$5 Million Gift Establishes the Starr Directorship of the Research and Academic Program at the Clark

For Immediate Release

July 07, 2008

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute announced today that the Starr Foundation has contributed $5 million in support of its acclaimed Research and Academic Program, a leading international center for discussion and scholarship in the visual arts. The gift establishes The Starr Directorship of the Research and Academic Program.

Since its inception in 2000, the Clark's Research and Academic Program has earned an international reputation as a foremost center for advancing the study of visual arts and for educating the next generation of art historians, professors, and museum directors and curators. The program engages the world's most creative and innovative visual arts scholars, from Clark Fellows who travel to Williamstown from throughout the world to pursue their research while in residence at the Clark, to prominent participants in pioneering international research collaborations, this year underway with institutions based in Paris and Johannesburg.

The Starr Foundation was established in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, an insurance entrepreneur who founded C.V. Starr & Co., and other companies later combined into what is now known as American International Group, Inc. (AIG). Starr was a pioneer of globalization, and set up his first insurance venture in Shanghai. The Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States and makes grants in a number of areas, including education, medicine and healthcare, human needs, public policy, culture, and the environment.

In selecting the Clark for this gift, The Starr Foundation recognized the Clark’s role as a global center of research in the visual arts and in the development of professionals in the visual arts field. The gift will fund the directorship and his/her initiatives to explore an international and interdisciplinary approach to research through collaborative projects, and to integrate program-wide the new voices of young and emerging scholars and those whose work challenges the conventions of art historical research.

“Through the Clark’s Research and Academic Program, we have created one of the few places where advanced historical research and philosophical insight into the visual arts come together in an environment that encourages freshness of ideas, freedom of imagination, openness of conversation, and independence of thought,” said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. “The Starr Foundation’s gift validates this program’s importance and excellence.”

“The field of research in the visual arts is ever-evolving, particularly when changing technologies and globalization are considered,” said Michael Ann Holly, Starr director of the Research and Academic Program. “This gift provides the opportunity to utilize new approaches to the changing realm of research, and develop new collaborations with partners around the world.”

In 2007, the Clark announced a gift from the Manton Foundation of a significant collection of British paintings, oil sketches, watercolors, and other works on paper that was accompanied by $50 million to support the collection and the Research and Academic Program. The Manton Foundation was founded by Sir Edwin A.G. “Jimmy” Manton, former president of AIG. In August of 2007, the building housing the Clark’s library and research offices was named The Manton Research Center in honor of the gift.

The Clark is one of the country’s foremost art museums, as well as a dynamic center for research and higher education in art history and criticism with an international fellowship program; and regular conferences, symposia, and colloquia; and an important art research library. The Clark, together with Williams College, jointly sponsors one of the nation’s leading M.A. programs in art history, which has been part of the professional development of a significant number of directors of art museums, curators, and scholars.


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