University of Texas at Dallas to Inaugurate New Art History Research Institute with Gathering of International Scholars in Partnership with Dallas Museum of Art


Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, State-of-the-Art Center for Research and Conservation Study, Founded Through $17 Million Gift to University

First Degree-Granting Institute in the U.S. Hosted by a Public University and a Public Museum, Includes Funding for 15 Endowed Positions

Dallas, TX (October 6, 2014) – The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History will be inaugurated on October 29 with a gathering of prominent art historians and museum leadership from around the world. The Institute has been founded through a $17 million gift from longtime patron of the arts Edith O’Donnell to the University of Texas at Dallas, and will be one of the preeminent centers for art history research and training in the U.S., alongside the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Clark Art Institute; the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU; and the National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts.

Through its partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art, the Institute will be the first PhD degree-granting program in the U.S. that incorporates both an institute and a museum, and is the first such program that is a collaboration between a public university and a public museum. UT Dallas is known as a leading university for science and technology, and scholars at the Institute will have access to cutting edge resources, enabling them to use science to better understand art. The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History will be the first art history institute born in the digital era, and will have state-of-the-art conservation resources, research tools, and digital platforms, providing unprecedented access to research and scholarship in the central U.S. for students, scholars, and the Texas community at large.

The Institute’s campus offices will be housed jointly in the new Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building—a 155,000-square-foot facility also funded by O’Donnell that opened in November 2013, and which houses programs in arts and technology, visual arts, emerging media and communications, and a state-of-the-art conservation lab—and at the DMA, where faculty and students will have offices, workspace, and access to the DMA’s collections and Mayer library.

Recognizing that outstanding faculty and students are critical to the Institute’s success, O’Donnell’s $17 million lead gift will provide comprehensive funding for the Institute, endowing the positions of the Institute’s Director and O’Donnell Distinguished Chair; four additional O’Donnell Distinguished Chairs; and ten O’Donnell Graduate Research Fellowships, as well as endowing a research and program fund. In addition, the Institute will provide support for conferences, research travel, and visiting faculty and lecturers as part of an ongoing commitment to be a leading center for pioneering research in the field.

Institute faculty and staff at the DMA will be given joint curatorial and teaching appointments, enabling both the University and the Museum to grow their staff, enhance their on-site resources, and develop collaborative exhibitions and events. As part of this initiative, and under the direction of the Edith O’Donnell Chair that will be dedicated to conservation science, scholars at the DMA and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art will collaborate with UT Dallas scientists on a partnership in conservation science, strengthening ties between the Dallas-area art institutions. Alongside the Edith O’Donnell Chair committed to conservation science, the Institute will have Chairs dedicated to multidisciplinary research, exploring the intersection between disparate time periods, cultures, and artistic media. In addition, the DMA’s major commitment to Islamic art will be reflected in the joint appointment of a tenured faculty member who will focus on researching the Keir collection, one of the largest collections of Islamic art in the world, which is currently housed at the museum.

Dr. Richard R. Brettell will lead the stand-alone Institute as the first Director and Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair. Brettell, a professor of art and aesthetic studies who currently holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies in the School of Arts and Humanities said, “Mrs. O’Donnell has made it clear that what interested her about funding art history at UT Dallas was our strength in the sciences, technology, and management, thus creating the conditions that could foster a wholly new kind of art history. With art historians on campus who study the intersections between art and cartography, art and biology, and art history in the context of big data, UT Dallas has demonstrated a willingness to think about art and about history in new ways.”

Over the course of a two-day event held at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center, scholars from The Institute of Fine Arts, The Zentralinstitut fur Kunstgeschichte, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Clark Art Institute will address the state of the field and the impact of digital technology and scientific research on art historical research and conservation. Building on UT Dallas’s strengths in the field of technology and science, the Institute will provide an unparalleled program for exploring the intersection of art and science, elevating art history at UT Dallas to national prominence and advancing the DMA’s role as a leading research institution in the nation.

“UT Dallas excels in science and engineering.  The moment is right to build a program of the same quality and rigor in art history,” said Mrs. O’Donnell.  “There is a natural affinity between science and the arts.  UT Dallas founders Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott and Cecil Green actively supported the arts.  Now, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for art history, UTD-style.”

“We are very excited by the opportunity to develop a deep and textured partnership with The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and its director, Dr. Rick Brettell,” said Dr. Maxwell L. Anderson, the Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “This collaboration will make us a touchstone for art historians undertaking research, providing invaluable resources in North Texas on par with those available in New York, DC, and LA. Together we will foster a better understanding of the creativity and history embedded in the visual arts, through our shared interest in using innovative technology platforms and leading-edge scientific research.”

In addition to its partnership with the DMA, the Institute will work with peer institutions in the U.S. and abroad, including The Institute of Fine Arts in New York, The Courtauld Institute of Art History in London, The Zentralinstitut fur Kunstgeschichte in Munich, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in DC.

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