Last week, Nasher Art Museum, the museum of my alma mater, Duke University, received a generous $1 million donation from Dallas entrepreneur and collector, Derek Wilson (Duke, Trinity College ’86; Fuqua School of Business ’90) and his wife Christen, an avid connoisseur of art and fashion in her own right. I worked at the museum (before being named after Raymond D. Nasher, Duke alumnus, Trinity College ’43, collector and benefactor) when it was an intimate space, nestled in the academic buildings on East campus. The gallery has grown exponentially since I was there. Now a true museum, the gallery is centrally located along Campus Drive with room for outdoor sculpture and a parking lot! When I worked at the museum, the main gallery space was filled with traditional medieval and renaissance works, and contemporary exhibits were reserved only for the downstairs space (which although small in square footage had great vertical height with cathedral ceilings).
My how times have changed.
As I recall from my most recent visit to the Nasher, now the focal point of the collection is the modern/contemporary art.
Wilson and his wife are avid collectors of modern art and have done a lot to support a number of new and up and coming artists. It is reassuring to see modern day benefactors cultivating new artists just like the Medici family in old Florence. Collectors should not just rely on an artist’s posthumous fame as a reason to collect their work but should invest in living artists too. It will be interesting to see what Wilson’s infusion of cash will bring to the museum. Hopefully some home grown student artists will receive support.
Lucky for the Blue Devils, the million dollar donation to the museum was made by Wilson in tandem with his father, alumnus Gary L. Wilson (Duke, Trinity College ’62), who has also donated $2 million to the University for the building of, among other things, athletic buildings.