Emily Abbott: Nordfeld’s Widow and the Weisman Art Museum

Emily wrote a letter to a potential benefactor, Frederick R. Weisman, at King’s suggestion. In the foreword to the exhibition catalog, King included an excerpt from Emily’s letter:
“It is shocking (as you may know) that the permanent collection is in storage because there is no room for exhibits of the collection…We have two excellent museums in Minneapolis but they don’t fill the room. objective of a university museum, which should be on campus, available and convenient for students and scholars.

The letter struck a chord and Weisman replied:
“Much of what you have written reflects my own thinking, which is that a permanent collection does not belong in storage, it belongs on the walls for the public to see and enjoy… .”

Like Emily, Weisman spent time in Minnesota as a youngster. “I think much like Emily, the University of Minnesota was kind of a nostalgic place for him that reminded him of his youth,” King says. “And I think maybe the quality of his correspondence really affected him in a visceral way.”

Ultimately, Weisman donated $3 million to support construction of WAM’s house on campus.

For King, having Nordfeldt’s work re-examined for his contributions to modernism is the end of a journey started by the artist’s widow. “She was so dedicated to ensuring that her work was placed in museums and that her work received the proper attention,” King said. “And I just want to say, Emily, we did.”

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