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50 works build Kemper's collection of political art

Renée Cox, “It Shall Be Named” (1994). Gelatin silver prints, mahogany, and plexiglass, 105 x 104 1/2 x 4 3Ž4"(framed). Peter Norton Collection.
Courtesy of the Kemper Art Museum
Renée Cox, “It Shall Be Named” (1994). Gelatin silver prints, mahogany, and plexiglass, 105 x 104 1/2 x 4 3Ž4"(framed). Peter Norton Collection. ";s:3:

A new gift of more than 50 artworks will expand the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum’s collection of politically conscious contemporary art. 

“Most of the works really have a political edge in relation, for example, to racism or feminism. There are also many works that deal with our media and image saturated society,” said the Kemper’s Director and Chief Curator Sabine Eckmann.

The works are a gift made by noted LA collector Peter Norton. The intended gift was first made public in a New York Times article in which Norton announced his intention to make donations from his personal collection to eight deserving museums at universities throughout the country.

“It was like a lightning bolt out of the blue. We didn’t apply, didn’t run into Norton at a cocktail party, there was no application process,” said the university’s art news director, Liam Otten. 

Norton has served on the board of the Whitney and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in New York. The Kemper spent months working with Norton’s curatorial staff to identify the works entering the St. Louis institution’s collection.

According to Otten the gift includes video, photographic, performance-based, and installation art works. Featured artists include top-tier contemporary American artists Kara Walker and Mike Kelly as well as the museum’s first sound art piece, which was created by Nadine Robinson, and Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts alum Ian Monroe. Most of the work included in the gift was produced between the early 1990s and the mid 2000s. According to Otten, Norton’s curatorial staff evaluated the Kemper’s collections and made the selected donations cultivated to fill gaps in its holdings.

“It’s really supplementing our holdings in a powerful way,” said Otten. 

The gift comes from Norton’s personal collection, which he began to amass after developing Norton Computing and the Norton Utilities software.

The museum will launch two shows from the work in the coming year. Ten to twelve pieces will be displayed starting in May, with another show curated from the gift in September. 

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