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The Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University announced that it has received three significant gifts from separate donors. The bequests greatly increase the museum’s holdings of works by the postwar artist Richard Diebenkorn, Pop art pioneer Andy Warhol, and the African-American painter Jacob Lawrence. The Cantor Center, which opened in 1894, houses one of the largest collections of Auguste Rodin sculptures in the world. The institution also has a sizeable collection of postwar American art.

Phyllis Diebenkorn, a Stanford alumna, donated 26 of her late husband’s sketchbooks, which contain well over 1,000 drawings, to the museum. The sketches, which span Diebenkorn’s long and varied career, will be converted into digital scans, making them readily accessible to students and scholars.

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From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith features 26 pieces including silver and gold jewelry created by African American artist, Art Smith, as well as select pieces by his contemporaries. Inspired by surrealism, biomorphism, and primitivism, Smith was one of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-twentieth century. His work is dynamic in both size and form.

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When Gudmund Vigtel was named the High Museum of Art’s director in 1963, it was a sensitive time for Atlanta’s art world. More than 100 members of the Atlanta Arts Association and their family members had died the year before in a tragic plane crash. The city’s civic leaders hoped that Vigtel could turn the museum into a living monument of sorts.

Vigtel came to the High Museum from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington where he served as the assistant director. Civic leaders turned to Vigtel to spearhead the fund-raising campaign they started with hopes of remaking the museum. As it turns out, they chose the right man for the job.

During his 28 years at the High Museum, Vigtel transformed it from an unsuspecting, modest institution to one of the U.S.’s most renowned art museums. Vigtel oversaw the museum’s move from a small brick building to an architecturally groundbreaking 135,000-square-foot postmodern structure designed by Richard Meier. While the relocation happened in 1983, Vigtel began fund-raising and seeking out an architect in the mid-1970s.

Vigtel tripled the size of the High’s permanent collection and implemented an art appreciation program for children. He also started one of the country’s first African-American art collections. The decorative arts collection he opened at the museum has gone on to become one of the finest in the country. After acquiring hundreds of works by 19th- and 20th-century American and European artists, Vigtel left the High Museum with a $15 million endowment, which has since grown.

Vigtel died at his home in Atlanta at the age of 87. His wife, two daughters, four grandchildren, and a profound legacy survive him.

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Monday, 17 September 2012 12:44

WPA Murals at Harlem Hospital Have Been Saved

Commissioned by the Works Progress Administration in 1936, the murals for the Harlem Hospital Center stirred up some controversy at the time of their conception. The WPA effortlessly approved sketches by seven artists depicting the day-to-day lives of black people throughout history. However, the hospital had trepidations in regard to the subject matter. Protestors rallied and filed complaints that trickled down to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president at the time. The artists and WPA ultimately won the battle and the murals were brought to life.

Despite the rich historical and social context, the murals had until recently, fallen into disrepair. Newly restored, the Harlem Hospital murals are the focal point of a new, $325 million pavilion at the hospital that will be unveiled on September 27th. Spanning 192,000-square-feet, the Mural Pavilion will connect the existing Martin Luther King Jr. Pavilion to the Ron Brown Building. The hospital demanded that the architects working on the Pavilion preserve the murals, a task that cost the hospital over $4 million, most of which was raised privately. Visible to not just hospital staff and patients, digital enlargements of three murals adorn the Pavilion’s 12,000-square-foot glass façade. New York City’s Public Design Commission oversaw the restoration of the murals.

The WPA’s Federal Arts Project was created in 1935 to create jobs and support for artists during the Great Depression-era’s economic downturn. Over 500 murals were commissioned for New York City public hospitals alone. The murals at the Harlem Hospital were possibly the first major federal commissions given to African-Americans. Fortunately, these important works have been granted a new life.

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