The Art-Lovers Lane
The Chazen receives $30 million worth of modern art.
When the UW’s Chazen Museum of Art opens the doors on its new addition in October, it will offer nearly twice as much gallery space as it did before. And the museum will need that space, thanks in part to the donation of Alvin ’40 and Terese Lane — a collection of some seventy sculptures and 250 drawings valued at $30 million, making it the largest and most valuable art gift in the Chazen’s history.
The collection includes a roster of the big names in modern art: there are five pieces by Pablo Picasso, thirteen by Claes Oldenburg, fourteen by Alexander Calder, and sixteen by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
“Alvin liked twentieth-century art, and so do I,” says Russell Panczenko, the Chazen’s director. That common ground was the starting point for convincing the Lanes to will their vast collection to the UW. Alvin Lane passed away in 2007 at age eighty-nine, and Terese died in March 2010 at age eighty-eight.
“Alvin had a great loyalty to the UW,” Panczenko says. “He was New York born and bred, and I think he only left the East Coast for any length of time twice in his life — for the four years he spent in Madison and during World War II, when he served in the Navy.”
Lane might have stayed on the East Coast for college, except that he was Jewish. Anti-Semitism at the time led some schools to cap enrollment for Jews, so Lane left home for Madison. “He always said to me that if it wasn’t for the UW, he probably never would have gotten an education,” Panczenko says.
The Lane collection will not generally be displayed all at once, though for the most part, the museum’s new galleries nine, ten, eleven, and twelve will be devoted to pieces that they donated. Their art has been shown in the Chazen once before, at an event that may have helped inspire the later donation.
“In 1995, for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the museum, we did a show of the entire Lane collection,” Panczenko says. “[Alvin] was standing in front of the building, and told me he used to live around there somewhere on University Avenue. Then he turned to me and said, ‘By God, you’ve destroyed my house to build your museum on!’ ”
The Chazen — formerly known as the Elvehjem Museum of Art — was built in 1970, and construction over the last year added 86,000 square feet to the original building’s 90,000 square feet. It houses more than 19,000 artworks representing a wide variety of cultures and eras.
Published in the Summer 2011 issue