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Preserving an artistic legacy

The Bank of America award will support the conservation of the Chiura Obata "Two Running Horses" screen.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) at the University of Utah is one of 19 art museums from around the world to be awarded a 2022 Bank of America Art Conservation Project grant.

The grant will be used for the conservation treatment of “Two Running Horses” (1932), a four-panel screen by Chiura Obata (1885-1975), considered one of the most prominent Japanese-American artists of the 20th century. “Two Running Horses,” one of 38 Obata works the UMFA acquired in 2021, is the largest format of this subject the artist ever produced. Weaving Eastern traditions into a more contemporary and Western subject matter, the screen demonstrates the synthesis of Japanese and American art techniques and the artist’s mastery of sumi painting. Once properly conserved, “Two Running Horses” will be a centerpiece of the UMFA’s Obata collection and will be presented to the public in the museum’s American art gallery.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Bank of America for recognizing the critical importance of Obata’s art and helping us bring this masterful work to public view,” said Gretchen Dietrich, UMFA executive director. “Bank of America is making many such projects possible across the world at a number of esteemed institutions, and we’re delighted to be among them.”

Fellow project recipients include The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Notre-Dame de Paris and The British Museum in London, among other national and international museums and sites. Details about the Bank of America program and the complete list of institutions funded can be found here.

“The arts bring to life diverse perspectives and voices, and they empower our communities to be able to thrive through education and enrichment,” said Mori Paulsen, president of Bank of America Northern Utah. “Supporting the conservation work at Utah Museum of Fine Arts ensures that residents and visitors alike will be able to access greater cultural understanding and appreciation for generations to come.”

A prominent Japanese-American artist of the 20th century with a unique focus on the American West, Obata has remained relatively obscure until recent decades. Trained in Japan, he emigrated to and spent his life in the United States, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, and creating watercolors, sketches and prints that celebrate the quiet beauty of western landscapes. During World War II, a time of high anti-Japanese immigrant sentiment, he experienced forced resettlement to the internment camp in Topaz, Utah.

Obata’s work resonated deeply with Utah audiences in 2018, when a major retrospective, “Chiura Obata: An American Modern,” traveled to the UMFA. His work was also featured prominently in “When Words Weren’t Enough: Works on Paper from Topaz, 1942-1945,” the 2015 inaugural exhibition for the Topaz Museum in Delta.

Conservation of “Two Running Horses” will take place between now and early 2023, at the renowned Nishio Studio in Washington, D.C., one of the few institutions in the world that provide a professional treatment of Asian artworks.

The Bank of America Art Conservation Project provides grants to nonprofit museums to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration, including works that have been designated as national treasures. Since 2010, Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project has supported the conservation of more than 6,000 individual pieces including paintings, sculptures and archaeological and architectural pieces of critical importance to cultural heritage and the history of art.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts also is a Bank of America Museums on Us partner. The program provides Bank of America, Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank (U.S. Trust) credit and debit cardholders free general admission to more than 225 cultural attractions across the U.S. on the first full weekend (Saturday and Sunday) of every month.