Around the Institute

Aspen Institute Trustee Melva Bucksbaum Highlights Women’s Artwork in New Catalogue

March 3, 2014  • Institute Contributor

Watch the video above to see art collector, curator, and Institute Trustee Melva Bucksbaum in conversation with Aspen Art Museum CEO, Director, and Chief Curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson to discuss Bucksbaum’s newly launched exhibitionThe Distaff Side.

Collector, curator, and Aspen Institute Trustee Melva Bucksbaum recently launched her art exhibition catalogue, The Distaff Side, at the Institute in Aspen, Colorado. Following a cocktail reception, guests gathered in the Doerr-Hosier Center to hear Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the Nancy and Bob Magoon CEO and Director of the Aspen Art Museum, join Bucksbaum in a lively conversation about the catalogue’s development and significance.

The Distaff Side is a diverse exhibition of paintings, sculpture, photography, and video by more than 100 female artists from the collections of Bucksbaum and her husband, author Raymond Learsy. In addition to depicting an array of pieces from the exhibition being held at the Granary, Bucksbaum and Learsy’s private exhibition space in Connecticut, the clothbound catalogue features a variety of essays, as well as the transcription of an exclusive interview with Bucksbaum. According to essayist Caitlin Smith, the collector’s curatorial vision “give[s] viewers a sense of extraordinary richness and scope of ‘women’s work’ that she has witnessed in the field of contemporary art.”

Jacobson agrees with Smith, and believes that the scope of the catalogue “serves to illuminate the tremendous diversity of practice and viewpoint within the world of contemporary art, and highlights many of the significant contributions that each of these important artists have made to the art of our time through their individual work.”

At the event, Bucksbaum shared stories about how her passion developed over time. She reminisced about countless childhood visits to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, when she was “transported into another world,” as well as her deeply rooted connection with the art community in Iowa, where she was president of the Des Moines Art Center Board. Additionally, guests at the catalogue launch learned how Bucksbaum worked closely with her husband, a fellow art connoisseur, to design the beautiful art gallery for their diverse collection.

As a first-time curator, Bucksbaum focused her exhibition and catalogue on female artists because she believes that women are underrepresented in museums and exhibitions around the world. She hopes The Distaff Side can help her private exhibit reach new audiences. “Everyone has a book in them, and I never knew I had one,” said Bucksbaum. “When this opportunity came up, I said, ‘I’m going to make this the best possible catalogue I can.’”

Melanie Levine is a development coordinator at the Aspen Institute.