Unapologetically, the Chicago Booth London Art Collection
Venue: Chicago Booth (The Robert Rothman, ’77, London Campus)
Unapologetically, on view at Chicago Booth’s Rothman Campus in London, is curated out of the Robyns collection with a focus on emerging artists as well as the African diaspora.
While some works are by established artists such as Sir Terry Frost (United Kingdom) and Eddie Martinez (United States), much of the selection is dedicated to artists whose practices are still developing.
It is a curatorial vision that reflects the nature of the exhibition venue as an educational institution—as the Chicago Booth School of Business is a learning environment for young business professionals, the works on view identify new voices in contemporary art whose practices will continue to evolve alongside the careers of the students on campus.
The selection also seeks to consider the timely issue of race and gender that left a striking mark in the public consciousness in recent years, as evidenced through the political, economic, and social upheavals that unfolded throughout the world.
Rather than limit the scope of the conversations to Europe and the United States, however, the selected works challenge the audience to connect such discussions within the West to broader discourses on human rights, colonialism, and poverty around the world.
Beyond the demographics of the artists presented, two key formal threads that connect the works on view are the human figure and the use of color. Ranging from a portrait of the Buddha in a lotus position to two African women chatting in a swimming pool, these portraits convey the Robyns family’s decided interest in the narrative potential of painting.
Together, the multi-faceted narratives communicated through the works speak to the wider human experience, moving beyond the specificity of the time and place as depicted within the picture plane.
Also, by exhibiting paintings and photographs that employ a wide variety of colors specifically for Chicago Booth’s Rothman Campus in London, the Robyns family accentuates the potential of the works to add a sense of vitality to the building.
The spectrum of colors that emanate throughout the building also works as a metaphor for Chicago Booth itself: a place where ideas in different forms and shapes are introduced, discussed, and challenged.
ABOUT THE COLLECTORS
The Robyns Collection on display at the Robert Rothman, ’77, London Campus is a culmination of the Robyns family’s sustained dedication to art.
Although it initially started as a means to explore the sprawling intellectual curiosity of the family across multiple regions and periods, the collection began to particularly focus on contemporary art in the 1990s after their experiences of living in New York City and with the emergence in London of the Young British Artists (YBAs) such as Tracey Emin and Marc Quinn.
The collection has since grown to include works of art by leading artists around the world, such as Derek Fordjour (United States), Toyin Ojih Odutola (Nigeria), Bridget Riley (United Kingdom), and Walter Swennen (Belgium).
The exhibition is only one facet of the artistic initiatives undertaken by the Robyns family. Considering themselves as temporary guardians of these objects, Katie and Felix Robyns, ’85 are dedicated to ensuring that these works are properly conserved by the highest museum standards and that these works are made available for the public, curators, and scholars alike.
The couple also actively communicates with artists to assume the role of patrons that help positively influence their practices and the broader communities involved in an effort to invigorate artistic spirits in underserved communities. The works on view, therefore, serve as a moving reminder of the artistic influence that the students at the Chicago Booth can create as the next generation of global leaders, just as Katie and Felix Robyns, ’85 have done so for the past decades.