Ashmolean Museum Annual Report 1999-2000 - Director's Report - (1) to No 4570

<br /> Oxford University Gazette: Ashmolean Museum Annual Report 1999--2000<br /> (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Ashmolean Museum Annual Report 1999-2000: Director's

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4570

Wednesday, 10 January 2001

Contents of the supplement:

To Gazette
No. 4571 (11 January 2001)

Gazette Home Page

This Supplement reproduces part of the full Report of the Visitors for
the Academic Year 1999–2000, published recently by the Museum. In
addition to the Director's Report, printed here, the full Report will contain
Departmental Reports, details of new acquisitions, and staff records. Members
of Congregation wishing to obtain a copy should contact the Publications
Officer, Ashmolean Museum.

Director's Report

Director's Foreword

This has been a busy and dramatic year in the history of the Ashmolean. On 1 January, every
museum director's nightmare took place: a major work from the collection, our only painting
by Paul C‚zanne, was stolen. On 5 July, at the Luton Hoo sale at Christie's in London, we
made the most expensive purchase ever by the Ashmolean when we bought Titian's
Portrait of Giacomo Doria. Between these extremes of despair and
celebration, the work of the Museum went on.

In the foreword to last year's report, I outlined my vision for the future of the
Ashmolean which envisaged building on the success of the Museum as a centre for teaching
and research in the University, while at the same time developing more effective public
services. We have begun this work. The Museum has been open again on summer evenings.
The Education Department, which has very modest resources, has welcomed more
schoolchildren and the provision of new Teachers' packs has enabled them to use the
Museum to greater effect. We have staged the most successful exhibition in the Museum's
history in terms of visitors, `Turner's Oxford': the support of the Oxford
, for which we are immensely grateful, played a large part in its popular
success. The Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery of Chinese Painting has been completed
and opened on 11 October. The Early Twentieth-century Gallery has been completed and its
contents planned: only the delay on the Sackler Library is holding it up. We hope to open
in the spring. We have taken the opportunity of the Chinese Painting Gallery opening to
renovate the displays in the old Chinese Galleries, improving the lighting, renewing the
fabrics and building a large new display case for ceramics. The display of Renaissance art
in the Fox-Strangways Gallery re-opened on 5 October: the fabric has been replaced, the
lighting improved and labelling renewed. Work to improve the display, lighting and provision
of information in the Egyptian and Prehistoric European collections is under way. Our prime
concern is always to improve the quality of the experience of a visit to the Ashmolean.

There is still much to do, and planning the future has occupied a great deal of time this
year. We have commissioned Rick Mather Architects to undertake a Master Plan of the
building and there has been a series of meetings with staff to help create a blueprint for the
future, a blueprint in which the building is effectively used to present its remarkable
collections in the best possible way to its visitors.

This year has witnessed a great debate about the future of the non-national museums.
In a speech at the Royal Academy Annual Dinner in June, Lord Rothschild drew attention
to the plight of the municipal and university museums, which are so grotesquely underfunded
compared with the great national museums. As someone who has moved from a senior
position in a national museum to become Director of a University Museum, I can testify to
the shocking disparity in resources. In certain respects the collections of the Ashmolean are
as important or even more important than those of the British Museum and the Victoria and
Albert Museum, and yet we have only a tiny fraction of the financial and staff resources
available to the London museums. In the case of the Ashmolean, it is the funds to improve
display and educational provision, and the staff to carry out those improvements, which are
lacking. We can only hope that the Government, which has now been alerted to this major
problem, will be willing to act.

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Cézanne Theft

In the early hours of 1 January, Paul Cézanne's
Auvers-sur-Oise was stolen from the Hindley Smith Gallery.
This was a terrible loss to the Ashmolean. This criminal act removed a great
painting—the Ashmolean's only painting by Cézanne—from
a public institution where it can be seen free by our many visitors.

