Tag: W. Ray Wallace Athenaeum

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.


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 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

Director’s Welcome

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

The W. Ray Wallace Athenaeum

The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History is already a vital part of the intellectual landscape of both UT Dallas and the art history community of North Texas. Our headquarters in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building at UT Dallas and at the Dallas Museum of Art buzz with activity as visiting scholars, faculty, area art historians, museum professionals, graduate students, and members of the art-loving public come together for meals, discussions, formal seminars, lectures, and receptions.

But the ambitions that Mrs. O’Donnell has for her Institute of Art History are greater than those two headquarters can contain, and we are now ready to complete fundraising and begin construction on a much larger home for the O’Donnell Institute, to be called The W. Ray Wallace Athenaeum.

The Wallace Athenaeum will be built at the very center of campus and near its east entrance, allowing residents of Dallas’s northern suburbs to come together with University students, staff, and faculty in a new institution that will link what are usually the separate functions of museums, libraries, and academic teaching facilities.

We chose the word Athenaeum because it includes all of those functions under the umbrella of a term with roots in the very origin of western civilization in ancient Greece. The Wallace Athenaeum will be only the second such institution formed at a University; it is perhaps not an accident that the first was founded at the California Institute of Technology (CalTec) in 1929. Other Athenea in the United States are places where books and art create a context for people of all ages and levels of education to meet for discussions, reading groups, art groups, formal and informal courses, research, meals, and receptions. An Athenaeum is less about its collections than about the way people gather to use them to create knowledge.

To anchor the Athenaeum, a small group of world-class libraries will be combined in a new art history research library, among the best in Texas and the entire center of the U.S. It will be named after the largest library to come to UT Dallas, the Wildenstein-Plattner Library. Amassed over the course of the twentieth century by the Wildenstein family, it is the largest and finest private art library ever formed, comprising more than 250,000 volumes as well as rare pamphlets, prints, sales catalogues, exhibition catalogues, and art periodicals from the eighteenth century to the present. That library will be joined by the private library of Dr. Alessandra Comini, Professor Emerita at Southern Methodist University and the collector of over 34,000 volumes related to art and architecture in Europe, including central and northern Europe. The Comini Library will join the Wildenstein-Plattner Library along with portions of the private libraries of Mr. Nash Flores, S. Roger Horchow, Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Phillips, Peter and Perry Rathbone, Gail Sachson, Oliver Watson, John Wilcox, and myself as well as other libraries that will come to us in years ahead. Although a good deal of information about art is available digitally, web-based information is less accurate and comprehensive than the seven generations of art historical scholarship in print represented in these libraries.


Crow Museum of Asian Art

Another development over the past months is the prospect that the Crow Museum of Asian Art will build a North Dallas facility at UT Dallas as part of the Wallace Athenaeum. The Crow will keep its Arts District facility with its intimate galleries for about 200 works of art from the collection. But, with a collection of around 1,000 objects from China, Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan, and Cambodia, the museum needs space for exhibitions and storage as well as for study and research. A collection of Asian and South Asian art is especially fitting at UT Dallas, since a significant portion of our faculty and student body are Asian or Asian-American, and the center for the large Asian population of greater Dallas is the city’s northern suburbs.

Bringing together the Wildenstein-Plattner Library, the Crow Museum of Asian Art, and the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, as well as exhibition spaces, seminar rooms, a lecture/performance hall, and facilities for dining and events, current plans for the Athenaeum call for four interconnected buildings that open onto three enclosed gardens. These lush landscapes will have water features, seating, shady paths, and places to sit and meditate or simply to stroll. What better environment to reflect on the visual arts in world history than in a library, a museum, and an institute surrounded by gardens?

Mrs. W. Ray Wallace has made a naming gift of $10,000,000.00 and Mrs. Eugene McDermott has donated $5,000,000.00, so we are launched. With an additional sum of $5,000,000 we will officially begin the architectural and landscape plans. We hope to do this by summer of this year, and aim to break ground toward the end of 2018.


Richard R. Brettell, Ph.D.

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