If you have visited the Mint Museum Uptown atrium in recent months, you could not help but notice a huge work of abstract art, approximately 19 feet tall by 38 feet wide, prominently displayed. It has no title, and was simply named Untitled (Seafirst) 1979 by California based painter Sam Francis, one of the most influential visual artists of the 20th Century.
It was on loan from Bank of America for the past 2 years, but BOA has officially donated this piece as the Mint starts their Collections Initiative, hoping that others will be inspired to donate art to enhance the museum’s collections.
This is just the latest in the Bank of America’s support of the arts. In 1978 the bank donated Il Grande Disco by Arnaldo Pomodoro, seen at Trade and Tryon Streets. In 2002 it donated six paintings by renowned artist Romare Bearden, born in Charlotte. The “Museums on Us” program provides free admission to the Mint and more than 150 other museums and cultural institutions to Bank of America Merrill Lynch cardholders the first weekend of every month.
Since introducing the “Art in Our Communities” program 5 years ago, the bank has loaned exhibitions to more than 60 museums internationally. In Charlotte the bank has loaned the 2008 “Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life & Legends” and the 2010 “New Visions: Contemporary Masterworks” to the Mint Museum and the 2013 “Julie Moos: I’ve Got Freedom Up Over My Head” to the Harvey B. Gantt Center.
In a recent interview with Dr. Kathleen V. Jameson, President and CEO of the Mint, and Charles Bowman, North Carolina and Charlotte market president for Bank of America, the significance of this artist and the bank’s gesture was explained. This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
JP: What is the significance of Sam Francis in 20th century American art or 20th century art with an international scope?
This is one of the most important American artists. If you list the great masters, his name would be on that list. He continued abstract expressionism and brought it forward. This is a grand gestural painting, full of color. He made a great impression on artists that followed and was one to be emulated. He was so prolific, an icon of American art.
JP: Describe the piece.
It is a very large rectangular work, white background with beautiful strokes of color that form a grid . . . not a rigid grid, but creating a gestural grid of color. White makes the color pop. Blue and black and red are in it. The color was very important in conveying emotion and movement because of this layering of this color. You get the sense that you could fall into the painting endlessly.
Charles Bowman adds:
You have to experience it.
JP: What lies ahead for Bank of America and the Mint in terms of the new Collections Initiative?
The whole purpose of making this donation possible is to coincide with the Mint’s collection drive to encourage others to make similar donations for the museum to continue to grow and be a real hub in this community. The other purpose is that art is a means of connecting people.
JP: How did the idea of the Collection Initiative start? Who started it, the Mint or Bank of America?
The idea was mutual, knowing that the Mint was looking to enlarge its collection.
Bank of America has been very generous to help build our collection. We have the largest collection of Romare Bearden’s work thanks to them. This is just one example of how Bank of America steps up every day to support what’s important to our community. Their value on the cultural sector, education, economic development and visionary leadership enhances our community.
People can come and see it today. It has been on loan for a couple of years. I encourage people to come and experience it; be in the room.