As part of an innovative course devoted to collecting, 16 students at the University of San Diego selected a new work of art for the institution’s growing permanent collection of prints. Last week, these undergraduates in an upper division Art History seminar proposed several works for potential acquisition by the university. Shahzia Sikander’s etching, Orbit, 2012 was ultimately chosen by a panel of experts to be the University Print Collection’s most recent acquisition.
“The process of acquiring art, whether for public or personal collections, remains a mysterious thing for most people,” explained Derrick Cartwright, who is the director of University Galleries at USD and who taught this seminar in the College of Arts and Sciences during the spring semester.
“Thanks to a generous grant from the Legler Benbough Foundation, USD students are being given the opportunity to study the process and to better understand responsibilities associated with identifying, selecting, and purchasing works of art for the benefit of a diverse public.”
Students in Cartwright’s seminar first spent 10 weeks studying histories and theories of collecting art before dividing into smaller groups tasked with researching works that they wanted to see come to USD on a permanent basis. Cartwright expects to teach similar courses in the future aimed at demystifying collections for young scholars.
Works acquired through these courses will bear a credit line acknowledging both the Legler Benbough Foundation’s critical funding role and the names of all students who participated in the selection process.
Shahzia Sikander was born in Pakistan in 1969. Although she first studied art at the National College of Art in Lahore, she later attended the Rhode Island School of Design and lives today in New York. Her work combines a deep appreciation of traditional Islamic and Hindu iconographies and representational techniques with a contemporary sensibility for layering and collage.
Major installations of Sikander’s art have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Asia Society in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC., and at the San Diego Museum of Art. In 2006, Sikander was awarded the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, sometimes referred to as “the genius award”, for her widely admired creative practice. Orbit is part of a series of delicately layered prints that the artist created at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, in 2012.
A primary goal of the course was to share insights into the art world with students. “This process has been such an interesting and eye opening experience,” remarked Kat Ayd ‘13. “Most of us are used to considering works of art in terms of our own personal preference, and this project forced us to apply a completely different set of criteria in relation to a specific place–USD. In addition to gaining an insider’s perspective, we were able to develop a close relationship with a work that will remain here for others to experience after we leave.”
“It will be splendid to have this work at USD,” said Sally Yard, Professor of Art History. “This powerful image by Shazia Sikander links our collection with important works at the San Diego Museum of Art and will be an important resource for a broad range of courses–from the history of Asian Art to Contemporary Art. It will be put to work right away by our faculty and students.”
Yard was a member of the selection panel together with Bill Kelly, professor of Printmaking and Founder of San Diego’s own Brighton Press; Mary Whelan, director of University Design and Jo Hannah Hoehn, a former art history student whose family has supported the increasingly renowned print programs at USD.
In pursuing this project, the University Galleries are fulfilling a goal of offering the USD community singular experiences with art and culture. “We are among a very few campus-based museums that involve our young constituents directly in acquisitions decisions. This experiment promises to distinguish USD’s program for years to come, thanks in no small part to the support of the Legler Benbough Foundation and to our bright students,” concluded Cartwright.
– Inside USD Staff
Photo Credit: Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969), Orbit, 2012, Color direct gravure, 27 x 21 ¼ inches (image size), Published by Crown Point Press, San Francisco, CA, Print Collection, University of San Diego, Purchased through the Legler Benbough Student Acquisition Fund by Katherine Ayd, Jerome Bwire, Cesar Chavez, Catherine Childs, Virginia da Rosa, Hannah Day, Ross Ehren, Brittany Ford, Anthony Graham, Dominique Kourie, Morgan Likens, Monika Marambio, Liam Richards, Sean Rivera, Joseph Seiler and Jake Zawlacki.