Renaissance Society receives largest gift in museum's history

The Renaissance Society has received three leading gifts to its Next Century Fund, a $5 million campaign to strengthen the contemporary art museum’s role in commissioning new artworks. The Edlis Neeson Foundation, the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation and the Zell Family Foundation each have pledged $500,000 for a total of $1.5 million—the largest collective gift in the institution’s history.

“These amazing gifts give us the resources to support artists and their ideas in a substantial way,” said Solveig Øvstebø, executive director and chief curator of the Renaissance Society. “With them, we can extend to artists an invitation to stop for a moment, really look at their practices and experiment with new directions and perspectives within their own work.”

Launched in conjunction with the Renaissance Society’s 100th anniversary in 2015, the Next Century Fund will enable the museum to provide unparalleled support for ambitious artistic projects. The fund will underwrite a significant increase in the production of new works and further develop the Renaissance Society’s educational and publishing activities. Already, the museum has raised 65 percent of its overall goal for the fund.

Founded in 1915 by a group of UChicago faculty members, the Renaissance Society established itself as one of the most important venues in the Midwest for the presentation of avant-garde art, introducing audiences to the work of Calder, Cézanne, Léger and many others. Today, the museum produces internationally recognized exhibitions of a scope rare for an institution of its size. As it enters its second century, it seeks to act as a laboratory, encouraging experimentation, stimulating fresh ideas and presenting projects that often would not be possible in the context of a commercial gallery or larger museum.

“The Ren is a place where members of the University community can engage actively and directly with the work of international artists, scholars, writers and other practitioners,” Øvstebø said. “As we develop our programming with the support of the Next Century Fund, it is our ambition that there are increased opportunities for interaction with members of the campus community, such as collaborations with faculty members and departments.”

The Renaissance Society’s current exhibit is entitled Between the Ticks of the Watch, featuring artists Kevin Beasley, Peter Downsbrough, Goutam Ghosh, Falke Pisano and Martha Wilson. Their works—along with related talks and screenings involving faculty participation from across disciplines—present a platform for considering doubt as both state of mind and pragmatic tool and explore how doubt permeates questions of identity, the construction of language, the motivations for abstraction and the drive to political resistance.