The Lowe Art Museum celebrates 70 years

By Amanda M. Perez

The Lowe Art Museum celebrates 70 years

By Amanda M. Perez
The University of Miami’s museum marks an important milestone.

On February 22, 1950, in three connecting rooms at the east end of the second floor of the Merrick Building, an art gallery opened at the University of Miami. With a collection of just 30 modern American paintings, the space served as the first public arts institution in Miami, Florida. These were the beginnings of what is now the Lowe Art Museum, which has grown its collection extensively, housing nearly 19,300 works that span 5,000 years of human creativity on every inhabited continent. On the eve of its 70th anniversary, Jill Deupi, Beaux Arts director and chief curator of the Lowe, reflected on this special milestone.

“I am honored to be standing on the shoulders of those who came before me. Over the course of the past seven decades, the Lowe’s vast network of supporters and talented staffers have developed a world-class academic art museum for the benefit of the University community and greater South Florida,” she said.

Deupi states that since the museum’s inception, the Lowe’s has been a hub of education, engagement, and self-discovery through art and culture.

“The museum supports object-centered teaching and learning on our campus as well as in our community: We are an invaluable resource for local residents, including K-12 students, lifelong learners, scholars, artists, and visitors from all over,” she said.

At its foundation, the call to create the “University Art Gallery” (as the Lowe was originally  named) dates back to the tenure of Bowman Foster Ashe, when UM’s then-President was urged by a group of engaged citizens to create a professional art space in our community. Deupi said support from leadership throughout its history has been critical to the museum’s success. UM President Julio Frenk is proud to see the Lowe mark this important anniversary.

“The Lowe Art Museum is a cultural, educational, and community treasure enjoyed and cherished by thousands of visitors. We are proud of its legacy and look forward to seeing it continue to flourish in the future,” Frenk said.

The Lowe, which was recognized in 1985 by the State of Florida as a “Major Cultural Institution,” was the first museum in Miami-Dade County to receive this designation. Thanks, in part to the prestige that this honor brought, the Lowe continued to expand its remarkable permanent collection, primarily through gifts from beneficent donors. Such growth necessitated a major expansion of its facility in 1991, when 13,000 additional square feet of temporary and permanent exhibition gallery space were added to the Lowe.

The Museum’s most recent expansion, the Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts, opened in 2008 and added another 4,500 square feet of exhibition space.  Thanks to the vision of these long-time University supporters and alumni, the space now houses over one hundred objects, not only from the Palley Collection but also from other generous collectors.

“It’s a fantastic feeling when you love something that turns into a collection that people want to see. It’s gratifying to be able to share this work with other people,” said Myrna Palley.

Deupi also credits the Beaux Arts Festival of Art for the Lowe’s continued growth. The Beaux Arts Festival, which was originally called the “Clothesline Sale,” was launched in 1952 as a way to give young artists a chance to meet the buying public. Throughout the years the festival has grown into one of our country’s most significant art fairs, which—not incidentally—raises funds in support of the museum.

“Beaux Arts has been with us from the beginning. Without their support, the Lowe would not be the institution that is today,” Deupi said.

The Lowe’s director has set her sights high for the future of the Lowe.

“I see the opportunity for even more growth and reinvigoration because of what is happening in Miami’s cultural arena.” she said. “I do believe in the Art Basel effect, and I think that we haven’t  yet peaked: our vibrant, dynamic, and cosmopolitan city still has plenty of room to grow in the realm of visual arts. The fact that the Lowe is a part of that is very exciting.”

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the Lowe Art Museum will feature iconic works of art from fifteen different leading Miami collectors beginning February 22, through December 6, 2020. Exhibited together in the Lowe’s Ben Tobin Galleries, these works will embody the city’s irrefutable importance in the contemporary art world as well as the intimate connection these collectors share with the artists whose work they steward, with one another, and with the city at large. The result will be an extraordinary experience for the nearly 40,000 individuals who visit the Lowe each year.

For more information on this exhibition visit: https://www.lowe.miami.edu/