It was particularly cruel in that the painting—along with other
outstanding twentieth-century paintings and drawings—was presented to
the Ashmolean by Richard and Sophie Walzer, who had sought refuge from
Hitler's Germany in Oxford. With this gift they wished to record their
gratitude to this country and to Oxford in particular.

Prior to the theft the Ashmolean had received a high security rating
from the National Advisor on Museum Security. However, following the loss
of the Cézanne, a new security survey of the building was undertaken
and extensive improvements in the Museum's security have been made. These
were extremely costly and despite generous support from the University it has
been necessary to use funds which had been earmarked for other purposes.

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The Ashmolean's opening hours, extended every day until 5 p.m. in 1998,
were further lengthened in 1999 and 2000 with summer evening openings. In
1999 we opened on Wednesdays until 8 p.m. during May, June, and July and
in 2000 on Thursday evenings until 8 p.m. in June, July, and August. Both
were successful, particularly those evenings when special events such as
concerts and lectures were arranged. We intend to repeat the arrangements for
2000 next year. Especially popular were Michael Rosen's storytelling for
children and the jazz group on the forecourt. The Museum was open for four
days over Christmas and the New Year, when it has in the past been closed,
in order to allow the public access to the loan exhibition of Dutch paintings
from the Mauritshuis.

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We welcome several new members of staff this year. Sarah Brown, formerly
Press and Public Relations Officer at the National Gallery, has joined the
Ashmolean in the same role, a new post, and has already had a significant
impact on the coverage that the Museum receives in both local and national
press. She has also been responsible for redesigning the Museum's publicity
material. Geraldine Glynn, formerly Registrar of Glasgow City Museums,
is the Registrar, also a new post, and has responsibility for the movement of
works of art in and out of the Museum. Graeme Campbell joined the staff
from the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow as Head of Design and is creating a
Design Studio which will handle all posters, publicity material, labels and
signs produced for the Museum. Lindsay O'Nions took up the new post of
Events Coordinator in November 1999. Daniel Bone has been appointed
Deputy Head of Conservation.

Three valued members of the Department of Eastern Art have retired:
David Armitage who served the Museum for thirty years as Conservator of
Eastern Art, Warwick Freeman, the member of the Workshop team with
responsibility for Eastern Art displays for sixteen years, and Wendy Maine
who was departmental draughtsman for twenty-three years.

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The Building

Work on the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery of Chinese Painting has
progressed well and the Gallery was opened by the Chinese Ambassador on
11 October 2000. At last, the Ashmolean will have an appropriate setting for
its outstanding collections of Chinese painting, which are largely a
consequence of a generous gift from the Reyes family of Hong Kong. The
architects, Van Heyningen and Haward, have created an immensely
sympathetic space for the display of this superb group of works. It is now
possible to show large scrolls as well as smaller album leaves and framed
paintings. The gallery is on two levels which will permit the visitor to view
both from close up and from a distance. The warm interior is finished in
American walnut. The Gallery's construction has been made possible through
the generosity of the Christensen Foundation and an anonymous benefactor.

The Early Twentieth-century Gallery, part of the larger Sackler Library
development, is, however, running significantly behind schedule. It is hoped
to open this marvellous new gallery, in which our rich collection of
20th-century paintings, sculpture and drawings can be displayed, in the spring
of 2001. The Fox-Strangways Gallery, the gallery devoted to Renaissance art,
has been renovated thanks to Daniel Katz, who two years ago generously
helped us to renovate the Weldon Gallery. We are enormously grateful to Mr
Katz, a long-term supporter of the Ashmolean.

