University of Arizona Museum of Art
University of Arizona Museum of Art

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The University of Arizona Museum of Art is an art museum in Tucson, Arizona, operated by the University of Arizona. The museum’s permanent collection includes more than 6,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings with an emphasis on European and American fine art from the Renaissance to the present.

A university gallery at the University of Arizona existed in the 1930s. In the 1930s, the Works Projects Administration, one of the New Deal agencies, donated 200 lithographs and prints created by artists that it supported. These works formed the core of the museum’s initial collection of works.

In 1944, University of Arizona alumnus Charles Leonard Pfeiffer donated many American paintings. This was followed by the addition of the Samuel H. Kress Collection, a donation from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, which originally comprised 50 European paintings, in the early 1950s. Museum director Peter Bermingham led the museum for over 20 years, from 1978 to 1998. During his tenure, the museum more than doubled its holdings. Peter Briggs, who had begun his work in the museum as curator of collections in 1990 under Bermingham, was promoted to chief curator, but his contract was not renewed in 2004.

On the day after Thanksgiving 1985, shortly after the museum opened, a woman distracted a guard on the museum’s staircase while a man working with her cut Willem de Kooning’s Woman-Ochre out of its frame and hid it under his coat while the two left. Guards realized immediately afterward that the painting had been stolen. It was found in 2017 by some Silver City, New Mexico, antique dealers, in the house of a woman who had died, and returned to the museum shortly afterward. The museum is currently raising funds for its restoration.

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