Moving forward

November 29, 2022

People+take+photos+of+exhibits+in+the+Stanley+Museum+of+Art+at+its+opening+celebration+at+the+University+of+Iowa+on+Friday%2C+Aug.+26%2C+2022.

Gabby Drees

People take photos of exhibits in the Stanley Museum of Art at its opening celebration at the University of Iowa on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.


Within the mix of the museum’s 17,000-object collection are paintings, photographs, sculptures, and more. But there are other, stranger pieces that have not seen daylight for years. Novelty liquor bottles, Zippo lighters, and cuckoo clocks are just a few of the wide array of items that have made their way into the collection.

“These are some amazing things, but they don’t necessarily belong in an art museum collection,” Lessing said.

Until 2020, the museum did not have a collection plan: a type of detailed outline that highlights what the museum does and does not collect. As a result, the items became more eclectic.

Over the next 10 years, the Stanley Museum plans to assess the items in its collections and sell those non-art items that do not belong within the new museum. Additionally, Lessing pointed out gaps in the collection that the museum intends to fill.

The inaugural Homecoming exhibition increased representation by acquiring more diverse work through loans and strategic acquisitions, but Lessing said she hopes to build an even more diverse permanent collection over the next decade.

This would include more works by women, contemporary indigenous artists, Black photographers, and alumni.

“It’s a thrill to be a part of this,” Lessing said. “It’s a very, very deep honor.”

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