A refurbishment of the Egyptian Dynastic collections has begun in the
Sackler Gallery of Egyptian Antiquities, generously funded by the Dr
Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation. This is a major operation
involving thousands of objects, some delicate and often very small, that will
take about eighteen months. Every step has been taken to minimize problems
of access to those parts of the Egyptian displays not directly affected, so that
they may still be accessible for visitors and school parties. This is the first
major new installation since the present Dynastic displays were completed in

In the first-floor Antiquities galleries, a rolling programme of gallery
redecoration and display refurbishment has reached the John Evans Gallery
(European Prehistory), following completion of the new von Bothmer Gallery
for the reserve Greek collection, and renovation of the Beazley Gallery
displays in the last three years. Work on the John Evans Gallery, now in
progress, has been made possible by a gift for this purpose originally made
in 1983. Following their contribution to the refurbishment of the Arthur Evans
(Minoan) Gallery, the Amey Roadstone Corporation (as it then was) made a
donation to be used at an appropriate time in the Prehistoric European Gallery
adjacent to it. Some of the local objects on exhibition there are from gravel
pits worked by the Corporation at one time or another in the last century.
After redecoration of the whole Gallery, the displays, in order to minimize
inconvenience to the general public, will be refurbished quadrant by quadrant,
starting with the Iron Age in the southwestern corner. `The Arts of
Byzantium' are now appropriately housed for the first time in small, well lit
cases at the foot of the recently redecorated back staircase. These new
displays reveal this as a distinctive and eye-catching part of the collections.

The delay in the completion of the Sackler Library (and, consequently,
the Early Twentieth-Century Gallery) has had other important consequences
for the Ashmolean. The areas occupied by the Ashmolean Library and the
libraries of Western Art and Eastern Art, which have been allocated to the
Museum by the University's Building Committee, will not be vacated in full
before summer 2001. Plans have been drawn up for the conversion of the first
into temporary exhibition galleries, the second into a Prints and Drawings
Gallery and (on the top floor) a paper conservation studio, and the last into a
seminar room. Funds permitting, this work will be undertaken in the autumn
of 2001 and 2002.

Substantial progress has been made on the Ashmolean Humanities
Project. Detailed plans for a joint development between the Ashmolean and
the Faculty of Literae Humaniores (Classics) have been drawn up by the
architects Evans and Shalev, who were chosen after a public competition.
These plans have attracted partial funding and the remaining funding is
currently being sought. They have been submitted for planning permission.
A Master Plan which will re-assess the current disposition of the collections
and the relationship between public and private space in the building is being
prepared by the architect Rick Mather. It should be completed by the end of
2000 and will be the subject of discussions throughout the Museum early in
the following year.

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Acquisitions and donations

This year, the Ashmolean made the most expensive, and one of the most
important acquisitions in its history, Titian's Portrait of Giacomo
. It was purchased at the sale of works of art from the Wernher
Collection at Luton Hoo, held at Christie's in July 2000. The hammer price
was £2.2m., which meant that with the auction house's commission, the
total cost was £2.46m. The Heritage Lottery Fund made a major grant
of 75 per cent of the total and we also received an immensely generous grant
from the National Art Collections Fund. The Ashmolean's own contribution
was made up in part from a bequest to the Museum by Mrs Audrey Hanson,
as well as contributions from individual supporters ranging from
£25,000 to £5. The Friends were characteristically generous and
the Young Friends of the Ashmolean made their first ever contribution
towards the purchase of a work of art.

The Museum's world-renowned collection of Anglo-Saxon jewellery
received an outstanding addition this year when the seventh-century
Holderness Cross was acquired with the generous support of the NACF and
the help of the London dealer Sam Fogg, who had bought it at auction. It was
originally found in the mud of a farm at Burton Pidsea on the Holderness
peninsula in East Yorkshire thirty years ago, but it was not recognized for
what it was until 1998. It passed through the Treasure Trove procedure in
April 1999 and was then sent by the owner to a London auction house. The
cross is made of gold inlaid with garnets, many now lost, with a
suspension-loop with filigree ornament at the top to secure it to a necklace.
Of the four known crosses of this type, that from Stanton near Ixworth in
Suffolk, has been in the Ashmolean for many years as part of the John Evans
collection. Another is in the British Museum and the fourth, found in the
coffin of St Cuthbert, who died in 687 AD, is in the Treasury of Durham
Cathedral. Antiquities turn up in unlikely places: a copper alloy axe-head,
dated about 2000--1800 BC, which has been presented to the Museum by
Laszlo Grof in memory of his father Sandor Grof of Sarvar in Hungary, was
given to him in Transylvania years ago as the handle of a walking stick.

