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$1 Million to Duke's New Art Museum
New Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

DURHAM, N.C. -The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation of Durham has given $1 million to the new Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to name a gallery pavilion for the late Nicholas Benjamin Duke Biddle. The $23 million Nasher Museum of Art will open its new building, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, on Oct. 2.

Nicholas Biddle, who died last year, was the son of Mary Duke Biddle and a founding trustee of her charitable foundation. His name will adorn one of five pavilions that fan out from the museum’s Mary D.B.T. Semans Grand Hall, named for Biddle’s sister.

The gift brings the total to $19 million raised toward the museum’s $23 million goal. Duke trustee emeritus Raymond Nasher provided the largest gift, $7.5 million, toward the new building. The Nasher Foundation of Dallas subsequently donated another $2.5 million in honor of Nasher, its founder. The Duke Endowment, a charitable trust in Charlotte, N.C., that was established by the university’s chief benefactor, James B. Duke,contributed $2.5 million in honor of its chairman emerita and former Duke University trustee Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans.

"Naming a pavilion for Nicholas Biddle is a wonderful way to continue the family’s history of making important things possible for Duke," said Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead. "Mary Semans has long championed the arts at Duke, and it is especially fitting that her brother’s name will grace a pavilion next to the great hall that will bear her name."

Added Kim Rorschach, the Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher at Duke: "The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation’s generous gift will benefit generations of visitors who will experience wonderful exhibitions in this architecturally striking pavilion."

The Nicholas Duke Biddle Pavilion, one of three large gallery spaces in the Nasher Museum of Art, is a 4,600-square-foot rectangular box with white oak floors. Controlled natural light and floating art walls soften the angles and create intimate spaces. On three sides, clerestory windows cast diffuse natural light between box beams spaced 8 feet apart.

At the museum’s grand opening on Oct. 2, the Biddle Pavilion will house one of the inaugural exhibitions, "The Evolution of the Nasher Collection." The exhibition is drawn from the collection of the museum’s namesake and his late wife, Patsy, and explores the development of one of the world’s most significant collections of 20th century sculpture. On view from Oct. 2 to May 13, 2006, the exhibition will chronicle the collection’s growth, beginning with a 1954 acquisition of a work on paper by Ben Shahn and continuing through the creation of the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas in 2003.

In addition to sculpture, the show will examine the Nashers’ interest in emerging artists, tribal and ancient American art, textiles, early American modernism and contemporary architecture. Many works in this exhibition will be on public display for the first time.

In 1991, Nicholas Biddle gave the museum a portrait of his mother by the Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. The portrait is on loan to a traveling exhibition on 19th-century Spanish art, organized by the Albuquerque Museum in New Mexico.

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