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Emily Rauh Pulitzer honored for 'spirit of collecting and philanthropy'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 8, 2009 - Emily Rauh Pulitzer, founder and chairman of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis and a noted collector, curator and expert on modern and contemporary art and culture, will receive the Duncan Phillips Award in a ceremony in Washington on Saturday.

Pulitzer is the tenth recipient of the award, and she joins collectors such as Leonard Lauder, David Rockefeller, Virginia and Bagley Wright, and Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern (the Duke of Bavaria) as a recipient.

Dorothy Kosinski, director of the Phillips Collection, made the announcement. According to release from the Phillips, the award was created 10 years ago "to celebrate the spirit of collecting and philanthropy represented by the life of museum founder Duncan Phillips."

Almost 90 years ago, in a pioneering move, Phillips opened his house so visitors could see his remarkable collection of modern art.

The Duncan Phillips Award, the announcement said, "was created in 1999 to celebrate the spirit of collecting and philanthropy represented by the life of museum founder Duncan Phillips. For more than 50 years, Phillips played a critical role in defining the American tradition of public philanthropy. His collecting practices merged with an extraordinary commitment to the public interest." The Phillips is in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington and is an important fixture of the cultural scene in the nation's capital.

Pulitzer came to St. Louis in 1964 to be curator of the St. Louis Art Museum, where she worked until 1973. That year, she married Joseph Pulitzer Jr., then publisher of the Post-Dispatch. She received her undergraduate degree in art history from Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa., and spent a year afterward at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Her career as a curator began at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard, where she was assistant curator of drawings from 1957 to 1964. She earned her master's degree from Harvard at that time.

Before the death of Joseph Pulitzer in 1993, he and Emily Pulitzer initiated the creation of an institution in the Grand Center neighborhood that would serve to both strengthen the area and offer the public an opportunity to experience modernist and contemporary trends in the visual arts in great depth and in serene surroundings. The Japanese architect Tadao Ando was commissioned to design a building to realize their vision, and the landmark building opened in 2001.

Since then, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts has expanded its reach beyond the visual arts to include music, drama, poetry and artists, architects, scholars, students and the general public. The subjects of its exhibitions are wide-ranging and eclectic.

"With this award," said the Phillips' Kosinski, "we honor Emily Pulitzer for her keen sensibility, infinite generosity, and unyielding commitment to the visual arts. As a collector, her steadfast refusal to be bound by the traditional limitations of chronology and style very much reflects the experimental spirit of Duncan Phillips.

"She is the hidden hero among us because the singular combination of her dedication and philanthropy ensures that the arts will continue to play a vital role for generations to come."

Editor's note: Emily Pulitzer is a contributor to the St. Louis Beacon.

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