An outstanding purchase was the tenth-century Chinese, gilt and
polychrome wooden Bodhisattva, which was acquired with the aid of the
Nation Art Collections Fund, S. Wheatland Fisher, the Friends of the
Ashmolean, an anonymous benefactor and the
Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation. The generosity of an
anonymous benefactor enabled the Museum to continue to purchase objects
from India, Tibet and South-East Asia, and yet another anonymous benefactor
presented the Ashmolean with a magnificent Kakiemon vase dating from
c.1670. Two objects were presented to the Museum to honour
members of the Department of Eastern Art: a seventeenth-century Arita Jug
in recognition of the work of David Armitage, who retired as Conservator of
Eastern Art after thirty years' service, and a pair of Shibayama vases in gold
lacquer in honour of Dr Oliver Impey, by the Khalili Family Collection of
Japanese Art.

Major grants from the Re: Source/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the
National Art Collections Fund, the Friends of the Ashmolean and the Carl and
Eileen Suback Family Foundation have enabled the Museum to acquire an
outstanding collection of 816 late Byzantine coins (c.1204-

These have by no means been the only acquisitions this year. Among the
others are a Roman lamp in the shape of a centurion's boot, a bust of Marie
de Médicis, a silver monteith and a painting by Tom Phillips. All the
Museum's acquisitions are listed in detail in the Departmental Reports which

It should be recorded that throughout the year the National Art
Collections Fund has continued to be an outstandingly generous supporter of
the Ashmolean.

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Acceptance in Lieu

The Ashmolean received two major paintings this year through the Acceptance
in Lieu scheme, Zoffany's Portrait of David Garrick and a
fine peasant scene by David Teniers known as Le Manchot.
It is important to record here that the Acceptance in Lieu scheme has been of
the greatest significance to the Ashmolean in the last twenty three years and
we hope that it will continue to benefit collections like ours.

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A generous grant from the Stockman Foundation has ensured three more
years' funding for textile conservation in Eastern Art and resources to equip
a new departmental organic store room space. We have received, with
immense gratitude, substantial bequests from Miss C M Perrins and Mrs
Audrey Hanson. In the bequest of Miss Margaret Miller, formerly the
Librarian of the Library of Western Art, we received three paintings by Jack
Yeats, a remarkable group of paintings by the Irish artist whose reputation as
one of the leading artists of the early twentieth century is now established.

The Heberden Coin Room has also received a major gift from the
anonymous charitable trust which funded the acquisition of the R.C. Senior
collection of Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian coins. This second gift will fund
the first year of the appointment of an Assistant Keeper to curate the new
acquisitions and take charge of the non-Islamic South and Central Asian
collections. This appointment will bring the Coin Room back to full strength,
the University having undertaken to resume financial responsibility for the
post from 2002.

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The support of sponsors is crucial to our exhibition programme, which has
been especially ambitious this year. The exhibition of paintings from the
Mauritshuis was supported by a group of art dealers from London and New
York, led by Johnny van Haeften. They were Johnny van Haeften Ltd.;
Arthemis Ltd.; Colnaghi Ltd.; Otto Naumann Ltd.; and Hall & Knight
Ltd. The exhibition was also generously supported by the Royal Netherlands
Embassy. The exhibition on `Turner's Oxford', the most successful that the
Museum has ever had, was supported by Coutts and Darbys Mallam Lewis,
while the associated Handbook of Turner's work in the permanent collection
received substantial support from Spink-Leger.

