January 21: The University of Oklahoma Unveils its New Art Museum

January 21: The University of Oklahoma Unveils its New Art Museum

University of Oklahoma

January 21, 2005

January 21: The University of Oklahoma Unveils its New Art Museum

Visitor Information
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is located at Elm Avenue south of Boyd Street in Norman, Oklahoma.


Within cheering distance of the football stadium where the fabled Sooners play, a quietly elegant building of buttery limestone, green slate, and glass has risen at The University of Oklahoma, with masterpieces of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism sheltered within. Artworks that any museum would covet-a rare portrait by Vincent van Gogh, a Paul Gauguin streetscape shown in the final Impressionist salon-hang in neatly ordered pavilions designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, a distinguished American architect known for his crisp refinement.

This is the expanded and renovated art museum of The University of Oklahoma: a fusion of remarkable collections and superb architecture which would be at home in New York or Los Angeles, but which is located almost exactly midway between those cities, on the campus of a public university in Norman, Oklahoma.

Opening to the public on January 21, 2005, the new facility-the Mary and Howard Lester Wing of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art-provides 34,000 square feet of space, much of it dedicated to recently acquired paintings by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, and others. Also on view in ten light-filled, domestic-scale pavilions are dozens of works by American artists including Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, and John Singleton Copley; a rich variety of Asian sculpture and Persian miniatures; and notable modern and contemporary works by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Smithson, Dieter Roth, Barbara Hepworth, and Kiki Smith.

A freshly renovated and expanded East Building of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art provides another 28,500 square feet for the outstanding collections of American Indian and Southwestern art, and for remarkable holdings of 19th and 20th century photography and 16th through 19th century Greek and Russian icons.

“There is no question that this museum has one of the best university collections, public or private, in the United States,” comments Eric M. Lee, Director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. “People from around the country already travel to this region to see the Kimbell Art Museum in Forth Worth, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, and many others in this region. I believe that with our new building, we are going to give visitors a remarkable encounter with great art and great architecture, which is going to add the University’s museum to this cultural itinerary.”

According to former United States Senator David L. Boren, President of The University of Oklahoma, “Our school is going through a period of amazing growth. Over the past ten years, we have tripled the number of endowed professorships, tripled the private endowment, opened a new Honors College, and invested more than $700 million in campus construction projects. I don’t hesitate to say that a centerpiece of all this dynamic activity is the expansion and renovation of our art museum. For our students, for other institutions around the nation, and for the public, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is a true symbol of today’s University of Oklahoma.”
Building the New Museum
The University’s decision to expand and upgrade its art museum is itself the result of recent dramatic growth.

From 1996 through 2004, the museum acquired the Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, valued at an estimated $50 million; the Richard H. and Adeline J. Fleischaker Collection of American Indian and Southwestern art; the William H. and Roxanne P. Thams Collection of Southwestern art (concentrating on works by members of the Taos Society of Artists); the Priscilla C. and Joseph N. Tate Collection of Taos art; the George and Cecilia McGhee Collection of icons; the R.E. Mansfield Collection of American Indian art; and dozens of vintage photographs from the Ellen and Richard Sandor Collection. When added to the University’s other significant holdings, these acquisitions demanded a new home for the museum.

In 2002, the University selected Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA, to design the expanded and renovated museum. Since establishing his practice in Washington, DC, in 1958, Jacobsen has received more than one hundred awards for design, including American Institute of Architects National Honor Awards for his work at the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery and its Arts and Industries Museum. Despite this lifetime of honors, Jacobsen states that “I’ve never yet done a building that the Michelin guide would send you out of the way for. But now, at age 75, I feel I finally have one.”

Built at a cost of $14 million (including renovation of the existing East Building), the new Mary and Howard Lester Wing is conceived as a suite of nine identically sized pavilions, organized in a square and linked to one another by corridors of limestone and unframed glass. This scheme provides residential-scale galleries for the artworks (many of which were meant to be seen in private homes) while establishing a continual visual interplay between interior and exterior spaces. A tenth pavilion, located at the far west end of the structure, serves as the new main entrance to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Visitors who enter through this pavilion will proceed into a light-filled, 38-foot-high atrium. From that point, they will be able to see 80 feet straight ahead through the new wing into the existing East Building.

The ground floor of the new wing features galleries dedicated to the Weitzenhoffer Collection, American art, Asian art, and a select number of works of African sculpture. Also on the ground floor are an orientation room and the museum store. The lower level houses an open, loftlike gallery (which is especially suitable for larger-scale contemporary art), an auditorium, classrooms, and back-of-house facilities. Natural light abounds throughout the new building: coming into the ground floor through the skylights on the pavilions’ pyramidal roofs, or entering the lower level through skylights built at grade into the museum’s formally landscaped setting.
Special Events Scheduled for Opening
A number of distinguished guests will help the University to mark the opening of the Mary and Howard Lester Wing. On Thursday, January 20, Philippe de Montebello, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, will be the featured speaker at a special preview and celebratory dinner. On Friday, January 21, President Boren will welcome to the campus Hugh Newell Jacobsen and Vincent J. Scully, Sterling Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Yale University, who will participate in a campus-wide Day of Learning focused on the new art museum.
Major Support for the Expanded and Renovated Museum
The University of Oklahoma has expanded and renovated the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art with the generous support of OU alumnus and Williams-Sonoma founder and CEO Howard Lester and Mary Lester; the Sarkeys Foundation; the Fred and Mary Eddy Jones Foundation; the McCasland Foundation; the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation; the Helmerich Foundation; George and Nancy Records; Richard and Ellen Sandor; and John and Dee Dee Stuart.

Other significant donors to the capital campaign include Natalie and W.P. Buckthal, Elaine and Gene Edwards, Mary and Dick Clements, Lissa and Cy Wagner, and Phillips Petroleum Company. Donors to the endowment fund include Bob Tuttle and Maria Hummer, Suzy Sugarman, LaVona and William J. Rushton, Wanda and Jerome Westheimer, Wylodean and Bill Saxon, Melinda and Gerry Cater, and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art Association.
Visitor Information
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is located at Elm Avenue south of Boyd Street in Norman, Oklahoma. The museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and weekends from noon to 4:30 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays and University holidays.
For further press information:
Anne Lundberg
The Kreisberg Group, Ltd.
130 West 25th Street, Suite 800
New York, NY 10001
212.799.5515 (telephone)
212.799.5535 (telefax)

Lynette Lobban
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
410 West Boyd Street
Norman, OK 73019
405.325.3178 (telephone)
405.325.7696 (telefax)

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January 21, 2005

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