The purpose of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art is to advance education and research in the fields of art and art history in ways that contribute to and enhance the academic mission of the University of Iowa. The museum collects, conserves, and exhibits major works of art in order to teach its constituents, including university students, faculty and staff, the Iowa City community, the people of the state of Iowa, and visitors from around the world, how to better understand and appreciate art and civilizations from around the world. The museum pursues its mission in accordance with the accreditation guidelines of the American Alliance of Museums.
The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, established in 1969, is one of the leading university art collections in the country. Approximately 15,500 objects constitute diverse collections that include paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, ceramics, textiles, jade, and silver. The Elliott Collection of post-Impressionist European art includes paintings by Braque, de Chirico, Kandinsky, Léger, Marc, Matisse, Picasso, and Vlaminck, among others. The Stanley Collection of African Art is part of one of the most significant collections of African art in the country which today numbers over 2,000 objects. Other significant areas of the collections include nearly 6,000 prints spanning the history of Western printmaking, several hundred ceramics (primarily American studio ceramics), almost 2,000 Pre-Columbian objects, a significant ancient Chinese collection (including major donations from the Sackler Foundation of New York), as well as small but superb groups of ancient Etruscan and Roman art, and Native American ledger drawings. The museum has a large and important collection of twentieth-century American paintings and sculpture, including two of the most well-known works in the field of painting (both given to the museum by the School of Art & Art History [SAAH]): Max Beckmann’s triptych, Karneval, purchased by the faculty in 1946 when he arrived in the US, and Jackson Pollock’s Mural, painted in 1943 for Peggy Guggenheim which she offered to give to the SAAH in 1948 and which finally arrived in the collection in 1951.
Since its inception the museum has enjoyed a close working relationship with the SAAH, and for several decades sponsored the annual MFA show, as well as the faculty exhibitions. Faculty from the SAAH and elsewhere, and graduate students on campus have curated shows at the museum that are closely linked with their research, courses, and seminars. The teaching mission of the museum embraces the curriculum of the University of Iowa and extends throughout the state.
After the flood of June 2008, the museum building was permanently evacuated. The collections were moved out in time and today are temporarily located in the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, fifty miles from Iowa City. The museum’s dedicated spaces on campus include the Stanley Visual Classroom, a 4,000-square-foot exhibit space in the Iowa Memorial Union that houses more than 500 works of art from the collections. Temporary and traveling exhibitions were hosted in the Black Box Theater in the third floor at the IMU until summer 2018.
Through the use of temporary facilities and creative outreach, the museum continues to offer the invaluable experience of art to the university, the community, the state of Iowa, and beyond, specifically through the Legacies for Iowa Program, which brings free loans, exhibitions, and other activities to institutions and communities across the state. The museum remains steadfast in its mission despite losing its permanent facility and continues to:
- Build and preserve its remarkable art collection
- Present ground-breaking exhibitions
- Offer School Programs for thousands of Iowa students each year
- Create opportunities for UI art students and faculty, including access to works from the UIMA collection
- Provide free community programming including openings, lectures, and readings
The future of the museum is bright because the University of Iowa is dedicated to supporting fine arts as part of its strategic plan. A new museum facility designed by BNIM is currently in development and the University of Iowa anticipates a 2021 ribbon cutting. The new building will house the museum’s world-class collections and will provide classrooms and visible storage as a mode of integrating the museum with the study of the visual arts and the academic mission of the University of Iowa.
In the fall of 2017, Richard and Mary Jo Stanley commited $10 million to the new museum building. The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art is named in honor of this transformational gift and the Stanley family’s longtime commitment to the museum.