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Designation Challenge Fund

The Ashmolean was awarded a grant of £104,800 by the Designation
Challenge Fund, which is open to Designated Museums. It will go towards the
staff and equipment required to produce the following: a complete collections
audit and the creation of an electronic database, including images, of the Near
Eastern archaeological collections; the creation of electronic-based
documentation for the Chinese collections, the collection of Roman and British
Gaul coins and the Drawings collection; the completion of the electronic
database of the Cast Collection of Roman Sculpture, and implementation of
an in-Gallery interactive information system describing the casts; and the
conversion of existing published catalogues of the Near Eastern archaeological
collections and of the first Sylloge of Islamic Coins in the
Ashmolean into electronic databases.

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A new Conservation Department, bringing together all the conservators
working in the Museum's Departments, was created and Mark Norman,
Conservation Officer in the Department of Antiquities, appointed to lead it.
This will have the effect of enabling the conservation needs of the collections
to be viewed strategically rather than locally. This is particularly important for
the Museum's environment, control of which is vital to the care of the
collections; it is cost effective and means that specialist expertise is now
routinely available to all departments. It has the added advantage of creating
a clear career structure for our conservators.

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Elias Ashmole Group

The Elias Ashmole Group, a circle of supporters of the Museum, whose
minimum donation is £500 per year, was launched with a dinner in the
Randolph Sculpture Gallery on 8 October 1999. Subsequently there have been
special private views in Oxford and at the Royal Academy in London and a
trip to Antwerp, which took place in May 2000. There are at present 60
members of the Group, for whose generous support of the Museum and its
activities we are immensely grateful.

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The exhibition programme has been particularly active and successful this
year. The exhibition of `Dutch Genre Paintings from the Mauritshuis' was
opened by the Dutch Ambassador on 9 December and ran until 9 January. It
had 12,000 visitors and 1,500 catalogues were sold. On 11 January, Nicholas
Mayhew's exhibition `In the Red' was opened by the Chancellor of the
Exchequer. The exhibition, which was about the history of debt, was mounted
in collaboration with Oxfam. A week later, on 18 January, the Italian
Ambassador opened the exhibition of work by the Italian Futurist painter,
Gino Severini. This was a travelling exhibition from the South Bank and
enjoyed great success at the Ashmolean. The Cast Gallery's exhibition of the
Hellenistic Fisherman opened on 23 February. It showed a unique plaster
reconstruction of this figure from Aphrodisias in modern Turkey, now
scattered in fragments in various museums, and explored its original historical
and cultural context and its subsequent reception. A small exhibition on the
eighteenth-century gem engraver Nathaniel Marchant was mounted in the
Mallett Gallery in honour of Miss Gertrud Seidmann. The summer exhibition,
`Turner's Oxford', proved to be the most successful exhibition in the
Museum's history, both in respect of numbers of visitors and numbers of
catalogues sold.

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Three new `Ashmolean Handbooks' were published in the course of the year
and four substantial exhibition catalogues, including No Day Without
a Line
, Scenes from Everyday Life,
Frances Ernest Jackson and his School
, and, finally,
Turner's Oxford. Oxford University Press published Dr
Christopher White's Catalogue of the Dutch, Flemish, and German
Paintings before 1900
and the Museum also published the first of the
proposed volumes in a series entitled Sylloge of Islamic Coins in the
Ashmolean Museum
, and also the first in a proposed series of
Teacher Resources Packs and the Museum's first CD-Rom containing images
of Muslim Architecture from Dr Cresswell's Photographic Archive.

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In memoriam

It is with much regret that I record the deaths during the year of two people
to whom the Ashmolean owes a very great debt.

Mrs May Blakeman was renowned for the care and detail she brought
to the role of Membership Secretary of the Friends, which she undertook from
1975 until 1987, when failing eye-sight caused her retirement. She and her
husband were also among the founders of the Museum's small but growing
collection of British studio pottery.

The entire world of Art History mourns the loss of Professor Francis
Haskell, one of the most influential art historians of our time. As Professor
of the History of Art at Oxford, he was a Visitor of the Ashmolean from 1967
until 1995, and was unequalled in his care and affection for the Museum. The
portrait of Giacomo Doria by Titian, who was Francis's favourite painter, has
been purchased in his memory.

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