous collection of African Art, wide-ranging ceramics and pre-Columbian collections, and a large selection of prints, drawings and photographs. The UIMA collection has been given accolades by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, and works from the UIMA collection have traveled to major exhibitions in New York, and Berlin and have frequently been featured in art history textbooks.

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