UMMA Celebrates U-M Bicentennial With ‘Victors for Art: Michigan's Alumni Collectors’

Two-Part Exhibition Presents 115 Artworks Showcasing Figurative and Abstract Forms

Commemorating the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial in 2017, UMMA has organized a major exhibition drawn from the collections of University alumni. Victors for Art: Michigan’s Alumni Collectors comprises 115 exceptional works of art spanning 3,500 years of art-making from around the world. 

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, "Portrait of a Young Lady, possibly Charlotte Dillon, with Red Stole and Veil," 1803, oil on canvas. Collection of Trish Turner and Thomas McConnell © Sotheby’s / akg-imagesIt is presented in two parts: Figuration will be on view from February 18 through June 11, 2017, and Abstraction from July 1 through October 29, 2017.  

Alumni from all walks of life representing seven decades of graduating classes and 15 of the University’s schools and colleges are participating with loans of work that are emblematic of their interests as collectors. Victors for Art provides an extraordinary opportunity to view artworks that, in some cases, have never been publicly displayed and never all together. For visitors, and especially for future generations of University graduates, the exhibition illuminates the shared passion for art fostered by the Michigan experience.

“UMMA recognizes the extraordinary role of the University in the development of many of the world’s most influential art collectors,” Kathryn Huss, UMMA Interim Director, says. “One of the founding pillars of a U-M education, art remains a vibrant opportunity for engagement, edification, conversation, and enjoyment. We welcome the community and alumni Victors—a nickname from the University’s beloved fight song—to explore this very special exhibition created in celebration of the University’s 200th anniversary. We are deeply grateful to our alumni for their enthusiastic support of this exhibition.”

This exhibition was organized by Joseph Rosa, Guest Curator and former UMMA Director, in collaboration with Laura De Becker, Helmut & Candis Stern Associate Curator of African Art, Jennifer Friess, Assistant Curator of Photography, Lehti Mairike Keelmann, Assistant Curator of Western Art, and Natsu Oyobe, Curator of Asian Art.

“UMMA is uniquely positioned to celebrate the University’s Bicentennial in this expansive and multi-faceted way,” Rosa says. “Victors for Art builds on UMMA’s tradition of presenting a rigorous program about art and cultures throughout history, stimulating ideas and discussions, and encouraging connection-making across artistic and academic disciplines.”  

While figuration and abstraction are broad and fluid categories that defy conclusive characterization, Victors for Art provides visitors with the opportunity to explore the substance and limits of these groupings across a spectrum of media, time periods, and geographies. 

Part I: Figuration, opening February 18, 2017, includes works that aim to represent people, objects, and surroundings—while other works, despite such allusions, playfully push against the very notions of representation. Works by a range of artists including Peter Campus, Rineke Dijkstra, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (right), Henri Matisse, Collier Schorr, and Mickalene Thomas, among others, speak to the diversity of motivations for artistic representation across many contexts. By juxtaposing these works, viewers may discern common threads, yet also appreciate the great variety of artistic responses encompassed by the term “figuration.”

Watch the 'Victors for Art' video

Opening July 1, 2017, Part II: Abstraction showcases a wide range of mediums, art historical periods, practices, and purposes in its exploration of the genre. The works take their inspiration from numerous sources—from language and the natural world to the human figure and visage—providing compelling experiences through the manipulation of line, form, and color. 

Highlights include modern and contemporary works by Christo, Alberto Giacometti, Louise Nevelson, José Parlá, Pablo Picasso, Lorna Simpson, and Do Ho Suh, among others. From a fifth-century Korean roof end tile to an Amish quilt to work by an Inuit master, Abstraction offers a singular opportunity to enjoy an extraordinary array of artists and practices. 


Available in September 2017, the fully illustrated catalogue Victors for Art: Michigan’s Alumni Collectors will be published by the University of Michigan Museum of Art and edited by Joseph Rosa. Collectors’ stories will be profiled on UMMA’s website. To purchase the $35 publication, visit the UMMA Store beginning September 2017.


Lead support for Victors for Art: Michigan's Alumni Collectors is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan Office of the President, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of Michigan Bicentennial Office.

Upcoming Exhibition Programs

Family Art Studio: Picturing People – Saturday, April 22

In Conversation: Seeing Self and Other: Portraits from Victors for Art: Michigan's Alumni Collectors—Part I: Figuration – Sunday, April 23