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Fowler Museum gets $2 million for African arts curatorship

October 14, 2011 |  3:20 pm

Fowler Museum at UCLA
Thanks to one of the first fortunes made in Silicon Valley more than 50 years ago, UCLA’s Fowler Museum has a $2-million endowment to fund its curator of African arts.

The pledge is from Deborah and Jay Last of Beverly Hills; he arrived in Palo Alto in 1956 and the following year was one of eight co-founders of Fairchild Semiconductor, which touched off a technological revolution by soon introducing the silicon transistor and the integrated circuit.

Last began collecting African art in the early 1960s, and the couple's past donations to the Fowler include gifts to help fund its building, and a major collection of Congolese art that formed the core of its 2001 touring exhibition, “Art of the Lega.” The museum also focuses on the arts and culture of Asia, the Pacific and the Americas.

“We wanted to ensure that the Fowler would maintain and build its preeminence" in African art, Jay Last said last week in a prepared statement announcing the gift.  Earnings from the endowment will help pay the salary of the current curator, Gemma Rodrigues -- a native of Zimbabwe who began at the Fowler in mid-2010 after earning her doctorate at Harvard -- and her successors. The position involves scholarship and work on exhibitions related to both traditional and contemporary African art, including art of the African diaspora. The gift is in honor of Marla C. Berns’ 10th anniversary as the Fowler Museum’s director.


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Photo: UCLA's Fowler Museum. Credit: Don Cole