About the Museum / Bruce Dayton: a True Philanthropist
Trustee for 65 Years
January 26, 2007: The Trustees of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) today announced the 65th anniversary of Life Trustee Bruce B. Dayton. Since being recruited in 1942 by Alfred F. Pillsbury, the great collector of ancient Chinese art, Dayton has served the board with particular distinction. Many of his two-thousand gifts of art to the museum can be viewed throughout the galleries. In addition, Dayton’s strong vision, business acumen, high aesthetic standards, knowledge and love of art, and commitment to public service have guided and benefited the museum for decades.
“The scope of Mr. Dayton’s philanthropy and the depth of his commitment to the MIA are without parallel,” said William Griswold, Director and President of the MIA. “His generosity goes beyond his service of sixty-five years. He always has been, and continues to be, an active board member helping us to shape one of the finest art museums in the country. We are tremendously grateful for all that Mr. Dayton has given to us.”
As a collector, from the 1940s to the early 1990s, Dayton was primarily interested in European and American paintings. Major gifts of artworks to the MIA during this time include Edouard Manet’s The Smoker (1866); Wassily Kandinsky’s Study for Improvisation V (1910); Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1922); and Frank Stella’s Tahkt-I-Sulayman, Variation II (1969). Inspired by the passion of his wife, Ruth, for Asian philosophy, Dayton became interested in the early 1990s in building the MIA’s Chinese collection. At the start of perhaps the most buoyant Chinese art market of the last century, he formed a collecting partnership with the MIA under the guidance of Dr. Robert Jacobsen, the MIA’s Chair of Asian Art. Working together, they have added more than eight hundred superb works of Chinese art, hardwood furniture, and architecture to fourteen galleries. Today, the installation has on view 1,400 works and occupies 20,000 square feet of gallery space, comprising one of the largest displays of Chinese art in the United States.
“This was done without the competition or pride of ownership that typifies so much of high-end art collecting today,” said Dr. Jacobsen. “In spite of his great accomplishments, Dayton, like a true Confucian scholar, remains humble, steadfast, and studious while keeping a sense of humor.”
Dayton thus gave funds to the MIA without hesitation for the benefit of the art-going public. The works were selected for their beauty and rarity and with the educational mission of the museum in mind. Highlights from the collection include a Ming dynasty Reception Hall and a Ch’ing dynasty Scholar’s Library, both fully furnished with period furniture; a Ch’ing dynasty Imperial Throne; a magnificent bronze Celestial Horse from the Eastern Han dynasty, a gilt bronze Pair of Flying Dragons from the T’ang dynasty; a southern Sung dynasty wood sculpture of Seated Kuan-yin; and an early Ming dynasty Dragon and Phoenix Vase.
Dayton has also supported other areas of the MIA’s collections. He provided the lead gifts for major acquisitions, including a first-century B.C. Roman statue interpreting Doryphoros by Polykleitos; Claude Lorrain’s Pastoral Landscape (1638); and Claude Monet’s Grainstack, Sun in the Mist (1891). He has donated or provided funds for the purchase of more than three hundred drawings, prints, and artist’s books by major figures such as Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Oskar Kokoschka, Sol Le Witt, Alice Neel, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Larry Rivers. Highlights include Edgar Degas’s Beside the Sea (1869), Emile Nolde’s Heavy Seas at Sunset (c. 1930), Piet Mondrian’s Chrysanthemum (1900), Edouard Manet’s The Races (c. 1869), Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge (1892), Jasper Johns’s Ale Cans (1964), Bonnard’s Parallèlement (1900), Kandinsky’s Klänge (1913), and Matisse’s Jazz (1948).
Dayton’s extraordinary support of the MIA goes beyond the gift of artworks. He created a $10 million endowment for museum operations that today is worth more than $28 million; helped purchase land for museum parking facilities; sponsored exhibitions of Chinese art; funded academic conferences; helped fund permanent-collection catalogues; and contributed to the museum’s recent $100 million Bring Art to Life capital campaign.
While Dayton is most closely associated with the MIA, his range of philanthropic activity is incredibly broad. Within the last few years alone, he has made major gifts to the capital campaigns of the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Public Library, the Guthrie Theater, the Studio Arts Building at the University of Minnesota, Macalester College in Saint Paul, and the Yale University Art Gallery. Dayton also funded the restoration of a sixteenth-century, thirty-four-room historic house in Anhui province, China, which is now a public museum; underwrote major publications on Chinese architecture, calligraphy, and sculpture for Yale University Press; donated 110 acres to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; and contributed to the construction of the new Shanghai Art Museum.