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Collective Future

Gifts in Honor of Philbrook's 75th Anniversary

Philbrook started with a gift more than seven decades ago. In 1938, amid the cultural backdrop of big band jazz, the Dust Bowl, rapid industrialization, and Art Deco style, Waite Phillips surprised Tulsans by announcing the momentous gift of his Italianate mansion and surrounding 23 acres of grounds as an art museum and park for the community of Tulsa.

The vision first made possible by Waite and Genevieve Phillips—and augmented over the decades with significant gifts of art—has transformed Philbrook into one of the most beloved and magnetic museums in the region. Seventy-five years later, on the occasion of this Diamond Anniversary, Philbrook celebrates our legacy of philanthropy, our growing impact nationally, and our promise for the future with the special exhibition, Collective Future: Gifts in Honor of Philbrook’s 75th Anniversary. While acknowledging the collection’s most significant foundations, the emphasis of this anniversary exhibition is upon a group of recent donations to the Philbrook permanent collection from an entirely new generation of collectors.

“The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.”

Like the Phillips family and previous significant donors, this new group of philanthropists has enriched Philbrook’s holdings in the areas of European, American, Contemporary, and Native American art and design. Exciting new works by artists such as Edward Ruscha, Willem de Kooning, Milton Avery, Andrew Wyeth, and Mathieu Ignace van Brée will be presented, some for the first time, in the Philbrook Helmerich Gallery. Additionally, Collective Future traces the Museum’s rich history. High points of our 75-year journey, from the opening gala in October 1939 to the opening of Philbrook Downtown this past June, will be brought to life through historic photographs and material culled from the Museum’s archives. Such a presentation will offer viewers insights into current collection strengths, while proposing aspirational areas for growth and excellence moving into the future.

The history of the collection and how it came about is as intriguing a story as the cast of enterprising collectors who helped to build it. Clark Field and Roberta Campbell Lawson both donated their key collections of Native American art during the early decades, beginning in the 1940s. Laura Clubb followed suit in 1947 with a significant gift of more than 80 American and European paintings. During mid-century, dime-store magnate Samuel H. Kress personally selected Philbrook as a regional recipient and deserving steward of 40 Italian Renaissance and Baroque works, which came into the collection in 1961. In successive years, Lawrence Gussman gifted works of African art, while his brother and sister-in-law Herbert and Roseline Gussman, donated diverse collections of African, European and American artworks. More recently, the bequest from Marylouise Cowan of 15 paintings by NC, Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth has deepened the Museum’s American art holdings, while our joint stewardship of the Eugene B. Adkins Collection has reinforced Waite Phillips’ original intent that Philbrook celebrate the rich heritage of the Southwest.

Collective Future fully acknowledges this legacy of generosity, while presenting recent gifts to the collection as an exciting new platform of pride and strength in our community. In essence, this special exhibition is an anniversary celebration, a commitment to our future, and a physical manifestation of Waite Phillip’s own epigram: “The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.”

Curated by Catherine Whitney, Christina Burke, and Lauren Ross.

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