Tom Seligman

No, not (thank goodness) a death notice, but an announcement of Thomas K. Seligman’s retirement (at the end of this year) as director of the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford. A suitably stylish photo of Tom (by Fred Mertz), communicating something of his charm, humor, and passion for African art:

Tom came to Stanford in 1991 as the Stanford Museum’s first full-time director. He then oversaw the reconstruction of the museum after the 1989 earthquake and its transformation into the Cantor Arts Center (formally: the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University). This involved plenty of planning, massive amounts of fund raising, a program of acquisitions, and innovative programming.

Here’s the front of the old museum, decked out for a Tuareg art exhibition that Tom curated a few years ago:

(Yes, it was the Leland Stanford Junior Museum. That’s

[ Leland Stanford Junior ] [ Museum ],

named after Leland Stanford Junior, not

[ Leland Stanford ] [ Junior Museum ].

As it happens, only a few miles away is the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, whose name has the second parsing; it’s a junior museum ‘museum for young people’.)

Now a side view, showing a bit of the Rodin Sculpture Garden and one side of the new wing, added during the reconstruction of the building:

and from in front of the original building, a shot of Andy Goldsworthy’s “Stone River”, installed in 2002:

Tom Seligman graduated from Stanford in 1965 with a BA in political science; got his MA/MFA in art and art history at the School of Visual Arts in New York; served in the Peace Corps in Liberia; and in 1971 founded the Department of the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

He’s organized many exhibitions of African art and has taken groups on tours to West, Northern and Southern Africa. He’s focused his last 20 years of research on the Tuareg peoples of Mali, Niger and Algeria (2007 story in Stanford magazine about his work with the Tuareg and their art, here).

There’s a reception and celebration of his work at the Cantor Center on December 5th. The new director is  Connie Wolf (Stanford ’81), for 12 years the director and CEO of San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum, during which time she transformed the institution.

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