I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead the Nasher Museum in what promises to be a very exciting time, as we approach our 10th anniversary celebration in 2015 and undertake new initiatives in undergraduate education and expand the scope of our exhibitions. I am most grateful for the support and encouragement received from the Nasher Museum Board of Advisors, Friends Board, Duke administration and colleagues and Nasher staff.
Many goals were either reached or surpassed during the academic year of 2012-2013. For the first time, annual attendance reached the 115,000 mark. The education department and gallery guides also broke a record: We served over 12,000 schoolchildren, a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Museum members numbered 2,679, our highest total yet. An initiative to exhibit and collect photography was successfully launched. Five collectors donated eight photographs to the collection, and a photography members group, Double Exposure, was formed to help develop the initiative. Some professional milestones were reached as well. Due in no small part to the success of the Nasher Museum this year and in the past, founding director Kimerly Rorschach was selected as Director of the Seattle Art Museum, realizing a longtime goal of directing a large city museum. And, of course, I am thrilled to accept the Nasher Museum Director position and help push the museum to new heights.
The exhibitions offered during the year were enthusiastically received. Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore proved to be as popular and successful as we had hoped. Over 53,000 visitors attended, surpassing projections, and attendance of K-12 school groups reached a new high: 5,340 children learned about Claribel and Etta Cone, and were exposed to and inspired by masterpieces by Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, van Gogh and Renoir. Membership increased substantially thanks to this show—800 new members joined as a result of a direct mail campaign and media outreach. I am grateful to Provost Lange for funding a UNC-TV documentary on the Cone sisters that boosted our attendance, as did our media partnership with NBC-17. Programs created in conjunction with the show also did well. The great-great-niece of the Cone Sisters, Nancy Ramage, brought in a huge crowd, and our ever- creative staff devised successful community- oriented dramatic readings, performances of French music, book discussions, wine tastings and sketching in the galleries.
Of course, there are as many ways to form a noteworthy art collection as there are art collectors. At the same time as Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters was on view, we hosted Time Capsule Age 13 to 21: The Contemporary Collection of Jason Rubell. This show reconstructed an exhibition Jason organized in 1991 as part of his senior thesis at Duke, consisting of works of art he had acquired from ages 13-21. It was positively astounding to see the artists that interested the young Jason, the majority of whom are superstars today!
Our visitors also delighted in Light Sensitive: Photographic Works from North Carolina Collections, originated by Professor Patricia Leighten of Duke’s Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, an award-winning art historian of the modern period and a longtime student of the history of photography. Working as co-curators on the project, Professor Leighten and I were supported by Duke alumnus Frank Konhaus, who together with his wife, Ellen Cassilly, has built an incredible private collection of photography. As a member of the Collections Committee of the Nasher Board of Advisors, Frank has long encouraged the Nasher Museum to think about exhibiting and collecting photography. Thanks to Frank, we learned of many other photography collections in our area, which we visited with increasing excitement about the breadth and depth of collecting in the Triangle. The resulting exhibition challenged the long-standing myth that the camera is an “innocent eye” that records the world as if through an open window. It illustrated how artists can take ordinary features of a photograph—light and dark, shape and form, depth and space, size and scale, soft and sharp focus—and transform them to create images that engage us and change the way we see. Works in this exhibition revealed the great variety of ways photographers have used these techniques to persuade us of their vision. Visitors reported they came away with not only a renewed appreciation but a new understanding of the medium.
The exhibition also featured a site-specific commission of a large-scale drawing of a hybrid creature, half-female, half-animal, for the title wall of the pavilion. For the first time in the United States, Mutu was given a chance to use the entire gallery as an installation space, and the result was both otherworldly and strikingly beautiful. The exhibition was indeed a fascinating journey into the mind and work of one of the world’s most acclaimed artist working today. Thanks to the generosity of members of our Board of Advisors and others, we were able to purchase a recent work by Mutu, Family Tree, a group of 13 smaller collages shown together in a genealogical chart format.
For the summer, our visitors were treated to a pavilion filled with Old Master paintings and works on paper drawn entirely from the permanent collection. Members of the staff and long-time museum supporters alike were surprised and impressed by the breadth of the Nasher Museum’s holdings of works dating from the 14th through 19th centuries. Brummer-level and supporting members had the opportunity to hear from paintings conservator Ruth Cox on the work she has done cleaning and restoring many of the Italian, Spanish and English works displayed.
Looking ahead, I am excited to build our curatorial program and grow the permanent collection. Perhaps the most transformative event for the museum’s future this year was the generous $4 million endowment gift for acquisitions given by Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger. This fund will support the museum’s purchases of works of modern and contemporary art. Another $1 million will support the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family Visiting Curatorship Fund, allowing the museum to bring top curators and scholars to organize special exhibitions and projects. The gift was our largest since the museum was built, and we are extremely grateful to Nancy and David for their generous support, which will make a huge impact.
So many individuals, foundations and Duke University departments and administrative offices contributed to making the exhibitions and programs of 2012-2013 a success, I hardly know where to begin. Let me start by thanking the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, a partner in so much the Nasher Museum does. I am also grateful to the Board of Advisors and our new incoming chair, Nancy Nasher, who helped steer the museum during its transition period. Nancy graciously served on the search committee for the new director, as did Ann Craver, the departing chair of the Friends Board. Throughout Ann’s term, she recruited many new members to the Friends Board, led the way in two successful fundraising galas, and represented the Nasher Museum in the community at every turn.
I am so grateful to her and to the entire Friends Board for their tireless efforts to get the word out to the community about our programs. Our Faculty Advisory Board and Student Advisory Board continue to be valuable resources for information and ideas. I also wish to thank our Duke alumni and museum members, who faithfully support our efforts with their generous contributions and dues.
