New gifts enhance Yale University Art Gallery collections

This Sheet Gold Burial Mask is part of a collection of East Javanese objects donated to the Yale University Art Gallery by Hunter and Valerie Thompson.

Recent gifts to the Yale University Art Gallery are helping to support an important part of arts education at Yale: direct engagement with a wide selection of art from around the world and across centuries.

Donating from their personal collections, Leighton R. Longhi ’67, Amy Adelson ’83, and Yale friends Ben Lee Damsky and Hunter E. Thompson have added several rare and valuable pieces to the gallery’s renowned collections. These contributions will offer important learning opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and visitors from the community.

“Each of these extraordinary gifts significantly advances major collecting initiatives on which the gallery has embarked in the past few years in Japanese art, ancient Greek and Roman numismatics, photography, and most recently Indo-Pacific art,” says Susan Matheson, acting director, chief curator, and  the Molly and Walter Bareiss Curator of Ancient Art. “They support, in the most fundamental way, our mission to foster learning and appreciation based on first-hand experience with works of art.”

New Japanese paintings establish strong foundation for learning

Leighton R. Longhi ’67, a prominent art dealer and collector, donated several Japanese paintings to the gallery. Acquired over the past several decades, the collection totaled twenty-four works, and Longhi and his wife, Rosemarie, contributed sixteen of them to mark the fortieth anniversary of his graduation from Yale College. The gallery purchased the remaining eight through their acquisition endowment funds. The earliest painting in the collection dates from the Kamakura period in the early fourteenth century and the latest is a landscape painting by Yamamoto Shunkyo from the early twentieth century.

“The addition of Mr. Longhi’s collection will significantly enhance the gallery’s holdings in Japanese art, creating a firm basis for teaching the history of Japanese painting at Yale,” explains David Sensabaugh, the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art.

Building the collection of prints, drawings, and photographs

Amy Adelson ’83 and her husband, Dean Valentine, added to the gallery’s selection of prints, drawings, and photographs, donating a piece by renowned artist Matthew Barney ’89.

Barney’s portfolio includes accomplishments in film, video, installation, and performance. Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic of the New York Times, once referred to him as “the most important American artist of his generation.” His prominence in the contemporary art scene underscores the value of this gift, which ensures that students will have the opportunity to directly interact with the work of an influential modern artist.

Barney’s piece will join a permanent collection of nearly 40,000 drawings, paintings, and photographs, which features work from the early modern period, including German expressionism, and notable nineteenth century French artists, including Degas, Delacroix, Manet, and Seurat. Recent contemporary acquisitions also include selections from Georg Baselitz, Sol LeWitt, and Brice Marden.

Supporting numismatics at Yale

Contributing to the study of coins and medals, Ben Lee Damsky, a Yale friend, made a generous commitment to both the collection and faculty. He agreed to donate, over a period of years, more than 850 coins, featuring currency that emanated from the capital of Rome and its branch mints, as well as smaller, locally produced denominations. This gift will further strengthen the collection’s eminence as it remains the largest at any American university. Highlights of Damsky’s gift include an extremely rare denarius of the usurper Clodius Macer and a sestertius of Trajan with the best-preserved representation of the Circus Maximus.

Damsky has also funded a curatorship in the Department of Coins and Medals. This endowed gift will provide a permanent resource for a faculty member engaged in research, care, and preservation of Yale’s extraordinary numismatic collection, and numismatics expert William E. Metcalf was appointed as the inaugural holder. A member of the Yale faculty since 2002, Metcalf serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Classics and teaches a graduate seminar in numismatics as well.

Showcasing Javanese craftsmanship

Hunter E. Thompson, also a Yale friend, contributed a large collection of Javanese gold objects, dating from before the fifteenth century. These pieces will soon become part of the gallery’s new Department of Indo-Pacific Art. Curator David Sensabaugh says, “The Thompson gift is one of the foundation blocks for this new department. It will play an integral role in allowing the story of insular Southeast Asian art to be told at Yale.”

(January 2, 2009)

January 2, 2009