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Bruce Dayton, trustee of 73 years at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, passed away
A man of high standards and unmatched generosity, Mr. Dayton was a true philanthropist.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Trustees of the Minneapolis Institute of Art sadly announced today the passing of its Life Trustee, of great distinction, Bruce B. Dayton. Mr. Dayton, a Trustee of 73 years, served on the museum’s board since 1942, when he was recruited by Chinese art collector Alfred F. Pillsbury. Mr. Dayton’s strong vision, business acumen, high aesthetic standards, knowledge and love of art, and commitment to public service have guided and benefited the museum for decades. Many of his some 2,000 gifts of art to the museum can be viewed throughout the galleries.

A man of high standards and unmatched generosity, Mr. Dayton was a true philanthropist. His philosophy was firmly rooted in his great admiration for his grandfather, George Draper Dayton (1857–1938), an exceptional businessman and philanthropist in his own right. Like his grandfather, Mr. Dayton was a man with a broad range of interests, experience, and talent, which, in combination with his analytical mind and strong character, made him an exceptional community leader.

“This is a very sad day indeed,” said Kaywin Feldman, Duncan and Nivin MacMillan Director and President of Mia. “Bruce’s generosity and depth of commitment to our museum are unparalleled. He has given Mia so much throughout his life, through his active board participation, philanthropic support, connoisseurship, and remarkable insight. He helped shape us to be one of the greatest art museums in the country. Our gratitude to him is boundless. I will miss him very much.”

Mia Board Chair Maurice Blanks added, “Mr. Dayton’s great legacy is unmatched. He has had a tremendous impact on all of us and is an inspiration in so many ways to the next generation of community leaders, business owners, and others who knew him. Bruce’s great vision, involvement, and investment with the museum has positioned us well for the next one-hundred years.”

As a collector, from the 1940s to the early 1990s, Mr. Dayton was primarily interested in European and American paintings. Major gifts of artworks to Mia during this time include Edouard Manet’s The Smoker (1866); Wassily Kandinsky’s Study for Improvisation V (1910); Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1922); and Frank Stella’s Tahkt-I-Sulayman, Variation II (1969). Inspired by the passion of his wife, Ruth, for Asian philosophy, Mr. Dayton became interested in the early 1990s in building Mia’s Chinese collection. At the start of perhaps the most buoyant Chinese art market of the last century, he formed a collecting partnership with Mia under the guidance of Robert Jacobsen, PhD, Mia’s Chair of Asian Art at that time. Working together, they added more than 800 superb works of Chinese art, hardwood furniture, and architecture to 14 galleries. Today, the installation has on view more than 1,400 works and occupies 20,000 square feet of gallery space, comprising one of the largest displays of Chinese art in the United States.

Mr. Dayton willingly considered virtually all classical traditions of Chinese art, all periods of Chinese art history, and each of China’s formative philosophies: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. As the museum became increasingly recognized for its classical hardwood furniture and original historic rooms, he quietly purchased for the museum literati objects and more than 300 classical paintings and calligraphies with an emphasis on the literati tradition. Concurrently, he built an excellent group of early lacquer objects, procured significant examples of Buddhist painting and sculpture, created a gallery for Tibetan art, amassed several hundred fine early ceramics, collected a group of rare illustrated books and sutras, and added spectacular ancient bronzes to the galleries.

Mr. Dayton gave funds to Mia without hesitation for the benefit of the art-going public. The works were selected for their beauty and rarity, and with the educational mission of the museum in mind. Highlights from the collection include a Ming dynasty Reception Hall and a Qing dynasty Scholar’s Studio, both fully furnished with period furniture; a Qing dynasty Imperial Throne; a magnificent bronze Celestial Horse from the Eastern Han dynasty, a gilt bronze Pair of Flying Dragons from the Tang dynasty; a southern Sung dynasty wood sculpture of the Bodhisattva Guanyin; and an early Ming dynasty Dragon and Phoenix Vase.

Mr. Dayton also supported other areas of Mia’s collections. He provided the lead gifts for major acquisitions, including a first-century BCE Roman statue interpreting Doryphoros by Polykleitos; Claude Lorrain’s Pastoral Landscape (1638); and Claude Monet’s Grainstack, Sun in the Mist (1891). He donated or provided funds for the purchase of more than 300 drawings, prints, and artist’s books by major figures such as Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Oskar Kokoschka, Sol Le Witt, Alice Neel, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Larry Rivers. Highlights include Edgar Degas’s Beside the Sea (1869), Emile Nolde’s Heavy Seas at Sunset (c. 1930), Piet Mondrian’s Chrysanthemum (1900), Edouard Manet’s The Races (c. 1869), Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge (1892), Jasper Johns’s Ale Cans (1964), Bonnard’s Parallèlement (1900), Kandinsky’s Klänge (1913), and Matisse’s Jazz (1948).

Mr. Dayton’s extraordinary support of Mia went beyond the gift of artworks. He created endowments, today worth more than $27.5 million, to support museum operations and galleries. He helped purchase land for museum parking facilities; sponsored exhibitions of Chinese art; funded academic conferences; helped fund permanent-collection catalogues; and contributed to the museum’s 2006 $100 million Bring Art to Life capital campaign. In this most recent capital campaign, a number of museum supporters joined together with contributions in his honor to create the Friends of Bruce Dayton Fund to support future acquisitions for the collection. Today the fund is valued at more than $2 million. Most recently, Mr. and Mrs. Dayton led the fundraising campaign to help Mia acquire Eros Bendato by Igor Mitoraj to mark the museum’s 100th Birthday Year.

While Mr. Dayton has been most closely associated with Mia, his range of philanthropic activity was incredibly broad. Within the last few years alone, he made major gifts to the capital campaigns of the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Public Library, the Guthrie Theater, the Studio Arts Building at the University of Minnesota, Macalester College in Saint Paul, and the Yale University Art Gallery. Mr. Dayton also funded the restoration of a sixteenth-century, 34-room historic house in Anhui province, China, which is now a public museum; underwrote major publications on Chinese architecture, calligraphy, and sculpture for Yale University Press; donated 110 acres to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; and contributed to the construction of the new Shanghai Art Museum.

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