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Director’s Welcome

Richard R. Brettell, Ph.D.; Founding Director, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair

We have had an unusually busy spring term—even by our own usually busy standards. Our Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Professor Suzanne Blier from Harvard University, not only delivered a stimulating public lecture at the Dallas Museum of Art on newly identified sources for Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, but also has guided seminar students through the technological marvels of Harvard’s WorldMap project. She has even proposed a long-term relationship between Harvard and UT Dallas on this latter project.

We also held major public lectures by three distinguished art historians: Dr. Abigail Solomon-Godeau, the historian of photography; Dr. Yve-Alain Bois, art historian at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton; and Dr. Thomas Gaehtgens, the recently retired Director of the Getty Research Institute. Two of the lectures were held at our partner institution, the Dallas Museum of Art.

Another important partner of EODIAH is our sister institution in California, the Getty Research Institute, the largest and wealthiest art history research center in the world. Its Director, German-born Dr. Thomas Gaehtgens, has been so impressed by our progress at the O’Donnell Institute that he brought his National Advisory Council and key staff members to visit us in Dallas, starting their trip at UT Dallas to the Institute’s headquarters and learn about our plans for the future. With their blessing, we are sure to head in the right direction.

Former Getty Director Dr. Thomas Gaehtgens, seated, left, with his National Advisory Council staff members visit EODIAH

Our two international partnerships in Naples and Nanjing are humming along. Dr. Kozlowski will soon be able to announce the names of the first group of research residents at our new center in Naples, and in this newsletter I will report on the extraordinary series of research trips arranged for Drs. GAO Xin and LIU Yi, our two Visiting Research Fellows from Nanjing University, organized with real aplomb by Lauren LaRocca with the collaboration of our Amon Carter Museum partners.

My news is that my wife Carol and I, after nearly half a century in academic life, have each been granted a one-year leave from our respective universities and will be away from UT Dallas for the academic year 2018-2019. Dr. Sarah Kozlowski will serve as Acting Director of the Institute. Dr. Max Schich, our large-data art historian who is returning to Dallas after a leave of absence in Munich, will be Acting Assistant Director and will be in charge of our Nanjing University partnership.

While on leave, I will concentrate on the completion of my longest-term research project, the Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Paul Gauguin, which will be published by the Wildenstein-Plattner Institute.  I will be ably assisted by one of our own, Dr. Elpida Vouitsis, who completed her Ph.D. in Art History in 2016 and who will work with me as a Senior Research Associate. Of course, I will make myself readily available to my colleagues for Wallace Athenaeum matters as needed.

Nona and Richard Barrett Collection of Swiss Art

The most important meeting in my four years directing EODIAH at UT Dallas occurred on April 10th, 2018. During the meeting, Mr. Richard Barrett and Dr. Richard Benson, UT Dallas President, signed a carefully negotiated loan/gift agreement between UT Dallas and the Barrett Collection of Swiss Art. With more than 400 works by artists born in Switzerland and produced between the 15th and 20th centuries, the collection is the most important formed outside Switzerland and includes multiple works by each of the country’s greatest artists. Although its exact value will not be made public until the collection is formally received by the University at the death of Richard Barrett, I can safely say that it is the largest and most important single gift of any kind to UT Dallas and, in all probability, the most important gift of art to the entire University of Texas System.

The collection will be housed in its own building, The Barrett Museum of Swiss Art, designed to anchor a complex of buildings called The Wallace Athenaeum. When the museum building is completed, the collection will be loaned to UT Dallas until Mr. Barrett’s death. At that point, the Barrett Foundation will transfer ownership to the UT Dallas and make available to the University a percentage of its annual income for the purchase of additional works so that the collection continues to grow.

The University is in the process of creating a press release about this landmark gift for national and international media. When this public announcement is made, we will share images of major works from the collection.

The Wildenstein-Plattner Library

The Institute’s library consultant, Mr. Milan Hughston, recently retired Director of Libraries and Archives at the Museum of Modern Art, has been negotiating a formal memorandum of understanding between UT Dallas and the Wildenstein-Plattner Institute in New York, Paris, and Berlin, for the digitization gift of the entire Paris-based art library to UT Dallas. It too will be housed in its own named building and form part of the Wallace Athenaeum.

The Wallace Athenaeum

After more than a year of planning and meeting, the team of consultants hired by the Institute to envision and program an Athenaeum for UT Dallas concluded their work in March. Members included Peter Walker, the University’s landscape architect; Gary Cunningham, the architect of the O’Donnell Institute’s UT Dallas headquarters and our architectural consultant; Ginger Geyer, an Austin-based artist who has worked extensively in fine arts programming including at the DMA; Milan Hughston, retired Director of Libraries and Archives at the Museum of Modern Art, who served as library consultant; Dr. Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas, as our technology consultant; Lucy Buchanan, as the Institute’s Director of Development; and EODIAH Distinguished Scholar in Residence Bonnie Pitman as our museum consultant.

As the chair of the committee for its many meetings in Massachusetts, Austin, New York, and Dallas, I can say that we have completed our work and have planned an ambitious complex of buildings for UT Dallas, the first phase of which will include the Barrett Museum of Swiss Art, the Wildenstein-Plattner Library (with other private libraries), and a building to house all the public and scholarly activities of the Wallace Athenaeum. This process of careful team-based planning is unusual in any university, but to my mind it was essential to programming a building that will be completely new to American campus life. The only functioning Athenaeum at any American university is the Athenaeum at Caltech, founded in 1929 and now used as a faculty club and event center.

The very first public presentation of the Athenaeum occurred at “the mother ship,” The University of Texas at Austin, in a fascinating conference organized around the idea of the destruction of archives, books, and thus history. Attended by a wide cross section of faculty and students, particularly art historians, the symposium was the direct result of the evisceration of the Fine Arts Library at UT Austin by the College of Fine Arts’ own Dean. The faculty and students were impressed by the efforts of a science and technology university to put the arts–and related libraries—at the very center of its campus.

Richard R. Brettell, Ph.D.

Founding Director, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair