Donor Story

The Art of a Gift

Mandelman-Ribak Foundation’s Historic Gift of Art to Benefit UNM Programs

By Jennifer Kemp and Todd Staats

Posted January 15, 2015

There’s something artful about the way The Mandelman-Ribak Foundation chose to honor its artists, Beatrice (Bea) Mandelman and Louis Ribak, by giving their art a new life—and the way it selected UNM as the beneficiary of its purposeful unwinding. The result: a gift valued at nearly $8 million.

UNM President Robert G. Frank and his wife, Janet Frank, help celebrate of the art of Beatrice (Bea) Mandelman during an event in New York City hosted by the UNM Foundation.  Photo: Chad Gayle

UNM President Robert G. Frank and his wife, Janet Frank, help celebrate of the art of Beatrice (Bea) Mandelman during an event in New York City hosted by the UNM Foundation. Photo: Chad Gayle

To celebrate this extraordinary gift, the UNM Foundation hosted a reception this past May at the David Findlay Jr. Gallery in New York City, concurrent with the gallery’s exhibition Beatrice Mandelman: Taos Modernist, and a luncheon at University House in September. Both events served as tribute to the artists and expressed gratitude to the Taos, N.M.-based foundation, its board of directors and staff.

This transformational gift was made 70 years after the two newly married New York artists moved to Taos in 1944—a move that would greatly affect their lives, art and legacy.

Beatrice and Louis were already well known artists before moving to Taos. In the early 1930s and ‘40s, Louis regularly exhibited in New York. He participated annually in the Whitney Museum’s Exhibition of Contemporary Art, and in 1934 was chosen to represent the United States in the Venice Biennial. In addition, Louis assisted Diego Rivera on the Rockefeller Center lobby mural and worked with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a muralist.

Beatrice also worked with the WPA, most notably as a printmaker in the Graphic Division of the New York Project. In the 1940s, her prints were included in exhibitions at the Chicago Art Institute, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Her prints remain in these museums’ permanent collections today.

While the couple’s move to Taos removed them from the mainstream art world, it gave them the freedom and inspiration to evolve their artistic styles and to truly begin anew. Captivated by Taos, they drew inspiration from its vast landscape, color and light, and they felt at home in the mountains and diverse cultures of northern New Mexico.

When Louis died in 1979, he left behind an extensive body of work from the 1920s through the 1970s, which included paintings, drawings and hundreds of sketchbooks— artworks depicting a lifetime of observations of the natural world and reflecting a lifelong dedication to art.

In 1997, Beatrice established The Mandelman-Ribak Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of the couple’s artistic legacies and the support of the arts in New Mexico. The following year, Beatrice passed away at the age of 85, leaving behind thousands of paintings, prints, collages and works on paper, and a legacy of passionate dedication to art.

“Mandelman and Ribak were pioneering artists in the modernist movement in New Mexico,” explained Alexandra Benjamin, executive director of The Mandelman-Ribak Foundation. “Bea was aware of their pivotal roles and sought to find a place that could preserve and make accessible their artworks and archives. In her own mind, that place was always the University of New Mexico.”

This past June, The Mandelman-Ribak Foundation gifted its collection of more than 900 Mandelman and Ribak artworks and hundreds of sketchbooks, prints, drawings and personal papers to UNM. Many of the works will enhance UNM’s art museums, providing art researchers insight into the modernist painting movement in New Mexico. Over time other artworks will be sold to bring the work of Mandelman and Ribak to museums, galleries and collectors throughout the world, with proceeds benefiting the art programs at UNM. The Mandelman-Ribak archive materials have been transferred to Zimmerman Library’s Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections. Once cataloged, these materials will be accessible to the University community, citizens of New Mexico, as well as researchers and scholars worldwide.

“As the beneficiary of this gift, UNM will become stewards of this collection of unique and significant artwork and archival materials. It allows us to preserve and share the immense legacy of these two important artists with others,” explained UNM Associate Provost and Distinguished Professor of History Virginia Scharff. “This wonderful gift will not only enhance our knowledge of the modernist movement, but it will also make UNM a major repository for research by artists and historians.”

“UNM is honored to be the beneficiary of this treasure,” said UNM President Robert G. Frank. “This gift honors the legacy of Bea and Louis, and will continue to benefit the students and programs of UNM into the future.”

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