KU alumnus Mark Booth and his wife, Lauren, an artist, have donated the work "Gard Blue," which has been the centerpiece of the Spencer's nine-month exhibition "James Turrell: Gard Blue."
"I feel this gift really demonstrates their farsightedness as collectors," said museum director Saralyn Reece Hardy. "For them to give it to us not only demonstrates their deep commitment to educating a whole person — the eyes, mind and heart of a person — but also underscores the critical role that art plays in our society.
"Because Spencer is a university art museum, it's about discovery, it's about teaching and learning and seeing new worlds. Turrell is very much about seeing new worlds, both inner and outer. I was delighted and deeply honored by the gift."
“Gard Blue,” created by Turrell in 1968, is a projection of blue light in a large, box-like room constructed specifically for the display.
"Saralyn has done a really marvelous job with the piece this year, so it just became a natural home for it. It would be kind of sad for it to leave," said Mark Booth, now an investor living in rural Connecticut. "Spencer is such an important part of life in Lawrence. Having grown up there, it's awfully nice to make a contribution."
Booth called "Gard Blue" "an early important work in the career of an artist who's widely considered one of the great artists of the last 50 years."
The Spencer’s exhibition, which opened in September, came on the heels of three simultaneous Turrell retrospectives at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
"James Turrell is clearly one of the pre-eminent artists of our time," Hardy said. "He makes the kind of the art that broadens one's perceptual understanding. There's this feeling of the light being a palpable substance."
"We don't have any other works of this character," she added. "For us to have a work like 'Gard Blue' — with its quality, its timelessness, its elegance — is transformative."