Kemper Art Museum receives major gift of contemporary art​

Peter Norton, founder of Norton Utilities, donates more than 50 works

Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, “Me Kissing Vinoodh (Passionately)”(1999). C-prints mounted on four plexiglass panels, 2/3, 109 3/4 x 198 x 2" (overall). Peter Norton Collection.

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis has received a major donation of more than 50 contemporary artworks from Peter Norton, administrators announced today.

The gift is composed of important videos, sculptures, photographs, installations and multimedia works by 40 internationally known artists, among them: Doug Aitken, Renee Cox, Willie Doherty, Jeanne Dunning, Anna Gaskell, Gary Hill, Katarzyna Józefowicz, Mike Kelley, Inez van Lamsweerde, Sarah Lucas, Ian Monroe, Allen Ruppersberg, Valeska Soares, Kara Walker, Pae White and Christopher Wool.

“This is an extremely generous gift,” said Sabine Eckmann, PhD, the William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator of the Kemper Art Museum. “It adds significant diversity and range to our contemporary collection in terms of subject matter, media and biographical background.”

Norton is a prominent Los Angeles collector and arts philanthropist as well as founder of Peter Norton Computing. The company is perhaps best known for its namesake software utilities program.

“Over the last two decades, Peter Norton has devoted himself to supporting cutting-edge, risk-taking artwork that speaks directly to the times in which we live,” Eckmann said. “His savvy and dedication have benefitted hundreds of artists, especially young artists, as well as curators, major arts institutions and the museum-going public.

“At the same time, he has made a particular point of helping to give voice to artists, projects and communities that might otherwise have gone unheard,” she said. “We are extremely grateful for his generosity.”

Nadine Robinson, “Tower Hollers (Version 1)” (2001). Six 14-minute records; six turntables; one-hundred speakers; and acrylic on canvas. Overall dimensions variable, approximately 120 x 312 x 60″. Peter Norton Collection.

Significant breadth and depth

Last fall, Norton announced that the Kemper Art Museum would be one of eight university institutions to receive portions of Norton’s extensive collection of contemporary art — widely considered to be among the largest and most comprehensive in the United States.

Also receiving gifts are:

  • Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive;
  • Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College;
  • Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles;
  • Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University;
  • Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University;
  • UCR Arts Block, California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside; and
  • Williams College Museum of Art.

Meredith Malone, PhD, associate curator at the Kemper Art Museum, said that the works selected both complement and build on existing strengths in European and American modernism, international abstraction and art of the 21st century.

Ian Monroe, “None More Black” (2003). Adhesive vinyl, paper, and felt on vinyl, 72 x 144″. Peter Norton Collection.

“This generous gift represents some of the most interesting, challenging and important artistic positions to emerge since the early 1990s,” Malone said. “It includes notable examples by prominent African American artists as well as artists from Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The artworks themselves address wide-ranging issues, including feminism, cultural identity and history, the looming effects of the digital age and other globally relevant topics such as borders, memory and exile.”

For example, Cox’s “It Shall Be Named” (1994) — which was prominently featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1994 “Black Male” exhibition curated by Thelma Golden — consists of fractured, overlapping photographs of a black male body that together suggest a crucifixion.

Józefowicz’s “Carpet” (1997-2000) weaves thousands of portraits clipped from newspapers and magazines into a large-scale installation sited on the floor. Photographs by Dunning and Gaskell provocatively broach topics of gender and sexuality, while “None More Black” (2003) by Washington University alumnus Monroe, uses everyday materials — adhesive vinyl, paper and felt — to suggest the architecture, both physical and virtual, of modern life.

Other highlights include Walker’s “Golddigger”(2003), a mixed-media work created in collaboration with Klaus Bürgel that directly engages the history of slavery in the United States; Ruppersberg’s large-scale installation “Kunstkammer” (1991-1993); four works by Kelley, including collaborations with Paul McCarthy and Tony Oursler; and two early videos — “Dawn” (1993) and “fury eyes” (1994) — by Aitken, a multimedia artist currently represented in the Kemper Art Museum’s collection by a single photograph.

Renée Cox, “It Shall Be Named” (1994). Gelatin silver prints, mahogany, and plexiglass, 105 x 104 1/2 x 4 ¾” (framed). Peter Norton Collection. Hi-res images upon request.

“These artists provide some of the most provocative and distinctive voices in contemporary art,” said Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts. “They also represent a wide variety of conceptual approaches and artistic practices — both in the sense of employing new media and in how they engage the viewer.

“The presence of these works on campus will benefit students, scholars, curators and the museum-going public,” Colangelo said. “But, perhaps most importantly, they will serve as compelling examples to young artists in the process of establishing their own practices and finding their own voices.”

This summer and fall, the Kemper Art Museum will present a selection of the new works in a pair of exhibitions. “Rotation 1: Contemporary Art from the Peter Norton Gift” will open May 1. “Rotation 2” will open Sept. 11. For more information, visit

About the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum dates back to 1881 with the founding of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts at Washington University. Its collection was formed in large part by acquiring significant works by artists of the time, a legacy that continues today.

Now one of the finest university collections in the United States, the museum contains strong holdings of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century European and American paintings, sculptures, prints, installations, and photographs. The collection also includes some Egyptian and Greek antiquities and more than one hundred Old Master prints.

Jeanne Dunning, “Study for ‘The Extra Nipple’” (1994). Cibachrome, 20 3/4 x 15 1/4″ (framed). Peter Norton Collection.