James Irvine Swinden (left), donor of The Irvine Museum Collection, and Stephen Barker, dean of UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, view works donated by the trust of Gerald Buck to the forthcoming UCI Institute and Museum for California Art. Many of the pieces in the “First Glimpse” exhibit, which opens to the public this Saturday, were locked in private storage for decades. Kimberly April

Irvine, Calif., Sept. 27, 2018 — After months of media buzz, UCI’s Institute and Museum for California Art begins taking shape this fall with special exhibits of never publicly seen masterpieces, lectures and other events.

“We are creating a world-class museum and research oasis to study and enjoy the rich expanse of California art,” said Stephen Barker, dean of UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts and executive director of IMCA. “California artists use light and space in ways unheard of in Europe, New York or anywhere else. We’re thrilled to get underway.”

Kicking things off is a “First Glimpse” exhibit of 50 long-hidden paintings and sculptures from The Buck Collection, donated to UCI in 2017. Southern California developer Gerald Buck quietly bought and stockpiled the most comprehensive private trove of California modern art in the world, according to dealers and curators, comprising a who’s who of such powerhouses as Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, Joan Brown, Ed Ruscha and Wayne Thiebaud.

Unearthing the pieces and deciding which to display first “was incredible, like a treasure hunt,” said Kevin Appel, UCI chair and professor of art, who co-curated the show along with Barker and art history professor Cecile Whiting.

IMCA received another collection of seminal California art from The Irvine Museum, courtesy of James Irvine Swinden, in 2016. His mother, Joan Irvine Smith, had compiled the 1,200 works in just two years, intent on preserving impressionist paintings of landscapes that have often since been lost to development.

More art will go on exhibit in 2019, when IMCA opens a 15,000-square-foot interim home in UCI Research Park. Ultimately, both collections will return to campus to live in IMCA’s permanent quarters, an iconic building close to the spot where famed architect William Pereira foresaw a museum in his original blueprints. The facility will take several years to plan, finance and build.

Once the institute is open, every school will be part of it – from chemists analyzing paint molecules to neurobiologists testing memory via images to social scientists and historians exploring cultural movements.

Art lovers can enjoy three IMCA shows – all free – over the next few months:

At UCI, “First Glimpse: Introducing The Buck Collection” will preview a selection of the 3,200 paintings and sculptures bequeathed to the campus by the trust of Buck. The works are on view from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, Sept. 29 through Jan. 5, in the University Art Gallery and Contemporary Arts Center Gallery.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks by artists represented in The Buck Collection, including Chuck Arnoldi and Peter Alexander on Oct. 25, Billy Al Bengston on  Nov. 13 and Helen Pashgian on Dec. 6.

Across town will be two displays of pieces from The Irvine Museum Collection: “Drawing on the Past: Works on Paper,” which runs through Nov. 1, and “Upon a Painted Ocean: An Ode to the California Coast,” from Nov. 10 through March 30. The museum, at 18881 Von Karman Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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