In 1977, studio art major Luanne McKinnon, PhD, BA ’77, was browsing through the UD bookstore after lunch when she picked out the first book on art she would ever buy: a slim volume on the Spanish painter Joan Miró by art critic Clement Greenberg, who had just visited campus.
Several hundred books later, after carving out a career as a leading scholar of Pablo Picasso and his 1937 masterpiece Guernica, McKinnon has donated her personal library of fine art scholarship to UD.
“It’s been a very curious boomerang,” McKinnon says of her collection. “I began learning at UD, and it’s carried on and expanded. It’s coming right back to Irving.”
McKinnon established her reputation as a specialist following roles as a museum curator and museum director at the University of New Mexico Art Museum and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College. She was the director of contemporary art at the ACA Galleries in New York and owned McKinnon Modern, a private art dealership. As an art dealer, McKinnon placed significant works by artists such as Twombly, Cézanne and Warhol, and she assisted in many acquisitions made by the late Ray and Patsy Nasher for what would become the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. She has lectured at the National Gallery of Art, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Fine Arts Museum of New Mexico, and she has been a fellow at the Getty Research Institute, among other honors.
Her career, it may be said, began in the studios at UD.
“In the ’70s, the school was like a village on a hill. It might have been the best-kept secret in American higher education,” McKinnon recalls.
“Coming back around to UD after so many decades and thinking about how important that place has been, and the people, and those experiences, and my little triumphs — well, a bell went off,” McKinnon said of her idea to donate her collection.
“I thought, ‘I don’t really need all these books that I have collected and worked from over the years. What if UD could use these? What if these might be important to have at hand for hungry students?’”
Ron Scrogham, MLS, dean of the Cowan-Blakley Memorial Library, called McKinnon’s gift a major boon for the university.
“It’s a sizable collection,” Scrogham said. “It’s really a significant contribution that’s going to bolster the library’s collection, especially in the area of contemporary art.”
Altogether, the McKinnon Fine Arts Collection includes just under 700 publications, including books authored or edited by McKinnon herself.
Scrogham pointed out that McKinnon’s books won’t stay locked in a room. The McKinnon Fine Arts Collection will have its own shelf space, but the books will be in free circulation, available for students to check out.
Pressed by deadlines with one more source to go, any student who’s resorted to scavenging for blurred photocopies and incomplete PDFs knows how limited the internet can be. High-quality photography, fresh criticism and out-of-print works like McKinnon’s copy of Miró — the kind of books a senior art major might need for the program’s required final research paper — are especially difficult to find.
With her contribution, McKinnon has given students a collection of reputable, focused and well-illustrated scholarship on contemporary art, gathered after a lifetime of diligent academic work.
“The first impulses to know more were planted in me at UD. I had significant experiences in studio art with Juergen Strunck, Dan Hammett and with the late Robert Cardwell, especially, because I was a painting person,” McKinnon said.
“Under their tutelage, which was rigorous, I learned to think in ways that were not necessarily pictorial. … The matrix for thinking in that manner allowed me to join the world of art in a fuller conversation, that is, in a larger cultural capacity than I would have had, I believe, if I’d had a lesser undergraduate education. I remain so grateful for how I was led to learn at UD and likewise for all those who were committed to such excellence.”