Interim Director Peter Nisbet was inspired by artist Hans Hofmann after viewing his masterpiece titled “Undulating Expanse” — so inspired that he helped organize a cross-country scavenger hunt to find the numerous murals, maps, brochures and drawings that inspired the work.
“It’s always been said that our painting had been connected to a mural to some extent, but that was all that was said about it or looked into it in any great detail,” Nisbet said. “This show is a great opportunity for us to take one of our masterpieces, put it into the context of this traveling show, and study how it relates, and gives our painting more depth, more resonance, and more context.”
Until April 10, the public can explore “Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann,” a 42-piece exhibition on view.
Jack Coyle, registrar at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn., and a co-organizer of the exhibition, said the four-year process to collect and show all of the pieces at three museums was inspired by the Ackland.
“It’s always been our ambition to put together a traveling exhibition of Hofmann’s work,” Coyle said. “The Ackland was the impetus for this because of Peter Nisbet and because he is someone who is a colleague of my director here.”
Coyle said the show at the Ackland, which is the final show on a three-leg tour following shows at the Bruce Museum and the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, is unique: Several pieces are from North Carolina and will only be shown at the Ackland.
The exhibition at the Ackland was supported by five sources: the Bruce Museum; the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust; the private collection of Marree Townsend; the Fenwick Foundation; and donations from the Ackland Docent Program.
Nisbet said these outside donations made it possible to fund the exhibition for much less than they pay for the average show — which could range from $200,000 to $400,000 for a show in which pieces are collected from around the country.
“It was a chance for us to bring a nationally-recognized traveling show to Chapel Hill at less than we would normally expect to pay,” he said.
Coyle said it wasn’t difficult to get funding for the traveling show because Hofmann was so valuable to many, particularly to students.
“Hans Hofmann was a great teacher, which is why we are so excited to have the works presented at a university,” he said. “That is a large reason why the trust decided to fund the tour — because it continues Hofmann’s educational commitment to artists.”
Tina Dickey, who wrote the book, “Color Creates Light: Studies with Hans Hofmann,” said she is glad Hofmann’s works are getting attention in a national venue, particularly at a university.
“Hofmann’s works should be more valuable than they are,” she said.
“What he did was actively engage the world around him, the work of other artists, his students, the work in museums and that was something that he taught to his students — that you can never see enough, that there is always something new.”