Art & Culture

  • howard hodgkin red bermudas

Arthur Ross Gallery Unveils Never-Before-Seen Collection With Help From Penn Undergrads

  • stuart davis eggbeater
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Arthur Ross Gallery Unveils Never-Before-Seen Collection With Help From Penn Undergrads

By Lydia Filosa

As a Penn undergraduate, one of my favorite places on campus to take a study break, and get a dose of culture in the process, was the Arthur Ross Gallery. Nestled inside Frank Furness’s castle-like Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Arthur Ross Gallery is a one-room gallery (kunsthalle). Though unimposing in size, the gallery displays exhibitions of monumental significance. On Saturday, July 19, 2014, the Arthur Ross Gallery will unveil its newest exhibition, Shared Vision: The Myron A. and Anne Jaffe Portenar Collection, to the public. This exhibition will display sixty-three of the over 800 works donated by the Portenars to Penn.

With so many incredible prints, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper to choose from, how did co-curators Lynn Marsden-Atlass and Heather Gibson Moqtaderi make their selections? University Art Collections Manager Heather Gibson Moqtaderi explains that each piece was selected for its significance within the history of twentieth-century art, as well as its importance to the Portenars themselves. One obvious choice to be included was Stuart Davis’s Study for Egg Beater No. 3. (1927), which has been critical to the study of early twentieth-century abstraction, and its purchase was one of the Portenars’ proudest accomplishments in collecting. Adds Moqtaderi, “Anne Portenar was also especially fond of the artist Susan Rothenberg and so including one of Rothenberg’s prints was a given. We selected Head and Bones because it resembles the head and bones of a horse, which is one of Rothenberg’s primary motifs, and Anne is especially fond of Rothenberg’s horses.”

    • stuart davis eggbeater
    • Stuart Davis (1892 – 1964)

      Study for Egg Beater No. 3, 1927

      Gouache and pencil on paper

    • jacob lawrence workshop
    • Jacob Lawrence (1917 – 2000)

      The Workshop, 1972


    • maragaret bourke white reguees pakistan
    • Margaret Bourke-White (1904 – 1971)

      Exodus, Pakistan, 1947

      Silver gelatin print

    • jose clemente orozco manos
    • José Clemente Orozco (1883 – 1949)

      Manos (Hands), 1926


    • howard hodgkin red bermudas
    • Howard Hodgkin (b. 1932)

      Red Bermudas, 1980


    • susan rothenberg head and bones
    • Susan Rothenberg (b. 1945)

      Head and Bones, 1980


    • betye saar return to dream time
    • Betye Saar (b. 1926)

      Return to Dreamtime, 1990


    • edward steichen nocturne
    • Edward J. Steichen (1879 - 1973

      Nocturne – Orangerie Staircase, Versailles, 1908


    • minor white empty head
    • Minor White (1908 – 1976)

      Empty Head, 1962

      Silver gelatin print

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As the exhibition evolved over the past year, Penn undergraduate students played an integral role at every stage. Student interns Elizabeth Kobert (C’14) and Joshua Herren (C’13) have been working on Shared Vision since March 2013. Says Kobert, “I really loved that I got to see the entire project from start to finish.” Last spring, Kobert and Herren dove into researching each of the 800 pieces in the collection and verifying their origins, then proceeded to photograph and catalogue each artwork. They also contributed research for the exhibition labels and recorded clips for the audio tour. Reflecting on her hands-on experience in the Arthur Ross Gallery, Kobert said, “I really enjoyed the label-writing process, where I spent days at a time at Fisher Fine Arts Library pulling out every book available on each artist and trying to absorb as much as I could about their life and work in general, and how I could relate that to the specific piece in the exhibition.” Student involvement will continue through the school year, as student docents lead tours of the exhibition and history of art classes visit the gallery to study the artwork in person. Anne Jaffe Portenar is herself a Penn alumna and it is fitting that her collection will become a valuable part of undergraduate education over the coming years.

The soft opening of Shared Vision will be Saturday, July 19, 2014. The grand opening party (complete with live musical performances) is scheduled for Friday, September 12, 2014.


Lydia Filosa graduated from Penn in December 2013 with a BA in Classical Studies. She is currently interning for the Undergraduate Office of Admissions and the Penn Art & Culture Initiative.

Edited by Kenna O'Rourke

Banner image is Howard Hodgkin's Red Bermudas (1980). All featured images are courtesy of The Office of the Curator.