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A Lifetime of Giving: The William J. Dane Fine Print Collection at the Newark Public Library
Bill Dane: Keeper of Prints, A Very Special Person… A Monotype Among Men. Mixed media collage by Helen Frank, 2007. Gift of William J. Dane, 2011.

NEWARK, NJ.- Building and maintaining a library collection is no easy task, and doubly difficult when collecting art such as fine prints, portfolios and artists' books. Libraries have modest acquisition budgets (if any at all) and can never acquire the works of top–name artists at the height of their fame or auction value. Considering the fact that the collections at the Newark Public Library include works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and others, people might well wonder how these valuable items arrived here in Newark. The answer is threefold: generous people donated their treasures, foundations and individuals donated funds, and librarians tried to collect ahead of the trends. Luckily for us, The Newark Public Library’s former "Keeper of the Prints", William J. Dane, contributed in all three ways – and by doing so, inspired others to give.

Dane, who dedicated 62 years of his life to serving the Library, tried to follow his predecessors' collecting practices by acquiring affordable prints and books—ones that also were examples of the contemporary art of their day. When artists such as Ronald King and Warja Honegger–Lavater started doing something unusual with the book form and calling it ‘art’ (the now sought after artists’ books), Dane collected them. When artists such as Wolf Buchholz and Roy Lichtenstein discovered screen printing as a medium for their art, Dane collected them. When modern–day artists began experimenting with computers to make artworks, he collected them too (even though Bill Dane himself never used a computer!)

Mr. Dane built relationships that helped to shape the collections; relationships with local galleries owners who supported local artists, relationships with artists who were committed to laying the foundation for the next generation, and most importantly relationships with donors—people who gave prints and books to a public collection that would be archived for that next generation, to be used as teaching tools with students and exhibited to the general public. These vital collections were strengthened because Dane gave to them as well. He would purchase interesting prints and books immediately upon seeing them at a gallery or show and then turn around and donate them to the Library. In 2004 he established the Gertrude Fund, an endowment dedicated to the purchase of prints for the collection, in memory of his sister. The result has been the development of an extraordinary print collection that rivals those of many institutions across the nation.

The exhibition: A Lifetime of Giving: The William J. Dane Fine Print Collection at the Newark Public Library, examines both the collection which William Dane helped to build and also how he helped to build it. Featured in this exhibit are artists such as New Jerseyans Minna Citron, Louis Lozowick and Holli Schorno; pop artists Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist; Puerto Rican artists Lorenzo Homar and Rafael Tufiño; and internationally–based artists Victor Vasarely, Liao Shiou–Ping and Toshihisa Fudezuka. The exhibition is on view in the Main Library’s second and third floor galleries from April 13 through June 25, 2011.

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