With this online exhibition, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum showcases important recent acquisitions to the permanent collection, highlighting new gifts of modern and contemporary art. In late 2015 and early 2016, the Museum was the fortunate recipient of four gifts, most notably an outstanding group of 114 modern and contemporary objects from the collection of Anthony and Elizabeth Enders.
The Enders gift is one of incredible breadth, offering an overview of the contemporary art market over the last 35 or so years, with works by Matthew Barney, Nan Goldin, David Hockney, Sol LeWitt, Chris Ofili, Robert Rauschenberg, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Lorna Simpson, and Darren Waterston, among many others. The Enders gift greatly expands the Lyman Allyn’s holdings in Modern and Contemporary art, adding works by 76 artists not previously represented in the Museum’s holdings. While the Enders gift extends the breadth of the Lyman Allyn’s collection, recent gifts by donors Karen Metzger Ganz and Sheldron Seplowitz add depth with smaller, focused groups of objects.
Karen Metzger Ganz, Connecticut College Class of 1965, has donated a portfolio of contemporary photographs to the Lyman Allyn every year for over a decade, building and strengthening the Museum’s collection of contemporary photography. The 2015 gift is a portfolio of ten striking black-and-white photographs of Brazil by the New York-based photographer Kristin Capp. Drawn from Capp’s most recent project “Utopian Fragments,” the portfolio contains beautifully composed images from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador de Bahia, photographed between 2002 and 2005 with a rolleiflex twin lens camera. Capp, the recipient of a 2007 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (among other awards), writes that photography “is the language that best articulates how I experience light, space, and my relationship to the human condition. It is a passport which takes me to distant places and new ideas, allowing intuition and perception to work in tandem.”
Sheldron Seplowitz of Stamford, Connecticut donated five Salvador Dalí lithographs to the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in December 2015. Two colorful and evocative religious pieces comprise Dalí’s New Jerusalem suite, while three lithographs illustrate segments of the History of Don Quixote, all from 1980. Prior to this gift the Museum had only a single work by Dalí, a color block print illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy from the early 1960s. Dalí’s Don Quixoteprints extend this literary emphasis and speak to the artist’s Spanish heritage, with the story’s absurdist elements aptly suggested by Dalí’s surrealist style.
Literary subjects and surrealism can also be seen in several objects in the Enders gift. The French surrealist André Masson, a friend and contemporary of Dalí’s, used automatic drawing and erotic imagery to evoke the story of Ariadne from Greek mythology in his 1973 print Le Fil D’Ariane. Likewise, William Kentridge’s 2010 the Nose , which illustrates a scene from Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera, connects to the absurdist strains in Don Quixote with the satirical tale of a man who has lost his own nose. Many thematic links can be made between these recent acquisitions and pieces in the Lyman Allyn’s existing collection. The Enders gift helps expand and enrich the museum’s contemporary art holdings and is particularly strong in minimal art, conceptual art, and photography. Many newly acquired objects engage issues of gender, politics, culture, race, and class, allowing the Lyman Allyn Art Museum to better reflect the complex multiplicity of our contemporary world. A photograph from Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s 1999 installation video Rapture, for example, deals with gender politics in contemporary Islam, while objects by African-American artists Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and Willie Cole utilize text (and some images) to explore issues of race, gender, and power.
In addition to modern and contemporary art, the Museum received an important group of 18thand 19th century New London county objects from Lance Mayer and Gay Myers. Acclaimed conservators and technical art historians, Mayer and Myers retired from their long and accomplished practice (based at the Lyman Allyn) at the end of 2015. To mark this occasion, the couple generously gave the Museum objects of regional importance, including two Chippendale side chairs attributed to the Norwich maker Felix Huntington, and a Windsor side chair by the New London furniture maker William Harris, Jr., one of only two known Windsor chairs labeled by a New London maker. The gift also includes a drawing by John Warner Barber, a study for the wood engraving South View of New-London & Fort Trumbull, in Barber’s Connecticut Historical Collections (1836).
Tanya Pohrt, Special Project Curator