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Press Room

1/24/01

Smithsonian American Art Museum Receives $10 Million Gift from Luce Foundation

Contact: Smithsonian American Art Museum's Public Affairs Office AmericanArtinfo[at]si.edu
American Art's Web site: AmericanArt.si.edu
Recorded information: (202) 633-8998


The Smithsonian American Art Museum announced today (Jan. 24) that the Henry Luce Foundation has made a $10 million gift to establish the Luce Foundation Center for American Art.

The center will be housed in the museum's main building, currently under renovation, and will accommodate over 5,000 artworks, densely installed in secure glass cases for public viewing. It is expected that the Luce Foundation Center will open in fall 2004.

Among the major collections expected to be on view are George Catlin's Indian Gallery, Impressionist and Gilded Age paintings, extensive holdings of 19th century sculpture, portrait miniatures, African American and Latino art and 1930s artworks made under New Deal programs. Before this new center, less than 5 percent of the museum's paintings and sculptures could be displayed in the galleries; the new Luce Foundation Center will increase the number on public view to approximately 40 percent.

"My most important goal as Secretary is to connect Americans to their heritage through closer touch with the wonderful Smithsonian collections," said Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small. "In a single stroke, the Luce Foundation has rescued from oblivion thousands of exceptional American artworks that have languished unseen in the museum's storeroom for decades."

Henry Luce III, chairman of the Luce Foundation and a member of the museum's advisory commission since 1998, said, "The new Luce Foundation Center will be an exciting place for people to explore the extended and voluminous riches of the .Smithsonian American Art Museum's collections. No visitor to Washington should miss it."

The chair of the museum's advisory commission, Terry Stent, said, "We salute Hank Luce for his commitment to America's great art traditions and thank him and all the foundation directors for this leadership gift, which will make these collections come alive."

The Luce Foundation gift provides for equipping the center and for a programmatic endowment. While the center is being designed and built, museum curators will review the entire collection of American paintings and sculptures-one of the largest American art collections anywhere-and select those to be displayed in the center. The museum staff also will plan for computerized access to the objects and interactive educational programs to encourage exploration of the center.

"This is the most rewarding kind of work for us—sharing the art we love so much, which tells the story of America," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director. "It's a dream come true to know that these long-hidden works will at last have a place in that story, thanks to the Luce Foundation."

The Luce Foundation Center for American Art will occupy space on the third floor of the historic Old Patent Office Building, which has been the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery since 1968. Many special architectural features of the landmark neoclassical building will grace the Luce Foundation Center-soaring ceilings, skylights and decorative moldings—providing an elegant setting for the collections.

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by the late Henry R. Luce, cofounder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc. With assets of approximately $1 billion, making it among the 50 largest foundations in the United States, the Luce Foundation also supports higher education, Asian affairs, theology, women in science and engineering, and public policy and the environment. The Foundation's Web site is www.hluce.org.

Since the Luce Foundation's program in American Art was created in 1982, the Luce Foundation has distributed more than $60 million to some 200 museums, universities, and service organizations in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important American art holdings with approximately 38,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, folk-art objects and contemporary crafts.

While the three-year renovation of the museum's main building—the Old Patent Office—continues, American Art .offers a full program of exhibitions at its Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.). For information about .Renwick Gallery activities, call (202) 357-2700. Please visit the museum's award-winning Web site at AmericanArt.si.edu.

Luce Center for American Art
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