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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Very Good Moment, Very Good Year: Clark Art Announces $90 Million Gift

12:55PM / Friday, June 15, 2007

Sir Edwin A.G. Manton with a bust of Sir Henry Tate [photo courtesy of the Clark Art Institute]
Williamstown - "This is a very good moment in a very good year."

The words of former Williams College President Francis C. Coakley, who is also a past Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute trustee were apt and concise.

$90 Million Gift

This morning during a media conference at the Clark, museum Director Michael Conforti announced that the Manton Foundation donated a $50 million endowment to the institute's renowned research and academic program as well as a collection of over 200 art works collected by Sir Edwin A.G. Manton.


Clark Art Director Michael Conforti [Photo by Sue Bush]
Manton, a native of England, came to the United States and settled in New York City in 1933. He married Florence V. brewer and began an ascent to the top of the then-fledgling American International group. Manton became company president in 1942 and held that post to 1969. Manton was the company chairman from 1969 to 1975 and served as the firm's senior advisor until his death.

The value of the collection and the endowment has been reported to be $90 million.

The art collection includes works by famed British artists including Joseph Mallord William Turner, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough.

"This Collection Could Make A Real Difference Here"

The gallery hosting the Manton collection is renamed as the "Manton Gallery" and the Clark's research center will be named "The Sir Edwin and Lady Manton Research Center" in honor of the gift, Conforti said.

Conforti said that Manton's daughter and two granddaughters live in eastern Massachusetts and shortly after Manton's death in October 2005, the family approached Clark administrators about a possible gift. Although Manton was a staunch and generous benefactor of the Tate Gallery in London, and established the American Patrons of the Tate during 1988, family members said that Manton was an admirer of the Clark and believed that Manton would be pleased to see his collection at the Berkshires-based institute.

Former Williams College president Francis C. Coakley, also a former Clark Art Institute trustee [Photo by Sue Bush]


"They realized this collection could make a real difference here," Conforti said.

Manton was born in Essex County, England, and never abandoned his British citizenship. He was a "quiet collector," much like Clark founder Sterling Clark, and began to purchase British art that held meaning for him, Conforti said.

"He did this because he was raised in an area that was northeast of London and the art reminded him of where he was from," said Conforti.


Clark Art Institute Senior Curator Richard Rand [Photo by Sue Bush]
Richard Rand, the Clark's senior curator, termed the gift "a very rich collection."

"These are some of the greatest artists in the world," he said prior to the start of the conference. Rand said he believes the Manton gift is the most significant donation since the days of museum Sterling Clark.

Transformational

Manton curator James Ganz said that the collection adds new dimension to the Clark.

"It's transformational," he said. "This changes the visitors experience. We will now be an education center for British art."

The endowment is expected to boost the already exceptional research center to a greater level. The program will be able to expand and attract more art scholars.

The Clark fellows program works with international art scholars, and the Williams College Graduate program in the History of Art is hosted at the Clark campus. The Williams College program is believed by man art scholars and art professionals to be among the top art history graduate programs in the country.

The endowment funds will be used to develop a new study center for works on paper and to support the art history library. Endowment funds will benefit the research program work as well, according to information provided by the Clark.

Rand noted that the announcement of the Manton family gift coincided with another significant Clark event; the June 24 opening of the the summer's "The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings" exhibit. Ganz is the exhibit curator.

The gift and its impact on the Clark art institute is generating great buzz throughout the art world, Rand said.

"This is a validation of all that we've done," he said. "And there are all kinds of interesting exhibits that can come out of this."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
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