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Elizabeth Murray Masterpiece Restored After 45 Years

Bank of America has committed $100,000 to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to restore a masterpiece by the late artist Elizabeth Murray.

Murray was part of a generation of abstract painters in New York City during the 1970s and ‘80s that was experimenting with a new formal language. Her painting Bob, after a yearlong conservation effort, will be on public view at the Nasher Museum for the first time in 45 years.

“We believe we saved this painting from the dustbin of history,” said Marshall N. Price, Ph.D., Chief Curator and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “It had been out of the public eye for a very long time. We have a chance to give it a second life.”

The Bank of America grant will support major conservation work in consultation with the Elizabeth Murray Foundation. The artist created Bob in 1977 as an homage to her friend Robert Moskowitz. The painting was shown by Paula Cooper Gallery until 1978, when Burroughs Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. bought it and installed it at the company’s Research Triangle Park Headquarters. Bob was hidden from public view for 40 years.

Bob was instrumental in Murray’s pursuit of a nuanced visual language and exemplifies the experimental nature of post-Minimal abstraction, Price said.

“It is a major work by Murray from a period that was so crucial to her development,” Price said. “It preceded the shaped canvases that she’s probably best known for, but Bob also has the hallmarks of a post-minimal language she was developing in the mid and late 1970s.”

The Nasher Museum acquired the painting in 2021 from United Therapeutics, Corp., which discovered Bob after moving onto the former Burroughs Welcome campus. The museum will produce a mini documentary about the rediscovery of the painting and the process of returning it to its original state.

“The Nasher Museum is most grateful to Bank of America for supporting the conservation of this important early work by a pioneering artist,” Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director, Nasher Museum. “It’s very exciting to bring Murray’s painting back into the public eye after so many years, making it accessible for the first time to visitors and scholars alike.”


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