Leena and her husband Sheldon Peck gave 134 works of art valued at $17 million and an $8 million endowment for the Sheldon Peck curator of European and American art and for future acquisitions.
“I’ve had the opportunity to witness many extraordinary moments in our country’s museum history, but none equaled the thrill of today’s experience,” said Katie Ziglar, director of the Ackland Art Museum.
The donation includes seven works by Rembrandt which makes the Ackland the first public university art museum in the United States to own a collection of drawings by Rembrandt.
“With those seven great Rembrandt drawings, the Ackland becomes one of the leading art museums in the United States, and I could arguably say the world, with holdings of Rembrandt drawings,” Sheldon said.
“Most art museums have none.”
The collection was founded forty years ago.
“Dr. Sheldon Peck, a double Tar Heel, together with his late brother Harvey, also a double Tar Heel, founded this collection of old masters drawings,” Folt said.
After starting the collection, Sheldon said he worked hard to find the significant pieces he wanted.
“We have been patient over the past 40 years,” he said. “We honed our discriminating eye and mind to find and discover the best works available. We sometimes fought ferociously, I mean ferociously.”
Folt told the story of Sheldon going to a series, in which the participants were asked to distinguish the Rembrandt from five sketches. Folt said this is what hooked Sheldon on art history.
She said she appreciates the challenge of discovery because she came from a science background.
“As a scientist I’m also fascinated by how the Pecks’ work as doctors influence their own way of studying the arts and building a collection,” Folt said.
The collection will be digitized and will be converted to a traveling exhibit after being displayed in the Ackland. Folt said this is part of making the collection a global collection.
“This collection cannot be duplicated today,” Sheldon said. “The high quality is just not available regardless of price.”
The Pecks, who are previous donors to the Ackland, maintained this collection for forty years. Sheldon said his college years were filled with good memories at the Ackland.
“It has been our philosophy in our joyful journey of the art world over the past five decades and to us the Ackland Art Museum is the epitome of great collecting practice, connoisseurship, scholarship, quality standards and services,” he said.