Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's University Museum now houses the largest collection of artwork in the country by the late, internationally acclaimed artist, Emilio Sanchez, thanks to a recent acquisition facilitated by University Museum Director Eric Barnett.
The donation of Cuban art from the Emilio Sanchez Foundation through the Cuban Caribbean Center in the College of Arts and Sciences is valued at $469,000. Sanchez was a Cuban 20th century artist whose paintings are part of the collections of many of the most important art museums in the world. The artist's will stipulated that a foundation be set up "to preserve, promote, and sell his numerous artworks … with the wish to help fund ophthalmologic research and art scholarships." However, the foundation was only set up to last for 10 years. After the 10 years passed, the collection was to be distributed.
Barnett discovered the collection through a listserv accessible to academic museums and galleries. The Foundation had placed a notice that a large portion of the collection was available for interested institutions. The University Museum first acquired a piece of Sanchez's art in 1971, when it purchased a large lithograph.
"Most of what we acquired are works on paper," Barnett said. "There are about 38 paintings on canvas and board, along with watercolor, ink, pencil along with some color and black and white lithographs. It includes a lot of sunsets both in New York City and away from the city. There are literally hundreds of still lives of vases and flowers. So, we picked a handful that represented that grouping. I tried to be selective in order to get a broad overview."
Barnett also stated that having Sanchez's art on campus only strengthens the link that SIUE has with the Caribbean region.
"We have been attached to the Caribbean mostly because of Katherine Dunham and her dance, and her affinity for Haiti, and the other Caribbean countries," Barnett stated. "So, there has been this long standing interest in the Caribbean. I know several faculty members who have traveled there over the years. In fact, Otis Sweezey, the retired chair of theater and dance, went down there. One of his photographs won a contest in the St. Louis Post Dispatch."
Several of the framed paintings have already been put on display in campus offices. With the number and variety of pieces, Barnett hopes that the University Museum will be able to put together a retrospective exhibition on Sanchez.
"His art is modern and it's refreshing," Barnett said. "His imagery is accessible. Since a lot of what we do is put art out on campus, it helps to have items that are accessible to people both intellectually and aesthetically."
Sanchez was born in Camagüey, Cuba in 1921. He began his artistic training at the Art Students League in 1944 when he moved to New York City where he lived until he died in 1999. However, it was in Cuba that he became fascinated with the play of light and shadow on colored that became a dominant characteristic of his works. For more information about Sanchez visit emiliosanchezfoundation.org.
The Sanchez Foundation gift contributes to Defining Excellence-the Campaign for SIUE, which has a goal to raise $50 million by garnering alumni and community support. To date, $32 million has been raised. Publically launched in March 2011, the major gifts campaign aims to take SIUE to a new level of prominence and performance.
For more information on SIUE's College of Arts and Sciences, visit www.siue.edu/artsandsciences