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Art & Art History

Selected Works from the Refco Collection

Monday, February 17, 1997–Saturday, March 15, 1997

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Artists: Carl Andre, Richard Artschwager, Matthew Barney, Lothar Baumgarten, Ross Bleckner, Alighiero Boetti, Marcel Broodthaers, Gordon Matta-Clark, Dan Flavin, Hans Haacke, Gary Hill, Annette Lemieux, Sherrie Levine, Ana Mendieta, Annette Messager, Bruce Nauman, Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, Arnulf Rainer, Charles Ray, Gerhard Richter, Thomas Ruff, Ed Ruscha, Kiki Smith, Thomas Struth, Andy Warhol, Bill Woodrow, and Christopher Wool

Selected Works from the Refco Collection is part of an ongoing series of exhibitions at Gallery 400 that examines the important roles corporate collections and patronage play in contemporary art. Corporate patronage of the arts has deep roots going back to the Italian Renaissance, where wealthy bankers and merchants began to invest substantial sums into culture. Building vast collections of art as well as grand reputations, the Medici family of Florence became a legendary model of artistic patronage. Additionally, guilds and religious confraternities dedicated significant resources to the construction of what are now considered great monuments of Western art. The motivations of Renaissance collectors were widely disparate, dependent upon economic circumstances as well as individual aesthetic choices. As patrons of ecclesiastical projects, donors sought to assuage their consciences for questionable commercial activities and hoped that their munificence might bring rewards in the afterlife. Others financed major building programs to legitimize and give material expression to their political and cultural leadership in the community. Finally there were, and continue to be, the pleasures attached to the ownership of aesthetic objects, along with the gratification of playing a primary role in the elaborate process of artistic creation and reception.

Stated or unstated, motivations for collecting art from the Renaissance to the present remain fluid and varied. So too are the myriad varieties of patronage. Private collections have become public on certain occasions, as they are often lent, donated, or sold to public institutions. Recently in the United States, private foundations have been formed to acquire, display, and lend works of art. Individual private collections have sometimes overlapped with corporate collections, which may be temporary or permanent. In the market system, where support of artists is often indirect and anonymous, a client, individual, or corporation typically purchases an artwork without ever encountering the artist. By contrast, in a commission, a patron selects an artist to create a work for a particular circumstance or setting, perpetuating a practice that is now more than five centuries old.

Twenty years ago, Frances Dittmer, wife of the founder and chairman of the board of Refco, began acquiring graphic works for the rapidly expanding futures trading firm formed in 1969 in Chicago. The early acquisition of prints by Jasper Johns—First Etchings (1967–68), Grey Alphabet (1968), Decoy (1971), and Land ’s End (1979)—immediately announced Refco ’s ambitious commitment to the arts, which has been borne out continually through the development of its collection of 325 contemporary paintings, sculpture, prints, and installation work. Now the largest commodities brokerage house in the world, Refco has established a reputation for its emphasis on educating clients and risk taking in investment strategies. With offices in Europe and the United States, Refco presents its art collection in New York and Chicago to a primary audience of 550 employees and numerous clients who interact with the art daily in a corporate environment.


Selected Works from the Refco Collection is made possible by the School of Art and Design, the College of Architecture and the Arts, and supported in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Our immeasurable gratitude and appreciation go to Frances R. Dittmer and Thomas Dittmer whose commitment to contemporary art and the development of an exceptional corporate collection have made this exhibition possible. Thanks also to Adam Brooks for his support and assistance with the development and preparation of this exhibition.


Carl Andre

Aluminum Copper Alloy Square, 1969
100 unit squares: 50 aluminum plates and 50 copper plates, 5/16 x 78 3/4 x 78 3/4 in.

Richard Artschwager

Untitled, 1994
Wood, 42 x 35 x 42 in.

Matthew Barney

Miss Goodyear, 1996
Photograph, 43 3/4 x 53 3/4 in.

Lothar Baumgarten

Untitled, 1985–87
Three black-and-white photographs, each 26 1/2 x 33 in.