It is the talent of the staff, the advice of our boards, and the incredible personal and administrative support given to the Nasher Museum by President Brodhead and Provost Lange that sets the Nasher Museum apart from other university art museums. Under new leadership, we will continue to reach out to the communities we serve, continue to be bold and innovative, continue to honor our past while keeping our eyes trained on the future, following the example of the great research university of which the Nasher Museum is a part.
Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director (as of June 2013)
Duke University’s first and only art museum has embarked upon a new era.
I am honored to be the new chair of the Nasher Museum’s Board of Advisors and would like to thank my predecessor, Blake Byrne, for his leadership, guidance and generosity for these past many years. This past year has been a very exciting one for the Nasher and most importantly included our search for a new director of the museum to replace founding director Kimerly Rorschach. The Provost of the university convened a search committee that was reflective of the many constituencies of the university. A lengthy national search was undertaken and it is my great pleasure to welcome Sarah Schroth as the next Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director. Sarah, who has been with Duke since before the Nasher was built, will keep up the ambitious momentum of the institution that we have all come to expect. As director, Sarah will take the museum into its 10th anniversary and beyond with her clear and steady vision.
This past year the museum continued its tradition of many exciting exhibitions and events that have made it a keystone of the arts at Duke. Off campus, the art world continues to take notice.
The Nasher Museum hosted many artists who gave public talks and met with Duke students and regional school children. Photographer Burk Uzzle gave the Annual Semans Lecture, sharing some of his favorite photographs and giving insights into his work. Kerry James Marshall gave the Rothschild Lecture after taking up a brush to sign one of his early works, Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum, which is one of the Nasher Museum’s most exciting acquisitions to date. Artist Wangechi Mutu came from New York to take part in a public conversation with Chief Curator Trevor Schoonmaker; she came back for an exciting book signing party at a local music venue.
A longstanding partnership with the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas continued with loans from the collection of my parents, Raymond D. and Patsy R. Nasher. Three important modern sculptures are on view in the Great Hall: a compressed car metal sculpture by John Chamberlain, a bronze reclining nude by Henri Laurens and a dynamic sculpture of laminated wood by Welsh sculptor Richard Deacon. Visitors still enjoy Ulrich Rückriem’s untitled sculpture at the Campus Drive entrance and Mark di Suvero’s In the Bushes, a 1970-75 painted steel sculpture, which was beautifully refurbished for the front lawn.
The modern and contemporary collection continued to grow. The museum acquired a suite of six prints by Mark Bradford on the heels of an installation of some of his monumental mixed-media works. Photography is an increasingly important focus; this year the museum acquired noteworthy prints by Adolphe Braun, Mario Giacomelli, Zanele Muholi, MJ Sharp and Burk Uzzle, among others.
The Nasher Museum’s exhibitions continue to attract major partners, from large city museums to well-respected regional museums. We are proud that Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey is traveling to the Brooklyn Museum, the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University and to the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. The Nasher Museum is preparing for Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist to open at Duke in the spring and travel to Chicago, New York, Texas and Los Angeles.
I am always grateful to work with my fellow Board of Advisors members, whose wisdom and experience provide an incredible resource to the museum staff. All of my board colleagues are dedicated and generous with their time, advice and support. The board is excited to be a part of the Nasher Museum’s promising future.
Nancy A. Nasher
Chair Nasher Museum Board of Advisors
Renowned contemporary artist Kerry James Marshall is known for his paintings, drawings and sculptures that are rich with art-historical references, from Renaissance painting to American folk art. The Nasher Museum recently acquired Marshall’s seminal early work, Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum, one of the museum’s most exciting acquisitions to date. The painting is pivotal in telling the story of Marshall’s development as an artist and reveals a number of defining motifs that appear throughout Marshall’s noted career. Marshall was born in Birmingham, Alabama, grew up in Los Angeles and lives and works in Chicago. He earned a BFA at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and has exhibited internationally, most recently at Secession in Vienna, Vancouver Art Gallery, Camden Arts Centre in London and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
The annual lecture is made possible by Barbra and Andrew Rothschild.
Before delivering the Annual Rothschild Lecture, renowned contemporary artist Kerry James Marshall signs his work, Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum.
One of America’s most highly regarded photographers, North Carolina native Burk Uzzle began his career at age 23 as a contract photographer for Life. Five years later, he joined the legendary agency, Magnum Photos (the premier international photographers cooperative). While with Magnum, he shot his seminal images of Woodstock and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral, pictures that continue to travel internationally on magazine covers and in exhibitions. Since 1983, Uzzle has been an independent artist whose photographs have been published and exhibited widely in the United States and Europe and are represented in many museum collections, including the Nasher Museum. Uzzle was also featured in the exhibition, Light Sensitive: Photographic Works from North Carolina Collections.
The Annual Semans Lecture was established in 1996 in honor of the late Dr. James H. Semans and Mary D.B.T. Semans.
Sculptor and master stone carver Simon Verity works with students in the museum’s study storage to examine stone sculptures in the permanent collection. He also demonstrated stone carving techniques.More from stone carver visit
The Nasher Museum and American Dance Festival began an important new partnership to attract new audiences for dance and visual art. In summer 2013, for the first time, the Nasher Museum was a performance venue for ADF’s season. Last summer, ADF faculty member Gwen Welliver, New York dancer and choreographer, brought her composition lab students to explore Olafur Eliasson’s The uncertain museum in three informal showings for the public, as part of First Thursday.
First-year students experience their first Nasher Museum party during orientation week at Duke. Students take in R.M. Fischer’s 1982 sculpture Untitled (Three Prong Lamp), part of Time Capsule, Age 13 to 21: The Contemporary Art Collection of Jason Rubell. Several students pose inside a giant Polaroid frame; Duke students waltz at the “Filtered” student party.