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Along with other DC-area museums, the American University Museum received 9,000 artworks from the Corcoran Art Collection in 2018. This once-in-a-lifetime gift is housed in the newly established Corcoran Legacy Collection, showcasing masterpieces from the 16th-century Italian painter Titian, American artists Ansel Adams and Helen Frankenthaler, and more.
This new addition also includes works from the Washington Color School and paintings by figurative artists such as Sarah Baker, Manon Cleary, and Claudia DeMonte that will support our collection of 19th-century Washington art and complement works in the Alper Initiative for Washington Art.
The Corcoran gift will augment our pre-existing collections of art by female artists and artists of color, furthering the mission of the American University Art History department, which leads in feminist art history, and the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
As a teaching resource for the art department at American University, the Watkins Collection has become a living memorial to artist and educator C. Law Watkins. At the same time, the collection has also quietly grown into one of the most important cultural resources focused on Washington art history. Created as a memorial collection in 1945 to honor Law Watkins, founder of the modern Department of Art at American and former Associate Director at the Phillips Collection, the Watkins Collection tells the story of modern art and its offshoots in Washington, DC, with side stories related to what was happening in the larger contemporary art world.
The collection grew through generous donations from collectors and judicious management by the studio art faculty. William Calfee, Ben L. Summerford, Luciano Penay, and Ron Haynie, all former faculty members from the Art Department provided direction and care for a collection that has grown from 25 original donations to over 4,500 artworks.
- Excerpt adapted from former Exhibition Curator Jonathan Bucci's essay from Living Legacy: 60 Years of the Watkins Collection, 2005.
The Donald Rothfeld Collection of Israeli Contemporary Art consists of one hundred and sixty pieces—and growing—of Israeli art donated by Donald Rothfeld to the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. Over the past twenty five years, Donald Rothfeld has been actively engaged with many of the artists featured in this collection, artists whose work varies in style, content, and medium. In many ways, this collection mirrors ‘the canon’ that constitutes Israeli art: it includes many of Israel’s most prolific artists while inadvertently excluding many marginalized figures, groups, and artistic practices alienated by the art world. As this collection continues to grow, we hope that it will begin to reflect a society that stops fearing difference, and starts celebrating the plurality of voices, cultures,and subcultures that make up Israeli society.
- Ian Sternthal, excerpt adapted from The Rothfeld Collection catalog, 2013.