The first artwork purchased by the Tampa Museum of Art was an ancient Greek vase—an Attic black-figure column krater bought in 1981 —and this has remained an important area of collecting for the Museum ever since. The Museum’s most notable acquisition of antiquities came five years later, in the form of the Joseph Veach Noble Collection, a significant private collection of more than 150 objects amassed primarily in the 1950s and ‘60s. A collector and scholar interested in the techniques of ancient painted pottery, Mr. Noble had assembled a collection especially strong in the black- and red-figure pottery of Greece (particularly Athens and Attica) and South Italy, including numerous vases of interest for technical reasons as well as for their beauty and interesting iconography. Many of these vases, together with scores of others acquired by the Museum in the years since 1986, are widely known among students and scholars on account of their frequent inclusion in exhibition catalogs and academic books and articles.
While vases undoubtedly constitute the core of the Noble Collection, Mr. Noble also collected in other media, including two notable marble statues—a life-sized torso of Aphrodite discovered by Gavin Hamilton in 1771 and displayed for many years at Marbury Hall in England, and a nearly life-sized Poseidon/Neptune. Both of these sculptures have inspired exhibitions – the former as part of 2018’s Conversations with the Collection: Patricia Cronin in Response to Classical Antiquity, and the latter as centerpiece of Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult, and Daily Life in 2014-15. Other non-ceramic highlights of the collection include two marble Cycladic figurines, a Greek Geometric bronze horse, several Etruscan bronzes, a Roman marble grave altar, and a recently acquired Greek Archaic limestone sculpture of a lion couchant. In all, the Museum collection of classical antiquities comprises more than 660 works produced across many centuries, from nearly 3000 BC to around AD 500. In addition to vases and sculptures in terracotta, stone, and precious metal, visitors will see ancient coins, jewelry, and glass vessels.
The Museum continues to add to its collection, by gift as well as purchase. In 2011, the Museum adopted a new Collections Management Policy with special considerations for archaeological material and ancient art, recognizing the importance of AAM and AAMD guidelines and of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property; in 2013, again in line with AAM and AAMD, the policy was further revised (Collections Management Policy).
Active throughout the early to mid-20th century, sculptor C. Paul Jennewein created works that ranged from intimate small-scale bronze sculptures to major architectural projects. Often cast in bronze, Jennewein’s sculptures now reside in significant collections throughout the US and abroad. His creations reveal the inspiration of the ancient world while also engaging with the new sculptural styles of his time, merging Art Deco with the neo-classical tradition.
In 1978, the C. Paul Jennewein Bequest brought hundreds of artworks from the sculptor’s studio to the Tampa Bay Art Center, predecessor of the Tampa Museum of Art (to which the collection was formally transferred in 1983). The collection comprises more than 2,600 objects, including many finished artworks as well as preparatory drawings, plaster casts, and molds. Many of these works relate to Jennewein’s most important commissions, such as the pedimental sculptures of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the sculptural decorations for the Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC (now named for Robert F. Kennedy), and the lobby relief for the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in Pittsburgh, PA (now part of Carnegie Mellon University). In 1980, the Museum received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study and publish a comprehensive survey of the collection titled C. Paul Jennewein: Sculptor, by Shirley Reiff Howarth.
The Museum’s collection of decorative arts and sculpture comprises approximately 350 objects. This collection includes examples by major American and European artists, such as the neoclassicist sculptor Hiram Powers and cubist Jacques Lipchitz. The Museum also has small, but strong holdings of ceramics (Betty Woodman), contemporary glass (Lino Tagliapietra and Dale Chihuly), metalwork (Richard Stankiewicz and Harry Bertoia), and wood sculptures (Richard Beckman and Eric Levine). In addition, the Museum houses work by significant artists who are associated with the development of art in this region including Dominique Labauvie, Richard Beckman, and Donald Saff.
The Museum’s collection of works on paper comprises approximately 1,000 prints, watercolors, and drawings. Taken together, this collection illustrates key stylistic movements as well as the rise of printmaking as an important and accessible artistic medium. The collection includes unique work by Alexander Calder and Adolph Gottlieb as well as prints by artists such as Alex Katz, Robert Motherwell, Bruce Nauman, and Beatriz Milhazes. In addition, more than 150 prints by major artists such as James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, and Vik Muniz were produced in Tampa at Graphicstudio, USF.
In the early 1980s, the Museum established photography—with an emphasis on work created after 1970—as a primary collecting area. The core of this collection was assembled using proceeds from the sale of secondary and tertiary objects deaccessioned in the mid-1980s. The collection now comprises more than 950 photographs and illustrates a range of processing techniques and approaches to the medium. The Museum not only has collected work by artists who stage, manipulate, and otherwise transform their subjects such as Eileen Cowin, Cindy Sherman, and Sandy Skoglund, but also the candid photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and most recently Andy Warhol.
The Museum has approximately 350 paintings in its permanent collection. This collection varies widely both thematically and stylistically, and although the Museum has several 19th-century paintings, the core of the collection was created after 1950. This collection includes work by internationally-recognized artists such as realist Rockwell Kent, expressionist Alma Thomas, and photorealist Ralph Goings. The Museum also houses work by important artists associated with Florida and the Tampa Bay region, for example, William Pachner, Jon Corbino, Syd Solomon, and Theo Wujcik.
The Museum’s focus on new media, video, and installation art as a primary collecting area coincided with the opening of its new building in 2010. With the exception of two late-1970s VHS videos by Tom Phillips and Ian Hamilton Finlay, the core of this collection was created in the 21st century.
Comprising only six works, this small collection has had a major impact both inside and outside the Museum. The Museum features Leo Villareal’s site-specific LED light installation Sky (Tampa) on its south façade. Sky (Tampa) is now an iconic fixture in the Tampa skyline. The Museum has also organized the mid-career survey No Limit: Janet Biggs (2011-12), which featured both Fade to White and Brightness All Around. Finally, the Museum commissioned the multi-media installation No Man City by Jin Shan for its major traveling-exhibition My Generation: Young Chinese Artists (2014-15).