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Mint given contemporary art collection

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Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was a delicate discussion.

Joining Linda and Robert Van Art on the porch of their Waxhaw home a year and a half ago, Carla Hanzal, curator of contemporary art at the Mint Museum of Art, and Charlotte art dealer Joie Lassiter were returning several works of art the couple had loaned the Mint for an exhibit.

Linda Van Art had been diagnosed with brain cancer a year earlier, and in recent months her health had deteriorated.

So that late summer day at the Van Arts’ home, the two guests “gently turned the discussion to her legacy,” Hanzal says. “Together, she and her husband knew they wanted her work to be in a central location and appreciated by more people.”

Now, based on a series of talks with the Van Arts’ legal and financial advisers, the Mint is set to receive a gift from Linda Van Art of 13 pieces from the private collection housed in a gallery on the couple’s property.

“This is a way of making a lasting gift,” Hanzal says. “This is one of Linda’s passionate interests, and she is able to share it with the community.”

The gift will be an important collection for the Mint’s new $54 million building expected to open in fall 2010, says Phil Kline, the museum’s executive director.

“This is just a wonderful way to honor Linda and Robert for their passion for contemporary art,” he says.

Hanzal says gifts like the one from the Van Arts are relatively rare but important for private museums, which on average count on private donors for 90 percent of the art in their public collections.

Overall, the Mint has roughly 2,230 objects in its collection of contemporary art.

Because she works on a regular basis with private art collectors and with art dealers like Lassiter who work closely with private collectors, Hanzal says, she always is developing and cultivating relationships that often can result in gifts to the museum.

“It’s really all based on relationships with collectors, just monitoring their interest with the institution, and making meaningful connections with them,” says Hanzal, who previously worked as a curator at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia in Virginia Beach, and at the International Sculpture Center in Washington, D.C.

Lassiter, who has a gallery in Charlotte and has advised the Van Arts on building their collection, first introduced Hanzal to Linda Van Art, who agreed in 2004 to loan five works to the Mint for a show.

She also loaned Hanzal several pieces for a 2006 solo exhibition featuring the work of Robert Lazzarini, three of whose works are included in the collection the Van Arts are donating to the Mint.

Chris Van Art says the intent of his father and stepmother “was always to make a gift of this artwork” after they died.

“The real point here,” he says, “was to make a gift so more people can appreciate it, and make it in a way that honored Linda and her appreciation of art.”

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