Face and Form: Modern and Contemporary Sculpture in the Meadows Collection

October 7, 2009 - January 25, 2010

The Elizabeth Meadows collection of modern and contemporary sculpture represents one of the most important artistic legacies that Algur H. Meadows left for Southern Methodist University and Texas. It forms a distinctive part of the museum he founded, and reflects his commitment to providing the community with key works of the highest quality and art historical significance by the modern era’s most influential sculptors. The strong founding collection, assembled primarily in the late 1960s, set the precedent for future acquisitions to the Meadows Museum and affirmed the museum’s dedication to acquiring modern and contemporary art. With the recent renovation of the museum’s entrance plaza, the Meadows is celebrating this legacy with an exhibition of the Elizabeth Meadows collection and related modern and contemporary sculptures, to be featured in the Jake and Nancy Hamon Galleries and outdoors in the sculpture garden.

After the death of his first wife, Virginia, in 1961, Algur Meadows donated their collection of Spanish art to SMU, and set up an endowment to establish the Meadows Museum. The following year, he married Elizabeth Boggs Bartholow, who was more interested in modern and contemporary art than in the Old Masters. It was in her honor that Algur Meadows donated to SMU the sculpture collection that bears her name, specifically for a sculpture garden on the university campus. The Elizabeth Meadows Sculpture Court and Garden in the Owen Fine Arts Building (which still houses the Meadows School of the Arts) was dedicated at the same time that the Meadows Museum opened, on April 3, 1965. The sculpture collection began with Meadows’ purchase and donation, by 1967, of 41 works by contemporary Italian artists, some of whom he had met personally. Today, this initial gift is evidenced in the collection by two works by Marino Marini (1924–1997) and a portrait bust of Elizabeth Meadows by Giacomo Manzù (1908–1991).

Over the next few years, the collection shifted in focus, in an effort to align its quality and art historical relevance with that of the Spanish collection. To this end, in 1969 and 1970, Meadows donated the core pieces of the present Elizabeth Meadows Sculpture Collection: monumental representative sculptures by such prominent artists as Alberto Giacometti, Jacques Lipchitz, Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, Auguste Rodin, David Smith, and Fritz Wotruba. These works, which exemplify the artists’ characteristic styles, served as a guide for future museum acquisitions of modern and contemporary sculpture, including Spirit’s Flight by Isamu Noguchi (1979), commissioned from the artist in honor of Algur Meadows after his unexpected death in a car accident in 1978. This sculpture, which has long resided in front of the Owen Fine Arts Center, the location of the former museum and sculpture court, will be installed in front of the museum’s renovated plaza.

Noteworthy acquisitions of modern and contemporary sculpture in the past three decades highlight relationships between the Elizabeth Meadows collection and the Meadows collection of Spanish art. Among these we find works by Gerardo Rueda (1926–1996), Xavier Corberó (b. 1935), Santiago Calatrava (b. 1951; the museum has three sculptures by him), and Jaume Plensa (b. 1955). These works underscore the museum’s attention to modern and contemporary Spanish art, and moreover to its goal of locating this art within a broader international and historical context.

This exhibition is organized by the Meadows Museum and has been funded by a generous gift from the Meadows Foundation.

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Carrie Sanger
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