Tang Museum receives $1 million for collections and publications support

Gifts from Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Jack Shear bolster Tang programs.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (Oct. 17, 2019) — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, known for its innovative interdisciplinary exhibitions and art programs, has received two gifts totaling $1 million: $500,000 from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation to support the Tang collection’s endowment, and a $500,000 challenge grant from photographer, curator and collector Jack Shear to support the museum’s award-winning publications program.

The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation gift will allow the museum to expand research, scholarship and digital access to the more than 16,700 objects in the Tang collection. The many works by renowned contemporary artists in the collection act as catalysts for research and creative responses from Skidmore faculty and students, as well as visiting scholars and artists. The gift will enable new scholarship and learning and be part of the early documentation that brings the work into art history. The research will find a home on the Tang collection website.

Shear’s challenge grant aims to create a $1 million endowment to support the museum’s robust publications program. The Tang has produced more than 70 exhibition catalogues, including 30 in its Opener Series that focus on emerging artists for whom a Tang publication often represents their first catalogue. The museum’s publications have also garnered numerous prizes and recognition, including three awards in the recently announced 2019 American Alliance for Museums’ annual publication contest. Tang publications have received multiple honors from AAM and other organizations over the years, such as the 2018 AAM first prize in the Scholarly Journal category for “Accelerate: Access & Inclusion at The Tang Teaching Museum (No.1),” which combines new scholarship and vibrant photography of artwork in the Tang’s collection with students, artists, performers and scholars who have been inspired by those objects. To learn more about Shear’s challenge, please visit The Jack Shear Million Dollar Challenge.

“On behalf of Skidmore College, I’m delighted to accept these gifts from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Jack Shear with the deepest gratitude,” said Michael Orr, Skidmore’s dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs. “This generosity reflects the Tang Teaching Museum’s leadership among academic museums in integrating contemporary art with scholarship across disciplines, and in sharing that research on campus and with the world at large. We are excited to see the new ideas this support will make possible.”

The gifts represent a continuation of support from both the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Jack Shear. In 2015, the foundation contributed $100,000 to the Tang for conservation care of work in its collection. Also in 2015, Jack Shear announced the beginning of a transformative gift of photography. Shear’s extensive donation includes more than 1,500 works and serves as a visual history of photography from its inception in the 1840s to the present day.

The collection chronicles different photographic processes, techniques and artistic approaches from an early half-plate ambrotype of Niagara Falls to a Polaroid self-portrait by a young Robert Mapplethorpe. Historic works include important examples by photographic pioneers such as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston. Important contemporary photographers are also well represented in Shear’s collection, including Tina Barney, Wendy Ewald, Nan Goldin, Katy Grannan, Sally Mann, Vik Muniz, Catherine Opie, Yinka Shonibare and Carrie Mae Weems.

“What I love about the Tang Teaching Museum is that it cares about its teaching mission,” Shear said. “I was impressed when I visited the museum just a week after the first gift of photographs and saw geology students using the photographs in their class. That was a great example of how the museum fosters teaching and learning, and I am delighted to be able to support their work.”

About Jack Shear

Jack Shear is a photographer, curator, collector and executive director of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Shear is well known for his portrait photography of American figures including William S. Burroughs, Jasper Johns and Ellsworth Kelly. His work has been exhibited regionally at museums such as the Williams College Museum of Art and The Albany Institute of History and Art, and most recently at Yale University School of Art. His work is included in private collections and museums such as The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art, and his well-known portrait of English writer Quentin Crisp was recently included in the Grey Art Gallery’s monumental exhibition “Art After Stonewall 1969-1989.” His curatorial projects at the Tang Museum include as co-curator with Ian Berry, the two-part exhibition Twice Drawn (2006) and Borrowed Light (2016).

About the Tang Teaching Museum

The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York’s Capital Region, the Tang’s approach has become a model for university art museums across the country — with exhibition programs that bring together visual and performing arts with interdisciplinary ideas from history, economics, biology, dance and physics to name just a few. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, and a robust publication and touring exhibition program that extends the museum’s reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum’s award-winning building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of art and ideas. Admission to the museum is free (donation suggested). Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., with extended hours until 9 p.m. Thursday.

About Skidmore College

Founded in 1903, Skidmore College is a highly selective private, coeducational liberal arts college of about 2,500 students. Skidmore is consistently named one of the “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” by U.S. News and World Report and has recently been recognized as one of “America’s Most Entrepreneurial Colleges” by Forbes, a “Top College Value” by Kiplinger and one of “The Best 385 Colleges” by The Princeton Review. Travel and Leisure has also called Saratoga Springs, home to Skidmore’s campus, one of “America’s Best College Towns.”

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