The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College has received a gift of 75 works of contemporary art from the collection of the computer programmer and philanthropist Peter Norton. This is the first in a series of gifts to university art museums and teaching museums throughout the country—drawn from Norton’s personal collection—to support the integration of the visual arts in higher education, foster creative museum practice, and engage diverse audiences with contemporary art.
Norton initiated his first large donation project in 2000, gifting over 1,000 pieces from his collection to 32 select institutions. His gift to the Tang Teaching Museum represents the inauguration of his second major donation project. In addition to the Tang, the museums receiving a gift from Norton include: UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California; Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; California Museum of Photography and Sweeney Art Gallery at UCR ARTSblock, University of California Riverside, Riverside, California; Hammer Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, California; Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; and Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts.
The gift to the Tang includes works by some of today’s leading contemporary artists, including Polly Apfelbaum, Matthew Barney, Nicole Cherubini, Willie Cole, Renee Cox, David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Gabriel Orozco, Lari Pittman, Martha Rosler, Erika Rothenberg, Lorna Simpson, William Villalongo, Carrie Mae Weems, Fred Wilson, and Millie Wilson. In addition, the gift will bolster the Tang’s photography collection, adding key works by Sam Durant, Anna Gaskell, Louise Lawler, Malik Sidbe, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Gillian Wearing, among others.
Building on the Tang Museum’s interest in acquiring works that reflect the museum’s exhibition history and teaching mission, the gift also includes works by a number of artists who have had major solo shows at the museum, including Nayland Blake, Nicole Eisenman, Joseph Grigely, Martin Kersels, Dario Robleto, Alyson Shotz, Fred Tomaselli, and Kara Walker, as well as works featured in the Tang’s current exhibition I was a double.
“On behalf of the Tang Teaching Museum, I would like to express my profound thanks to Peter Norton, he has substantially raised the profile of the Museum’s collection with this generous gift,” said Ian Berry, the Museum’s Dayton Director. “It fits perfectly with our role as a laboratory for ideas and dialogue, where art serves as a catalyst for students, faculty, and the public to advance knowledge across disciplines. These works will enrich the many audiences who come to the Tang, including the students who work with us, the faculty and classes who study here, and the artists and museum visitors from near and far.”
“The Skidmore College community accepts Peter Norton’s gift with the deepest gratitude,” said Beau Breslin, Skidmore’s dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs. “The Tang creates inventive ways to reveal the vitality of artwork through thought-provoking and challenging interdisciplinary exhibitions and programs, and we are thrilled to integrate these works into the Museum’s collection. We are excited to present these works for the Skidmore community and the public in new and unexpected ways.”
Highlights of the gift include:
- Fred Wilson, Pharaoh Fetish, 1993, plaster, leather, and wood beads. Wilson was featured in a career retrospective at the Tang Teaching Museum in 2002, Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations 1979-2000, and was the Luce Distinguished Visiting Fellow for the Program in Object Exhibition and Knowledge at the Tang Teaching Museum from 2006-08.
- Nayland Blake, Feeder 2, 1998, gingerbread on a steel frame; Gorge, 1998, video. Blake’s works were featured in the Tang’s 2003 survey exhibition Some Kind of Love: Nayland Blake, Performance Video 1989-2002.
- Kara Walker, Keys to the Coop, 1997, work on paper; I’ll be A Monkey’s Uncle, 1995, work on paper; and The Bush, Skinny, De-boning, 2002, sculpture. Walker was featured in the Tang’s 2003 solo exhibition Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress.
- Martin Kersels, Buoy, 1999, mixed media including a mirror ball, a Walkman, an amplifier, a speaker, a tin can, a flashing light, and a motor. His work was featured in the 2007 Tang survey exhibition Martin Kersels: Heavyweight Champion.
Visitors to the museum can now see selections from the gift on view in the groundbreaking exhibition I was a double, co-curated by the Tang’s Dayton Director Ian Berry and Pulitzer Prize-winning Composer David Lang. Artists with newly accessioned work from the Norton gift in I was a double include Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Karin Davie, Tony Feher, Fred Tomaselli, and Gabriel Orozco.
About Peter Norton
Peter Norton is best known for his namesake antivirus software and computer books. Starting in the late 1980s he began to amass what is now one of the largest contemporary art collections in the United States.
Norton was most interested in emerging artists and collected more than 3,000 works of art over two and a half decades. At the same time, Norton turned toward philanthropy with a focus on funding art and social service organizations. He has close ties with art institutions throughout the U.S., and is or has been a board member of a number of institutions including the California Institute of the Arts, Reed College, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“Collections reflect the sensibility of the collector; I tend to be drawn to artworks that have ideas embedded in them, but not works that are dryly conceptual,” Norton said. “One of my ideals for an artwork is that there are thoughts and ideas behind it, but that the work nevertheless has so much visual content that it appeals to viewers who have no understanding of those ideas. I am drawn more to works that are three-dimensional, as they connect better to the actual world, and I like to buy the work of artists in their early careers, not only as it supports, encourages, and gives heart to them, but also as it does the same for their contemporaries. I also tend to be drawn to work that reflects non-mainstream backgrounds: feminist art and art from Black, Hispanic and Asian cultures.“
About the Tang Teaching Museum
The Tang Teaching Museum, located on the Skidmore College campus in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is a leader in the museum field, recognized for its innovative, interdisciplinary curatorial projects and for its deep commitment to advancing knowledge through educational practices on multiple levels.
The Peter Norton gift will boost the museum’s collection to more than 7,000 objects, and strengthens the collection’s holdings of late 20th-century art. The collection offers opportunities for study, inspiration, and discussion for the Skidmore community and beyond, through multi-disciplinary courses and innovative exhibitions.
The museum is open noon–5 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday, with extended hours through 7 p.m. Fridays during the summer, and through 9 p.m. Thursdays during the academic year. The museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays. For more information call 518-580-8080 or visit www.skidmore.edu/tang. Follow the Tang on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TangMuseum and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tangmuseum.