Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, Blanton curator at large, has recently traveled the country to visit the private art collections of University of Texas at Austin alumni for Through the Eyes of Texas: Masterworks from Alumni Collections, which opens on February 24. Annette writes about her experiences organizing the massive exhibition (there are nearly 200 works of art included) below.

Through the Eyes of Texas: Masterworks from Alumni Collections

Charge off the plane, rush thru the terminal, 10 minutes to pick up the rental car … am I at Geo Bush or Hobby, where’s the Avis counter here? Head out on the freeway to Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood, where I feel like I now know every other home’s occupants: I’ve got five appointments today and will see modern Latin American painting, African sculpture, Old Master prints, and contemporary video installations. On another day, it’s Chicago, where the alumni collector meets me in Midway’s baggage claim; her driver takes us on a leisurely ride to her lovely suburban home so that we can visit for the day and I can view every single work in her distinguished collection of American art. Don’t ask me how many airport security lines I’ve been thru over the past nine months, but it was more than worth it for the pure exhilaration of meeting these extraordinary UT alums and reviewing their treasured artworks!

We like to think that the Blanton offers thought provoking and personally moving art experiences to our visitors, but I can tell you that being a curator here also gives me all of that and then some. My challenge and privilege is to translate, with the help of other museum staff, these research visits into an intellectually stimulating and visually arresting exhibition—one that introduces visitors to the life-enhancing power of art. Through the Eyes of Texas: Masterworks from Alumni Collections is the very special 50th anniversary exhibition that I’ve been working on since the start of 2012. Its research—the Blanton’s first ever on alumni collecting—has taken me across the U.S.; in fact altogether we’ve visited 150 UT alums who collect art in a serious way. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve learned there are many more art collections to visit some day, and we’re compiling a contact list for the future.

When you visit the show (We invite you to visit the show!), which will be on view February 24-May 19, 2013, you’ll see such a vast array of objects, it will feel like a different museum! Each of these incredible art objects represents the collecting passions of an individual who has acquired it with discriminating intelligence and then, thankfully, generously agreed to let us borrow it for the spring. Here are just a few descriptions of the fascinating UT alums I’ve met while curating this exhibition:

  • the energetic businesswoman whose downtown Dallas office is filled with contemporary art from Asia, a passion—inherited from parents intrigued with Asian culture—that takes her on frequent scouting trips to China’s burgeoning new art scenes;
  • the retired Minneapolis couple who are among that vibrant cultural community’s leading philanthropists and who monitor international auction sales for some of the finest works coming to market, no matter the period or place of origin;
  • the distinguished Japanese art historian living in NY, who studies the documents and artistic production of post-1945 Japan and whose scholarship contributes important perspective to our knowledge of worldwide modernism;
  • the globetrotting Austin couple, dedicated supporters of the university, who’ve amassed a collection of rare Mayan artifacts that our renowned cadre of scholars in the Mesoamerica Center are thrilled to teach from this upcoming semester;
  • and the Houston collector whose passion for the ingenious works of outsider artists has prompted her to develop plans for a folk art-themed public park in memory of her late husband, with whom she built her nationally recognized collection.

We hope that today’s UT students will take inspiration from the collecting passions of these and all of the other UT alumni contributing to the exhibition. For through informed collecting—whether fueled by significant or modest means—and this unprecedented exhibition, one can gain meaningful insights not just about art but also history, world cultures, economics and social change, design and the built environment, and any number of other fields of knowledge.

—Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, Curator at Large

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