Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University presents Transfigurations

Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University presents first-ever exhibition of the extraordinary Wexner Family Collection

Superlative works by Picasso, Giacometti, and Dubuffet on view

Thu, Apr 10, 2014

This fall, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University will present an unprecedented exhibition of the personal collection of Leslie and Abigail Wexner. On view September 21 through December 31, Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection features an exceptionally in-depth selection of masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Dubuffet. The Wexner collection, with its concentrated focus on these three 20th-century virtuosos, is incomparable to any other private collection formed over the last 50 years. Guest curated by Robert Storr, professor and dean of the Yale University School of Art and former senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition brings fresh curatorial and scholarly perspective to these artists and examines the figurative impulses that connect them.

“A collection of this caliber and magnitude requires rare discipline, passion and discernment,” says Storr, who further notes, “Those who take the opportunity to view and absorb this exhibition will count themselves incredibly lucky to have looked over the shoulder of such avid collectors.” Transfigurations will be complemented by lectures and symposia featuring preeminent art historians, critics/cultural commentators, and contemporary artists.

Wexner Center Director Sherri Geldin notes, “Presenting the exquisitely focused Wexner family collection allows us to offer audiences—especially university students and scholars—an unparalleled look at some of the pioneering artists whose work in the first half of the 20th century transformed the cultural landscape of their time, and continues to resonate in our own. We are so grateful to Leslie and Abigail Wexner for providing this singular opportunity to illuminate the creative continuum between early 20th-century masters and contemporary artistic practice.”

“This is the ideal moment to celebrate the profound and continuing impact of the Wexner Center, a multidisciplinary laboratory for new ideas, creativity, and freedom of expression purposefully situated at the gateway of The Ohio State University—a great land grant institution and my alma mater,” says Leslie H. Wexner, Wexner Center Foundation chair and chairman and founder of the Limited Brands. “Abigail and I are happy to share the collection that we have the privilege and pleasure to live with every day. We are so grateful to the Columbus community for its generous support of the center over 25 years. At the same time, the exhibition creates an opportunity for Ohio State to be an incubator for new scholarship and critical dialogue surrounding these remarkable artists, their work, and their influence.”

“The art center represents a unique public/private partnership that directly links a major research university with the world’s most creative innovators in arts and culture,” notes Wexner. “It serves as both a local and global hub that connects with virtually every academic department and student association on this campus. The Wexner Center for the Arts serves as an important portal to the university, with a presence and impact felt the world over.”


Leslie H. Wexner began seriously collecting art in the mid 1970s, and initially focused on modern artists of the New York School, particularly Kline, Rothko, and de Kooning. With the purchase in 1986 of a significant work by Picasso, Wexner began a partnership with the art dealer Richard Gray, who has maintained a close working relationship with the Wexners over the years since. Since then, the Wexners purposefully began to look more intently at earlier modern masters, choosing primarily to collect exemplary work of Picasso, Giacometti, and Dubuffet. The Wexner Family Collection today reflects a coherence of vision that evolved through years of keen focus. A passion for quality further distinguishes the collection and provides ample testament to the persistence of figuration throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue featuring essays by Storr, Ohio State History of Art professor and Picasso scholar Lisa Florman, and art historian/curator Diana Widmaier-Picasso, a prologue coauthored by Geldin and Storr, and entries on each of the works in the show. The catalogue—along with a symposium and numerous lectures throughout the exhibition—promises new contributions to the study of the seminal artists whose work will be on view in the exhibition.

The Wexner Center, which opened in November 1989, is Ohio State’s international research laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art, and as such, has served for 25 years as a model for universities throughout the country who have pursued ever more cross-disciplinary arts programming. A core tenet of the center’s mandate is to inspire cultural curiosity and fuel the creative expression of our time and since its inception, artist residencies and commissions have been a signature component of its programs in the visual, performing, and media arts.

From the start, the Wexner Center attracted international attention and critical acclaim for its innovative architectural design (by renowned architect Peter Eisenman and the late Richard Trott of Columbus). In the years since, it has lived up to the early promise and expectation through bold and rigorous artistic and educational programs. The building was made possible by a generous gift from Leslie H. Wexner in memory of his father, Harry Wexner. Leslie H. Wexner, founder and chairman of Limited Brands (now L Brands), has continued to be a major benefactor to the Center and chairs its board of trustees, now composed of 28 civic, corporate, and cultural leaders from Columbus and beyond.

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Pablo Picasso, Nu au fauteuil noir, 1932

Pablo Picasso, Nu au fauteuil noir, 1932

Oil on canvas
63 1/2 x 51 in.
161.3 x 129.5 cm
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alberto Giacometti, Grande femme debout I, 1960

Alberto Giacometti, Grande femme debout I, 1960

Cast bronze
105 1/8 x 21 x 13 in.
267.02 x 53.34 x 33.02 cm
Edition 3 of 6
Art © Alberto Giacometti Estate/Licensed by VAGA and ARS, New York, NY