Lindsay Hilliard/MJ
Lindsay Hilliard/MJ
Lindsay Hilliard/MJ

Editor’s note: Check out our photo gallery of the exhibition by clicking here.

By MARIA KANSO, Staff Reporter

To honor the collection that Richard and Louise Abrahams, a couple passionate about art, donated to the University of Michigan-Dearborn, an exhibition was held on Friday, Feb. 19 in the Alfred Berkowitz Gallery of the Mardigian Library.

“When they got married to each other, they couldn’t agree on two-dimensional art,” said Joe Marks, former art curator at UM-Dearborn. “She liked things like Picasso and he liked Western art, like Remington and Russell. But when they went to a glass show, they both fell in love with glass.”

The exhibit displayed about half of what the Abrahams have donated to the university. Their close relationship with Marks made them interested in UM-Dearborn, to which they donated more than 150 pieces of glass art in the early 2000s.

The Abrahams bought the very first piece of their collection, Taketori Tale by Kyohei Fujita, at the Sculpture, Objects, Functional Art and Design (SOFA) exhibition in 1997.  

“There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to what they were collecting. It’s very interesting to kind of see so much of it together, and try to think about why they collected what they did,” said Laura Cotton, art curator and gallery manager at UM-Dearborn.

Their fascination with glass art made them travel to different places all over the world, such as Australia, Denmark, Scotland and also within the United States to collect pieces created by universally renowned artists, some of whom are Lucio Bubacco, Ben Edols, Sonja Blomdahl, Kathy Elliott, Harvey Littleton, Petra Hora, Colin Reid, Petra Hora and Richard Ritter.

The collection includes Harvey Littleton’s work, who is considered the father of glass art. Littleton started the studio glass movement in 1962 in Toledo, Ohio. He introduced the glass furnace, which allowed glass artists to create glass in their own home studios. Instead of it being only produced for utilitarian purposes, glass became a tool for creativity and innovation.

After the studio glass movement spread to other states, UM-Dearborn began embracing glass art collections by the 1980s.

The guest speaker at the exhibit was Ferdinand Hampson, the founder of one of the most important glass galleries in the world, Habatat Galleries, and close friend of the Abrahams, who he helped expand their glass collection.

Hampson talked about his trip to Slovakia with Richard and the historical context of some of the pieces that were on display, including those for Lucio Bubacco, Klaus Moje and Harvey Littleton. He praised the originality and poeticism of these artists’ styles.

“It is wonderful for me to be part of it — the change. The change from what would be the limited production work of the artists that were doing things with great sincerity and pushing the material beyond what had been done before,” Hampson said. “The people that rise above [being copied] are people like Lucio Bubacco — they cannot be copied. They can’t be copied because people don’t have the skill level.”

One of the goals of the exhibit, like most of the exhibits that UM-Dearborn hosts, is to use the collection in an educational way through connecting the artwork to the curriculum of the different departments in the university.

“I always say the art collection that we have here at the university is one of our richest teaching tasks, so art can always connect to whatever you’re learning,” Cotton said. “No matter what your field is, there’s always a way to connect it to our art collection.”