At NCMA, a Gift of 20th Century Art

Generous would be an understatement.

A North Carolina couple, whose refined eye for art resulted in an exquisite collection of late 20th-century masterpieces, has donated 100 works to the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA).

“It’s an amazing gift – a huge, really important collection,” says Linda Dougherty, chief curator at the museum.

Indeed. Among the pieces included are works by Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, Adolph Gottlieb, Ellsworth Kelly, Helen Frankenthaler, Sean Scully, and Hans Hofmann. Most of it’s abstract painting, with some landscapes and figurative work.

“They often bought more than one work by an artist,” she says. “So you can see the span of their careers by looking at the collection.”

The Pattons have had long-standing ties to North Carolina. Jim Patton was born and raised in Durham and graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Mary Patton (1929–2014) grew up in Durham and attended the Woman’s College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). Their passion for art started with her lifelong interest in painting, as an accomplished artist in her own right.

“They started collecting in the 1960s with prints and books – they have an incredible book collection, including Eliot and Joyce,  that they’ve given to UNC,” she says.

But it’s the breadth of this collection of artwork, some of it purchased almost as soon as it was made – and without benefit of a dealer to assist them – that astonishes.

” They had an amazing eye for picking work,” she says. “Jim Patton said that it’s more interesting to have a work of art you don’t immediately get, because you have to give something back to it.”

The collection complements NCMA’s already considerable collection of 20th-century work. “We may have had an artist’s print or a  drawing, but not a major work,” she says. “So now we can tell a complete story of the late 20th century.”

Now that the Pattons have shared their collection with NCMA, the museum will soon offer it for public viewing. An exhibition of all the works will open in the spring and run through summer.

“I think it’s a truly amazing gift to people of North Carolina,” she says. “The Pattons grew up here and went to school here, and the one thing they wanted to do was give it back here.”

It opens on March 28. Don’t miss it.

For more information here.



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Image Credits:

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1949, oil on canvas, 48 x 41 in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, © 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

David Park, Bus Stop, 1952, oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, Image courtesy of Hackett | Mill, representative of the Estate of David Park, © 2014 Estate of David Park

Sean Scully, Wall of Light Peru, 2000, oil on linen, 110 x 132 in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, © 2014 Sean Scully

VAGA Images

Adolph Gottlieb, Ashes of Phoenix, 1948, oil on canvas, 30 x 38 in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, Art © 2014 Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Robert Motherwell, Royal Fireworks Music, 1974, collage of paper, acrylic, and canvas on gypsum, 72 x 36 in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, Art © 2014 Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Wayne Thiebaud, Appetizers, 1994, color lithograph on paper, 16 x 20 in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, Art © 2014 Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

ARS Images

Helen Frankenthaler, Captain’s Watch, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 76 ¾ x 58 ¾ in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, © 2014 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Frank Stella, The Whale-Watch, 1993, lithograph, etching, aquatint, relief on handmade paper, 72 ½ x 73 in., Gift of Mary and Jim Patton, © 2014 Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York