In December, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum was gifted 33 works of art from collector Avo Samuelian and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, in addition to the 33 works previously given by the couple in 2017. According to the museum’s press release, the collection will include works by both historical and contemporary artists. Samuelian and Gonzalez are based in New York and also previously gifted artwork to the Whitney Museum.
Their gift “brought in a number of British artists, some of whom we already had like Jim Lambie and Karla Black, but Avo had examples of their works from different periods than works that we had,” said Dominic Molon, the Richard Brown Baker curator of contemporary art at the RISD Museum. The collection includes pieces by “artists who are really important to the story of contemporary British art,” Molon said. The donated collection also features works by young, emerging “artists whose careers are still developing,” he said, which he hopes can “shift an understanding of where art is.”
“Being able to introduce either emerging artists or expand on the historical collection of RISD is a wonderful opportunity,” Samuelian and Gonzalez said in a statement included in a RISD museum press release. “We are looking forward (to) developing this ongoing conversation to further our art historical education and help RISD achieve expand on their permanent collection.”
Judi Roaman, another New York based collector, encouraged Samuelian and Gonzalez to donate to the RISD Museum. “(Roaman) was impressed by how there’s such a strong relationship between the museum and the school, and the way that students use the collection,” Molon said. There would be a “greater opportunity for there to be a greater impact for (Samuelian’s) gift and certainly he has been very pleased,” he added. “So many of the works that he’s given us have been able to be quickly incorporated into exhibitions,” Molon said. To interact with the works not on display, faculty can bring their classes into viewing rooms and students can make appointments to see specific pieces.
RISD is the third largest art museum attached to an educational facility, said Sarah O’Brien MFA ’20, a graduate assistant at the RISD Museum. The museum’s convenient location gives students from RISD and Brown the chance to explore different genres and artists. “If I need inspiration for a class from a specific culture or time period, I can access the wide range of works available at the museum” said Tamia Jackson RISD ’21.
Some of these new acquisitions will be featured in the Gelman Gallery this April, along with other works gifted to the museum in the last five to six years.