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University of Iowa Museum of Art

The University of Iowa Museum of Art is a visual arts institution that is part of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, USA. It is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and its director is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors.


The University of Iowa Museum of Art, established in 1969, has one of the top university art collections in the country.[1][2][3] Approximately 14,000 objects constitute diverse collections that include paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, ceramics, textiles, jade, and silver. A number of major art donors contributed to the collection, including Peggy Guggenheim, Owen and Leone Elliott, and Elizabeth M. and C. Maxwell Stanley. The Guggenheim donation includes masterpieces by Pollock, Matta, Seliger, and Rice Pereira. The Elliott Collection includes paintings by Braque, Chagall, De Chirico, Kandinsky, Léger, Marc, Matisse, Picasso, and Vlaminck, among others. The Stanley Collection of African Art is part of one of the most significant collections of African art in the country which today numbers almost 2,000 objects. Other significant areas of the collections include nearly 5,300 prints spanning the history of Western printmaking, several hundred ceramics (primarily American studio ceramics), Pre-Columbian objects as well as small but superb groups of ancient Etruscan and Roman art, and Native American ledger drawings. Two of the most well-known works in the collections were given to the Museum by the School of Art and Art History: Max Beckmann’s triptych, Karneval, purchased by the faculty in 1946, and one of the most famous paintings in the world, Jackson Pollock’s Mural, created in 1943 for Peggy Guggenheim, which she gave to the School in 1951. Significant paintings by Robert Motherwell, Lyonel Feininger, Maurice Prendergast, Alexej von Jawlensky, Joan Miró, Marsden Hartley, Stuart Davis, Grant Wood, Philip Guston, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Diebenkorn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Arthur Dove, Giorgio Morandi, Mark Rothko, Miriam Schapiro, and Sam Gilliam, as well as sculptural/3-D works by Louise Nevelson, Sol Lewitt, Mark di Suvero, Beverly Pepper, Henry Moore, Marcel Duchamp, Lil Picard, Alexander Calder, Peter Voulkos, and George Rickey add to the museum's numerous offerings.[4]

Since its inception the UIMA has enjoyed a close working relationship with the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History and for several decades has sponsored the annual MFA show as well as the faculty exhibitions.[5] Faculty from the SAAH and elsewhere, and graduate students on campus have curated shows at the Museum that are closely linked with their research, courses, and seminars.[6] The teaching mission of the UIMA embraces the curriculum of the University of Iowa and extends throughout the state.

After the flood of June 2008, the Museum building was permanently evacuated. The collections were moved out in time and today are temporarily located in the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, fifty miles from Iowa City.[7] The Museum’s dedicated spaces on campus include the "UIMA@IMU," a new Script error: No such module "convert". visual classroom in the Iowa Memorial Union that houses more than 500 works of art from the collections. In addition, objects from the African art collections are located in the Stanley Gallery of the Levitt Center for University Advancement. Currently, some 3,000 works of art are displayed and/or stored on the university campus. The remaining 11,000 items are mostly stored (some on exhibition) at the Figge Art Museum, about 60 miles away in Davenport, Iowa.

The Museum continues to:

   * Build and preserve its art collection;
   * Present significant exhibitions in Iowa City and across the State of Iowa;
   * Offer K-12 programming for thousands of Iowa students each year;
   * Create opportunities for UI students and faculty, including access to works from the UIMA collection;
   * Provide free community programming including openings, lectures, and readings.

The University is committed to building an architecturally significant new Museum building to replace the building flooded in 2008. This new building is part of the re-envisioning of the arts on campus. The new building will house the Museum’s collections and will provide classrooms and labs as a mode of integrating the Museum with the study of the visual arts and the academic mission of the University.[8]


Building the Museum
In the early 1960s, Owen and Leone Elliott of Cedar Rapids offered the University their extensive collection of 20th-century paintings, prints, antique silver, and jade on the condition that a Museum be built to house their gift, along with the University's existing and future acquisitions of art. In response to this challenge, more than 2000 individuals and businesses contributed funds for the Museum's construction.

The UIMA opened in 1969, although the art collections of the University of Iowa predate the Museum of Art by several decades. During the 1940s and 1950s, the University's School of Art and Art History presented exhibitions of contemporary art and acquired works from these exhibitions. Many of the Museum's most important paintings were acquired during these years, including Max Beckmann's Karneval, and Joan Miró's 1939 A Drop of Dew Falling from the Wing of a Bird Awakens Rosalie Asleep in the Shade of a Cobweb. Jackson Pollock's Mural was given to the University by Peggy Guggenheim in 1953.

Newspaper article dated 1966 that shows a model of the Museum in its initial form. The Museum quickly earned recognition as one of the nation's finest university art museums. A gift from the late industrialist Roy Carver, of Muscatine, Iowa, made possible the construction of a major addition, which opened in 1976 and housed the University of Iowa Foundation and the University of Iowa Alumni Association in addition to portions of the Museum. Maxwell and Elizabeth Stanley also of Muscatine, collected African art throughout the 1970s and in 1979, most of their collection came to the Museum.

