CHAPEL HILL, NC.-
Museums rely on the generosity of donors and the Tyche Foundation gift represents one of the most significant contributions in the history of the Ackland Art Museum
. This collection of fifty-one works of art will be unveiled in its entirety in the special exhibition Fortune Smiles: The Tyche Foundation Gift (May 23 August 29, 2010). These works of art add new depth to the Ackland Collection. Accompanying the exhibition is an illustrated catalogue featuring art historical commentary on each piece, as well as nine original works of fiction by acclaimed author Allan Gurganus written in response to selected pieces.
"The collection of the Ackland Art Museum has been decisively, permanently, enriched and strengthened by this unprecedented act of generosity," said Ackland Chief Curator Peter Nisbet.
Named for the Greek goddess of fortune, the Tyche Foundation was founded by former Ackland director Charles Millard after a serendipitous and dramatic encounter with a mysterious work of art. For years, Millard kept a small sculpture that he had purchased at auction on a coffee table in his home. He knew little about the objects history or creator. By happenstance, an article about the sale of a similar piece piqued his curiosity, and, to his surprise, his own sculpture was soon identified as a valuable and highly sought after work of art.
Instead of simply gifting this one piece to the Ackland, Millard opted to sell it and take the proceeds to establish a foundation with the explicit goal of acquiring multiple works. After a career that included positions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in addition to directing the Ackland, Millard is a celebrated connoisseur and patron whose acuity and generosity has benefited cultural institutions across the country. The works of art included in the Tyche Foundation gift are tailored to fit the Ackland Collection specifically enhancing areas, adding luster to others guided by the unique institutional knowledge and celebrated eye of Millard.
"Charlie knows this collection intimatelyour strengths and our gapsbut he also has his own very particular tastes and interests," said Ackland Director Emily Kass. "Because of this rare combination, each of the works included in this amazing gift enriches and adds an important aspect to the permanent collection and reflects the singular vision of this donor."
Distinguished by its impressive diversity, the Tyche Foundation gift includes drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, calligraphy, and photographs. When viewed as a whole, the collection encompasses a wide stylistic range. Among the pieces included are a sensuous Greek head dating from 500 BCE (above, top), an exquisite and minutely-detailed Indian watercolor from the seventeenth century (above, middle), and Édouard Manet's first published etching (The Gypsies, 1862 above, bottom). Including nine examples of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photography, twelve pieces of Asian art, and nine works by old masters, the Tyche Foundation gift is an astonishing collection of works marked by an uncompromising aesthetic quality.