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CLEVELAND (Oct. 1, 2015) – The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Akron Art Museum announced today the promised gift to both museums of the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell collection of contemporary photography. Each museum will receive half the collection. The Bidwells have been active supporters of each institution for more than two decades. Since the 1990s, the Northeast Ohio couple has amassed a distinguished collection of over 700 fine art photographs; Art & Antiques magazine cited them as being among the top 100 collectors of 2006.
“We deeply appreciate the Bidwells’ extraordinary gift, which will give far greater depth to our holdings of innovative recent photography and photo-based work,” said William M. Griswold, director, Cleveland Museum of Art. “Their generosity enhances the cultural vibrancy of our region, benefitting all of Northeast Ohio.”
Mark Masuoka, executive director and CEO, Akron Art Museum said, "We are truly grateful to the Bidwells, who are dedicated proponents of artists working in photo-based art. Their bequest will enhance the Akron Art Museum's collection and help us create new opportunities to serve our mission of enriching lives through modern and contemporary art."
The holdings survey a wide variety of approaches used by artists today-still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and fabricated and conceptual work-in media ranging from gelatin silver to digital and video to contemporary daguerreotypes. The collection also reflects the Bidwells’ support of entire bodies of work by emerging and mid-career artists.
Having only modest financial resources when they began, the Bidwells initially concentrated on emerging and mid-career artists, many of whom have gone on to achieve prominence such as Americans Alec Soth and Laura Letinsky and British artist Richard Learoyd. Since then, they have incorporated photographs by well-established figures including Lois Conner, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Adam Fuss, Lee Friedlander, Richard Misrach, Stephen Shore and Hiroshi Sugimoto as well as work by European artists as yet little known in this country such as Beate Gütschow and the collaborative team LawickMüller. The depth of their holdings of several artists, notably Todd Hido, Andrew Moore, Christian Patterson and Brian Ulrich, is remarkable.
“The Akron Art Museum and Cleveland Museum of Art have taken leadership roles in the region to advance and celebrate art in Northeast Ohio,” said Laura Bidwell. “That leadership was an important part of our decision to promise our collection to these great institutions.”
Fred Bidwell has been a Trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art since 2009 and served as its interim director from October 2013 to August 2014. He is also a past president of the Akron Art Museum’s Board of Trustees and was the Co-Chair of the capital campaign for its new building. Laura Ruth Bidwell is a former Trustee of the Akron Art Museum and has been Chair of the Accessions Committee.
About the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Projects Collection
Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell began acquiring a highly personal catalogue of contemporary photo-based art by European and North American artists shortly after their marriage in 1991. Today, the Bidwell Projects collection includes over 700 artworks and has been recognized by Art & Antiques as one of the top 100 collections in the country. The Bidwells have been active in lending artwork to museums and three shows accompanied by major catalogues of work from their collection have toured nationally: Detroit Disassembled by Andrew Moore, organized by the Akron Art Museum; Copia by Brian Ulrich, organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art; and Excerpts from Silver Meadows by Todd Hido, organized by Transformer Station. The Amarillo Museum of Art exhibited highlights from the Bidwell collection in their 2014 exhibition Achievement in Art: The Fred and Laura Bidwell Collection of Photography. In 2011, Bidwells established the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation to open and operate Transformer Station, a contemporary art exhibition space in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. For more information, visit TransformerStation.org
About the Akron Art Museum
The Akron Art Museum, dedicated to enriching lives through modern art, showcases regional, national and international art created since 1850. The museum’s collection houses over 5,000 objects. Particular areas of strength include contemporary painting and sculpture and 20th-century photography. Nearly a dozen exhibitions each year present prominent artists in various media including painting, sculpture, photography, video, design and glass.
The museum’s internationally acclaimed expansion, designed by Austrian architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au opened to the public in July 2007. The new John S. and James L. Knight building features a soaring glass and steel structure described by critics as a work of art itself.
In addition to its ever-changing collection and exhibitions, the museum offers many opportunities to discover new perspectives through dynamic programs that include films and videos, lectures, workshops, tours and concerts. For more information, visit AkronArtMuseum.org
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