Donor Story

UNM People Changing Worlds: Gus Foster

By Wendy Antonio

Posted July 28, 2014

In 2013, collector, connoisseur and longtime Harwood Museum of Art supporter Gus Foster donated a remarkable collection of 391 works of contemporary art by 83 artists to the Museum.

The Harwood Museum of Art is celebrating that extraordinary gift by exhibiting 121 works in the Highlights from the Gus Foster Collection Exhibition through September 7 and by publishing a 96-page full-color catalog featuring an essay by Evan M. Maurer, Director Emeritus of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The Gus Foster Collection, distinguished by its quality, focus, and depth, is unsurpassed in the number of iconic works created by contemporary artists working in the acclaimed art colony of Taos, New Mexico. The many prominent East and West Coast artists represented in this gift – including Larry Bell, Lynda Benglis, Vija Celmins, Ron Cooper, Ron Davis and Ken Price – speak to the strong connection that Taos has long had with the national and international art worlds.

Gus Foster recalls, “My father was an architect and my mother was an interior designer, and aesthetics was part of the daily conversation when I was young.”

From that beginning, Foster has been involved in the arts throughout his life, and has given a collection of over 300 contemporary paintings, sculptures, prints, textiles, photos and collages to UNM’s Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, NM. Though the early 20th century Taos Founders and the mid-20th century Taos Moderns are artists currently well represented in the Harwood’s collection, as are Taos area Hispanic artists, “This collection will fill in the period from about mid-1970 until now,” Foster explained.

Gus Foster. Photo Credit: You & Me Productions. View the video: Gus Foster: Preserving History at the Harwood Museum of Art.

Gus Foster. Photo Credit: You & Me Productions.

“The lifeblood of a museum is the support it gets by gifts and bequests,” said Foster. His gift expands the Harwood’s collection by about ten percent, and is the biggest single gift of art work since Burt and Lucy Harwood provided their founding collection in 1923. Foster has been a Harwood board member for over 25 years.

In addition to its historical significance, the collection has another important dimension. “Of the more than three hundred pieces, only three or four were done by people that I didn’t know personally,” Foster said. “I have seen and followed their careers as friends and neighbors for over four decades, and that gives you some insight into their creative process. Though my work isn’t part of this gift, all of these works have informed my own vision.“

Foster is well known for his spectacular 360 degree photographs that have been exhibited throughout the world, and often show thousands of square miles of landscape. Prior to embarking on his photographic career, Foster earned a degree at Yale in art history and spent over a decade as a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Providing ways for children and youth to expand their creativity is critical, Foster feels. “Many people are unaccustomed to art, but if you enter a museum when art is just another part of your daily life, if you see it as a child, it is not so strange. If you begin that process early, then by the time you are an adult, it becomes easier.”

Highlights from the Foster Collection will be on exhibit at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos through Sunday, September 7, 2014. Click here to donate to the Harwood Museum. Click here to learn more about the Harwood Museum’s current exhibits.

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