The Alumni Association and UI Foundation moved out in 1999, leaving the entire Script error: No such module "convert". of the building to the Museum of Art. In the summer of 2003, the long-awaited renovation of the former Alumni Center, or north wing, of the building began. Nearly Script error: No such module "convert". of the building was gutted and substantial changes were made to the mechanical systems and spaces in the basement as well. The kitchens, offices, meeting rooms, etc. left behind by the UI Foundation and Alumni Association became galleries, store rooms, and work spaces.

The North Gallery for Special Exhibitions debuted in the Fall of 2004, along with a remodeled Lasansky Room and the Nancy and Craig Willis Atrium (shown below). The old Print Study Room was converted into the Hoover-Paul Gallery for Works on Paper. The North Gallery added an additional Script error: No such module "convert". of exhibition space to the Museum for a total of Script error: No such module "convert". for exhibitions.

The Flood
In June 2008, the UIMA was flooded and forced to evacuate its collections. Working nearly non-stop during the week of June 9, the Museum staff, art movers, and volunteers evacuated artworks totaling approximately 99 percent of the value of the collection before the floodwaters forced the closure of the UIMA on Friday, June 13.[9]

In the weeks following the flood, the remaining art was evacuated to join the rest of the collection in secure art storage in Chicago. Meanwhile, the UIMA worked to secure alternative locations on- and off-campus to make the art accessible to its public.

In January 2009, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport offered the UIMA space in its building for storage and exhibitions until a permanent home on the UI campus becomes available. In March, the UIMA began moving its collection to the Figge. In July, the Museum finished its initial inventory of the objects.

Overall, about 200 objects needed some form of treatment by the conservators at Chicago Conservation Center because of the flood. Nearly all have been cared for and are now in storage at the Figge. UIMA works already slated for conservation before the flood—mainly African objects—will remain in Chicago to receive the treatment they require.

New Galleries
In August 2009, the UIMA opened a new on-campus art venue in the Iowa Memorial Union. The "UIMA@IMU," funded almost entirely by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), features more than 500 objects from the UIMA permanent collections, selected specifically to meet classroom needs.[10]

Post-Flood Plans
Also in August, UI President Sally Mason announced the formation of an Envisioning Committee for the UIMA. Composed of community members, UI faculty, and UI students, the Committee is charged with evaluating best practices for university and college art museums and thinking about how the UIMA can best serve the needs of its constituents moving forward. The Envisioning Committee delivered its report in early 2010.[11]

In August 2010, the university announced that Dr. Sean O'Harrow, then executive director of the Figge Art Museum, was named the new UIMA director.[12]


List of the chief executive officers of the UIMA since its founding in 1969:

New Galleries

Visual Classroom-Iowa Memorial Union
125 North Madison Street, Iowa City, IA 52242

Black Box Theater
125 North Madison Street, Iowa City, IA 52242

A Legacy for Iowa-Figge Art Museum
225 West Second St., Davenport, IA, 52801

Studio Arts Building
1375 Highway 1 West, 1840 SA, Iowa City, IA 52242

Levitt Center for University Advancement
1 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA, 52244

Further reading

Illustrated with images from the permanent art collection, the UIMA's 40th Anniversary book, Building a Masterpiece: Legacy of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, tells the story of the Museum's founding, the people who have enabled the UIMA to carry out its mission to facilitate the experience of art over the years, and UI President Sally Mason's vision for the future. The limited edition book was written for the UIMA by Abigail Foerstner, journalism professor at Northwestern University and author of James Van Allen: The First Eight Billion Miles (University of Iowa Press, 2007) and Picturing Utopia (University of Iowa Press, 2005). [13]


  1. ^ "50 Most Amazing College Museums". College Rank. College Rank. Retrieved 2015-04-29. 
  2. ^ "5 College Art Museums". Brian Sylvester. Zatista. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  3. ^ "Iowa’s 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries and Museums". Carly Minsky. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  4. ^ "UIMA Collections". University of Iowa Museum of Art. University of Iowa. Retrieved 2012-11-19. 
  5. ^ "University of Iowa faculty exhibit at the Figge". Jonathan Turner. QCOnline. Retrieved 2015-04-19. 
  6. ^ "From the classroom to the gallery". Ashley Murphy. Daily Iowan. Retrieved 2014-09-12. 
  7. ^ "Figge Gig: O’Harrow Gives Shelter to University of Iowa’s Homeless Collection". Lee Rosenbaum. Art Journal. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  8. ^ "About the UIMA". University of Iowa Museum of Art. University of Iowa. Retrieved 2012-11-19. 
  9. ^ "Sorriest Sight: Inside Iowa’s Flooded, Evacuated Museum". CultureGrrl. Art Journal. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  10. ^ "UI Museum of Art to open IMU and Levitt Center galleries; receives NEH grant". Coralville Courier. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  11. ^ "Museum History". University of Iowa Museum of Art. University of Iowa. Retrieved 2012-11-19. 
  12. ^ "Sean O'Harrow Named Director of University of Iowa Museum of Art". Art Daily News. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  13. ^ "Iowa Hawk Shop". 

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