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Cohen Collection Arrives at MoFA

Published October 4, 2011

Florida State University students now have access to huge collection of contemporary art from all over the world, thanks to a gift from Tallahassee-based collectors Sonia and Stanley Cohen. The couple have left a huge collection of contemporary art, gathered from as close by as Miami and the American West and as far away as Japan and Africa, to the Museum of Fine Arts (MoFA) at Florida State. The gift rounds out the museum’s collection of nearly 5,000 paintings, sculpture, photographs, works of pottery and other media in its permanent collection.

Pieces from the Cohen collection will rotate through MoFA’s exhibitions, but even when they’re not part of a show, they’ll be available for study not only to Florida State University students but also interested K-12 students as well. That was important to Sonia Cohen, who arranged the delivery of the collection to MoFA following Stanley’s death in 2010.

“When students can actually see the pieces they are studying, it will be a delight,” she said. “I remember when I studied African art as a student, it was hard to visualize from a two-dimensional photograph.  Now students will not have to struggle.”

The Cohens collected art from Israel, Turkey, Greece and Japan and the American West, eventually focusing on contemporary American artists like Jim Dine, Susan Rothenberg, Pat Steir and Robert Motherwell.

“Their tastes were sophisticated, informed and eclectic,” says Allys Palladino-Craig, MoFA director, who with Registrar Jean Young is still working her way through the vast collection, registering each piece. “There’s just a lot to choose from.”

Maybe the most recognizable of the collection is the child-sized horse, Taylor, by American Sculptor Deborah Butterfield, who – partly due to her birthdate, which fell during the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby – is known for making horse sculptures from found and recycled materials.

Taylor, fashioned out of copper, is named for the man from whose house the copper peeled after a storm. The Cohens loaned the sculpture to MoFA during the 2009 7 Days of Opening Nights festival; now the museum is the horse’s permanent home. Palladino-Craig plans to hoist it under the arch in the museum’s main lobby, on the top floor.