Ross Bleckner

Untitled, 1988 and 1992
Three watercolors, each 16 x 12 in.

Alighiero Boetti

Maooa Jaguri Afghanistan, 1988
Embroidery on canvas, 47 1/4 x 86 5/8 in.

Marcel Broodthaers

Museum Museum, 1972
Lithographs, each 33 x 23 1/2 in.

Gordon Matta-Clark

Splitting: Interior, 1974
Color photograph, 22 3/4 x 18 3/4 in.

Splitting: Exterior, 1974
Four black-and-white photographs and one color photograph, each 37 1/2 x 59 1/4 in.

Dan Flavin

Untitled (Monument for Tatlin), 1968
Cool white fluorescent lights with fixture, 96 x 32 x 4 3/4 in.

Hans Haacke

Alcoa: We Can ’t Wait for Tomorrow, 1979
Mirrored polished aluminum letters on square aluminum tubing, 9 x 192 x 4 1/2 in.

Gary Hill

Cut Pie, 1992
Mixed media, dimensions variable

Annette Lemieux

John Wayne, 1986
Oil on canvas, 72 x 92 in.

Sherrie Levine

Untitled (Lead Checks/Lead Chevrons), 1988
Casein on lead, 40 x 20 in.

Ana Mendieta

Silueta Works in Mexico, 1973–77
Four color photographs, 20 x 13 1/4 in. each

Annette Messager

Mes Voeux, 1988
Black-and-white photographs with string, 35 x 30 in.

Bruce Nauman

Violent Incident, 1986, videotape

Blinky Palermo

Blue Triangle, 1969
Original drawing with handpainting, cardboard stencil, paint tube, brush, and cardboard box, dimensions variable

Sigmar Polke

Interior, 1984
Mixed media on photograph, 50 x 84 3/4 in.

Arnulf Rainer

Body Language (Köpersprache), 1971
Crayon, oil, and pencil on photograph, 19 3/4 x 23 1/4 in.

Charles Ray

Untitled, 1973
Black-and-white photograph, 20 1/2 x 42 1/2 in.

Gerhard Richter

Hund, 1965
Silkscreen, 24 1/2 x 18 1/2 in.

Thomas Ruff

Untitled (Isabella Graw), 1988
Color photograph mounted on Plexiglas, 83 x 66 1/2 in.

Ed Ruscha

Europa, 1986
Oil on canvas, 54 x 54 in.

Kiki Smith

Untitled, 1994
Ink on Nepal paper with collage, 52 x 47 in.

Thomas Struth

Piazza San Ignazio I (Rome), 1990
Black-and-white photograph, 26 3/4 x 33 3/4 in.

Andy Warhol

Mao, 1973
Graphite on paper, 80 7/8 x 42 in.

Bill Woodrow

Capital File, 1985
Metal file box with acrylic and spray enamel, 46 x 25 1/2 x 11 in.

Christopher Wool

Untitled, 1990
Alkyd on rice paper, 74 x 37 1/2 in.

Subjective Realities Head ShotAdam Brooks serves as the curator of the Refco Collection of contemporary art and photography. He is the author of Subjective Realities: The Refco Collection of Contemporary Photography. The collection includes works by Vito Acconci, Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Chris Burden, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Sophie Calle, Gregory Crewdson, Rineke Dijkstra, Olafur Eliasson, Barbara Ess, Walker Evans, Adam Fuss, Ann Hamilton, Eva Hesse, Axel Hutte, Seydou Keita, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Ana Mendieta, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mariko Mori, Catherine Opie, Richard Prince, and many other important figures in late-twentieth-century art.

Karen Indeck Head ShotKaren Indeck has been the curator and director of Gallery 400 and the Visiting Artists-in-Residence Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 1986. She has curated numerous shows, including FAXART (1990), Influx (1993), and Anything and Architecture (1996). Indeck received a BFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Postcard: Selected Works from the Refco Collection