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Art lover Jack Wolgin hits one out of the ballpark for Tyler School of Art and Philly!


The largest art prize in the world was announced by Temple University, today.

Philadelphia real estate developer, culture lover and philanthropist Jack Wolgin, 92, has promised $3.7 million to Temple’s Tyler School of Art, to endow the annual international award in the visual arts.

Jack Wolgin, Sargent Architectural Photography.

The $150,000 Wolgin International Prize in the Fine Arts will go to one artist a year, nominated by international nominators and selected by a jury. The artist will also be the subject of an exhibition at Tyler’s slick new Main Campus digs. The very first of those exhibits is scheduled for October 2009. So they need to hurry up!!!

“The international nominators will come from 6 continents,” said Greg Murphy, Tyler’s assistant dean for development, joking, no offense, but Antarctica was left out. When we asked about the secret nominations and compared it to the MacArthur genius awards Murphy said, “MacArthur is the biggest but it’s not all visual arts.” The Wolgin Prize is only for visual artists. Wolgin’s endowment will support the $150,000 award and Temple will support the administration of the prize.

The director will probably be someone from Tyler. “It’s very likely that someone from the Tyler/Temple family will be appointed director,” said Temple spokesman Hillel Hoffmann. When we mentioned that Oct. 2009 was just around the corner he said about the process, “I think it will move very quickly.”

Jack Wolgin developed the Centre Square complex on 15th and Market and commissioned Claes Oldenburg's Clothespin, one of the city's most beloved downtown landmarks.
Jack Wolgin developed the Centre Square complex on 15th and Market and commissioned Claes Oldenburg’s Clothespin, one of the city’s most beloved downtown landmarks.

The Wolgin Prize will support work that transcends traditional boundaries. Wolgin, who commissioned Claes Oldenburg‘s Clothespin in 1974, through the Redevelopment Authority’s Fine Arts Program, clearly has a history with art that pushes limits and breaks through boundaries.

Murphy told us that originally Wolgin and Tyler School of Art were talking about giving out three prizes with the money but as they looked at other national and international visual arts prizes, Wolgin decided he wanted his prize to be the biggest prize in the world — so one prize, not three — and a very large purse.

Wolgin, who is a Penn Law alum, is donating this through Temple partly because he likes Temple’s mission of access for everyone–reflected in Tyler’s move to North Philadelphia, and the mission as stated by Temple founder Russell Conwell to provide “quality education to all who endeavor to learn, regardless of economic status.” It matches what Wolgin himself is trying to do, Murphy said.

Jeffrey Fuller (Fuller Fine Arts) is a friend of Wolgin’s and he and his wife, Tyler Photography professor Martha Madigan have been instrumental in developing the prize, said Murphy. Madigan “kept [Wolgin’s] ear for a long time” talking about the importance of a prize to Philadelphia, and to Tyler.

Wolgin originally got interested in Tyler’s move to the city when Temple President Ann Weaver Hart invited him to hear a talk by Carlos Jimenez, architect for the school’s new campus. Wolgin was not interersted in giving to the building fund but as time went on he because interested in the idea of a prize (Wolgin likes prizes–he has instituted two other major prizes, the Wolgin Award for Israeli Cinema, Israel’s equivalent of the Academy Awards; and the Wolgin Prize for Scientific Excellence, awarded annually by Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.)