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Portland Art Museum Receives Gift of $2 million by the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation

The Portland Art Museum is pleased to announce that a gift of $2 million was recently pledged by the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation. The gift from the foundation, headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., will endow the curator of modern and contemporary art. The position, currently held by Bruce Guenther, will now be known as The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

“We are grateful to Mercedes Eichholz and her family’s foundation for this generous and important gift,” said Brian Ferriso, The Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Director. “Endowing curatorial positions ensures that the core mission of the Museum is fulfilled.”

Mercedes Eichholz and her late husband Robert have been active supporters of the arts for decades, including connections with the National Gallery of Art and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Mrs. Eichholz lived in Portland from the late 1930s to the 1950s and was involved with the Museum during that time. Her son, Michael Davidson, is a Portland resident and a Museum member.

The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation was established to support the arts and is overseen by its trustees, including family members Michael Davidson and daughter Alexa Davidson Suskin. The first installment of the pledged $2 million gift has been received by the Museum with the balance to be paid over the next three years.

“The importance of adding stability to the Museum by funding this curatorial position was key in the decision of the foundation,” said Mrs. Eichholz. “I hope that this gift will encourage others to step up and underwrite curatorial positions at the Museum or support the endowment.”

During the past five years the Museum has worked to endow all of its curatorial positions. With this gift, the Museum has five endowed curatorial positions and hopes to endow the remaining curatorial positions.

“A strong institutional endowment and endowments for key positions provides financial stability for the Museum’s mission in perpetuity,” said Ferriso. “This is the second major gift to the endowment in the past six months, following the endowment of the curator of photography in December. This reflects the quality of our curatorial staff, the excellence of the work they are doing in support of the mission, and the generosity and the leadership of donors like Mercedes Eichholz.”

About the Modern and Contemporary Art Collection
From its earliest days, the Museum has closely followed and supported contemporary art. In 1908, the Museum acquired its first original painting created by the American Impressionist Childe Hassam in the same year. From 1905 through the 1920s, exhibitions of avant-garde art were organized for presentation at the Museum by curator Anna B. Crocker and pioneering collector Sally Lewis, including Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and other momentous works from the controversial 1913 Armory Show in New York. Important collections of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works, including works by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Degas, entered the permanent collection in the late 1920s and 1930s from the estates of founding members of the Museum.

The Museum began actively building a collection of 20th-century art in the late 1940s under the leadership of director Thomas Cole. A 1971 gift of funds in Evan H. Roberts’ name allowed a series of major sculpture purchases by artists such as Henry Moore, David Smith, Dan Flavin, and Mark Di Suvero to compliment the Museum’s Rodin, Degas, Brancusi, Picasso, and Archipenko holdings. In 2000, the Museum acquired the Clement Greenberg Collection of 159 paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings by some of the most important American artists of the mid-20th century. The acquisition, supported by patrons Tom and Gretchen Holce and Carol and John Hampton, along with a number of major gifts, resulted in a quantum leap in the collection. Today, the collection includes works that chronicle the development of Modernism from Courbet and the Impressionists through the 20th century to the video and digital art of the present worldwide.

The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Sculpture Court is dedicated to exhibiting large-scale works from the Museum’s holdings and loaned works by artists like Joseph Beuys, Chris Burden, and Bruce Nauman. In 2005, the Museum opened the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art to showcase the Greenberg Collection and accommodate the growing collection. Located on six floors of the Mark Building, the 28,000-square-foot Jubitz Center was established to present rotating selections of more than 400 works from the collection, in addition to special temporary contemporary art exhibitions of artists.

The Jubitz Center is connected to the Main Building by the underground Suwyn Gallery which features dossier contemporary exhibitions from the collection. As visitors exit the Suwyn Gallery and ascend six floors through the Jubitz Center, the installations trace the evolution of Modernism in roughly chronological order. A variety of media are incorporated into this 3 complex presentation, including traditional paintings and sculpture, photography, works on paper, decorative arts, new media, and time-based art such as video and sound works. Since 2005, the Jubitz Center has featured exhibitions from the Miller Meigs contemporary art series, which celebrates new ideas, mediums, and artists such as Sophie Calle, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, and Martin Kippenberger.

About Bruce Guenther
Bruce Guenther is the Portland Art Museum’s chief curator as well as its curator of modern and contemporary art since 2000. He has more than 30 years of museum experience, having served as curator or director at four noteworthy institutions including the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Orange County Museum of Art.

Internationally recognized for his work in contemporary art, Guenther is sought after for his expertise as a public speaker, guest curator, juror, writer, and public arts advisor. For his work to promote international fellowship through contemporary art, Guenther was awarded the Officer’s Cross in the Order of Merit of the Republic of Austria in 1990.

Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
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