Spencer Museum acquires Haitian art collection

Kansas University’s Spencer Museum of Art has acquired a collection of Haitian art featuring works by many of the country’s leading painters and sculptors.

Harry Hughes and his wife, Mary Lou Vansant Hughes — both KU graduates who met at the university — developed a deep admiration for the art of Haiti while Harry Hughes was a public affairs officer for the American Embassy in Haiti, from 1972 to 1976, according to an announcement from the Spencer. The couple befriended many artists and established a collection of nearly 100 Haitian artworks, which they gave to the Spencer.

“It is with great pleasure that the Spencer has accepted stewardship of such a significant and beautiful collection,” Susan Earle, the Spencer’s curator of European and American art, said in the museum’s announcement. “Much first- and second-generation Haitian art was lost or damaged in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, making the Mary Lou Vansant Hughes Collection even more significant in its breadth and scope.”

The Hughes said it was important to them to keep their collection together, enabling viewers to see a bigger picture of what was important at the time it was created and how it connects to the present.

The Spencer currently is selecting the first of several works from the collection to go on long-term display.


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