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Rutgers receiving $34M art donation and $10M endowment, its largest gift ever

Viktor Pivovarov, No. 2, Sacralizators for a Friendly Party, from the album Sacralizators, (1979) Credits: Jack Abraham/Courtesy of Rutgers Today

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University is receiving a prestigious art collection valued at nearly $34 million, its largest single donation ever, the university announced on Thursday.

The collection comprises 17,300 pieces of Soviet nonconformist art, given to the university by Nancy Dodge, the widow of economist and art collector Norton Dodge.

Rutgers will put the works on display at the Zimmerli Art Museum, which already houses the 4,000 pieces of work donated by Nancy and Norton Dodge in 1991.

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Accompanying the art donation is a $10 million endowment from the Avenir Foundation to maintain the collection, according to the university.

Together, the $44 million donations will make Zimmerli the world’s principal site for study and exhibiting art showcasing four decades of life under the Soviet Union, according to the university. 

“This remarkable gift underscores our university’s cultural and educational value to our global society,” said Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Deba Dutta.

Over the years, Nancy and Norton Dodge had amassed what is considered the world’s largest collection of Soviet nonconformist art.

“My husband Norton and I felt it was our mission to bring to light these remarkable works that had been consigned to obscurity, and to honor artists of exceptional talent who had been suppressed and defamed,” Nancy said.

The collection includes works from across the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

The works utilized imagery of Community propaganda to mock the system, according to Julia Tulovsky, curator of the Zimmerli exhibit.

“Only a few Sots artists, the ones who emigrated to the West, made names for themselves here,” Tulovsky said. “But there were others who remained in Russia and produced superb work that is practically unknown in the West.”

Nancy Dodge’s hope was that through the donation, she could keep the legacy of those artists, known and unknown, alive.

“We entrusted Rutgers with an initial gift from the collection because we believed the University deeply understood our goals and had both the scholarly resources and the institutional will to realize our purpose,” Nancy Dodge said.

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