Rutgers University has announced a gift of Soviet nonconformist art from philanthropists Nancy and Norton Dodge and an accompanying endowment gift of $10 million from the Avenir Foundation in support of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum.
The largest single gift in Rutgers history includes Nancy Ruyle Dodge's personal collection of more than 17,300 artworks in all media. With an estimated value of more than $34 million, the collection will be reunited with some four thousand Soviet nonconformist works Dodge and her late husband, Norton, donated to the Zimmerli in 1991. The $10 million from the Avenir Foundation is the second endowment gift to the museum from the foundation, which in 2001 helped the Dodges realize their vision of creating global access to their works through exhibitions, publications, conservation, and scholarship.
The entire Nancy and Norton Dodge Collection represents the work of more than a thousand artists active from about 1956 (the year of Nikita Khruschev's "secret speech" to the Twentieth Party Congress) through 1991 and the end of the Gorbachev era of glasnost and perestroika. Included among the newly donated works are paintings on canvas and panel, sculptures, assemblages, installations, works on paper, photographs, videos, and artists' books. Extending well beyond Russia in its scope, the collection includes many examples of nonconformist art produced in the Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
"Any institution would have been overjoyed to receive this unparalleled collection of artworks, with the endowment to make them accessible in perpetuity to scholars and the public," said Rutgers University Foundation president Nevin Kessler. "The choice of Rutgers reaffirms the donors' longstanding commitment to this university, while testifying to the outstanding work our curators and researchers have done over the years to promote awareness and appreciation of this highly significant artistic legacy."