Past, Present and Future: the SMGA Permanent Collection

The Permanent Collection, housed and cared for by the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art, was created in the 1950s as a unique and integral component of the then Department of Art. The majority of the collection is dedicated to works on paper including graphic prints and photography. Also included are paintings, drawings and small sculpture. Numerous gifts of art have been directed to the gallery’s collection by donors with ties to the university. The gallery has made it a practice to purchase several works each year. The gallery has pursued an initiative to enhance diversity among artists represented in its collection. Over time this collection has grown to more than 1,500 works. These works are under the care of the gallery and it is a privilege to share them with the university in this exhibition.

New storage facilities for Sarah Moody Gallery of Art

With the support of the College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Alabama and the Farley Moody Galbraith Support Fund, new storage facilities are now in use. The Sarah Moody Gallery of Art is in the process of moving its Permanent Collection from existing storage in Garland Hall to new facilities located across the street from Garland Hall in the Bureau of Mines building complex. The new 1,880 square feet of storage and curation facilities are a great addition to our ever-expanding collection of Modern and Contemporary art. Both flat file and vertical storage capabilities have been expanded with state-of the-art storage systems. The goal is to also build out a curation space that can allow for the gallery staff to prepare works for exhibits and service works in the collection to add to their stability and safekeeping. A new system of climate control enables a year-round maintenance of stable temperature with remote monitoring capabilities that alert university and gallery staff to any changes in interior climate. Once the entirety of the gallery collection is in place, all 1,427 works of art will be under a single roof. Phase II will entail relocating support materials for the collection such as framing equipment, exhibition and research files and related materials, and other related gallery records. View images of the new curation space on Flickr.

More about the Permanent Collection and Its History

Within the collection are prints by the late Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008). His work was featured in the gallery in 1991 as the inaugural Farley Moody Galbraith Endowed Exhibition. The Galbraith endowment provides support for exhibition programming devoted to nationally acclaimed artists. When it is possible to do so, the gallery seeks to purchase artwork from notable contemporary artists to add to its holdings. Over the years a number of artists have been featured within the exhibit program schedule of the Sarah Moody Gallery including: Carrie Mae Weems, Cora Cohen, Thornton Willis, Jasper Johns, Sally Mann, Deborah Willis, Ida Applebroog, William T. Wiley, William Christenberry, John Newman, Judy Pfaff, Vernon Fisher and Tony Scherman. As the permanent collection expanded, the College of Arts and Sciences recognized the need to upgrade collections facilities for the gallery.

Farley Moody Galbraith (1920-2013) produced a significant shift in the momentum of the gallery with the establishment of endowed programming support. Her endowment, along with the support of the College of Arts and Sciences, has changed the complexion of our university gallery. We are a highly regarded programming arm of the Department of Art and Art History that offers university and community patrons of the arts many opportunities for visual arts cultural enrichment. Mrs. Galbraith established her financial support and directed a change to the name of the gallery so as to reflect the name of her mother, Sarah McCorkle Moody (1890 – 1977). Sarah McCorkle Moody lived in Tuscaloosa and was a longstanding supporter of the art department. She maintained friendships with faculty and students of the department and supported students by purchasing their artwork. Young students, who typically lack a buying public, were supported by her generosity. She touched the lives of many with her affection for the cultural arts. She donated artwork from her collection to the gallery and made a cash gift to the gallery to support facility renovations to the Garland Hall location.

Then called “University Art Gallery” became the “Moody Gallery of Art” under the directorship of Angelo Granata (1922–2009), Professor of Sculpture. He established a dedicated operating budget with the College for the gallery and oversaw the cataloging and storage procedures for its permanent collection. Mr. Granata was one of the founding faculty members of the Department of Art, served as department chair and gallery director during his tenure at UA. In his capacity as gallery director, Granata worked diligently, building the permanent collection so that it had a focus and served as a survey art collection that represented trends in contemporary art practices primarily in graphics, prints, photographs and works on paper. There were some opportunities to acquire paintings and small sculpture, but their higher costs usually posed limitations. More reasonable artwork to be acquired was in print form. He secured occasional federal matching support for buying works for the gallery collection. This he undertook while also maintaining a schedule of changing exhibitions. One such exhibition was dedicated to the paintings of Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984). Known primarily for her marriage to Abstract Expression’s Jackson Pollock (American, 1912 – 1956), Krasner was a painter in her own right. Her painting sensibilities while married to Pollock co-mingled with his. Angelo Granata worked with Marlborough Gallery, New York to bring both she and her paintings to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She was well received in the department and cherished her Alabama visit. It included a trip to southwest Alabama to visit Gee’s Bend (Boykin, Alabama) and its quilters. In the end, the gallery acquired a painting from her White Rage series produced in 1965. This abstract painting is probably the most prominent work in the gallery’s holdings. Over the years the gallery has acquired several privately held collections that have broadened the collection while complementing its contents. Two recent collections include: the Morgan Family Collection that was donated in memory of university alumni, the late Jim and Myra Morgan of Kansas City; and the William A. and Sara Hall Collection. Hall earned his BFA degree from Alabama and serves as Master Printer for Pace Prints, Inc., New York.

–William T. Dooley, Director

[Loupe Spring 2015]