Skip to main content

Collected Identities: Gifts from the Blake Byrne Collection

April 19 – September 30, 2007
Blake Byrne, (T’57), helps the museum purchase Olafur Eliasson’s The uncertain museum, on view in the exhibition New at the Nasher. Photo by Wendy Hower.

Gift from Blake Byrne Doubles Contemporary Art Holdings

Gallery installation view of Collected Identies, featuring a 1992 sculpture of felt and wood by Gary Simmons, Erasure Chair. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.
Gallery installation view of Collected Identies, featuring a 1992 sculpture of felt and wood by Gary Simmons, Erasure Chair. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

Blake Byrne, class of ’57, promised a gift of 33 works of art worth $1 million to the Nasher Museum, doubling the museum’s collection of cutting-edge contemporary art. The 2007 exhibition Collected Identities: Gifts from the Blake Byrne Collection presented selections from the gift, including work by Anthony Caro, Marlene Dumas, David Hammons, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon and Kehinde Wiley, among others.

Highlights were a rare chair made of erasers by Gary Simmons, known for his chalkboard drawings, and portfolios of serial prints and photographs by Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon, Ed Ruscha and Hiroshi Sugimoto. The show also included works by Fred Wilson and John Baldessari on loan from Byrne.

My time at the Nasher is marked by the first time I saw the Kehinde Wiley piece in the Blake Byrne collection. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find when I crossed the Great Hall to see the collected works of a Duke alumnus, but a life-sized oil painting of a black man in present day attire rendered with the regalia of a 17th-century monarch was not it. I could feel a shift in my perceptions just from looking at the work and I knew this was art. I’m grateful to the Nasher for giving me that experience.

Kay Hubbard, (T’07)

One of World's Top 200 Collectors

New York-based painter Kehinde Wiley visits two of his works, on view as part of Collected Identities. Photo by Duke Photography.
New York-based painter Kehinde Wiley visits two of his works, on view as part of Collected Identities. Photo by Duke Photography.

The promised gift drew from the collection Byrne built over the course of 30 years. In 2007, Byrne was listed as one of ARTnews magazine’s top 200 collectors in the world and as one of Art & Antiques magazine’s “100 Top Collectors Who Are Making a Difference.” He was the founding chairman of the Nasher Museum’s national Board of Advisors. Byrne made the promised gift on the occasion of his 50-year reunion at Duke, in honor of Raymond D. Nasher, late founder and namesake of the Nasher Museum.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter