Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - 11:18am

We note with sadness the death of longtime RAM friend, George T. Jacobi, who died in Milwaukee on September 15 at the age of 96. George served on RAM’s Board of Directors for two consecutive terms and continued as an at-large member of the museum’s Accessions and Exhibitions Committee for a period of more than 20 years as we developed and opened RAM. 

Born in Manheim, Germany, George came to New York in 1940 and served in the US Army’s Signal Corps during World War II. He received his MS in Electrical Engineering at Ohio State University, becoming an accomplished engineer. He worked for General Electric for 11 years, receiving three patents and developing the first transistorized computer for the banking industry. After serving as Director, Computer and Management Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology he was hired by Johnson Controls in 1977 where he worked until 1993, retiring as Corporate Vice President-Technology.

George was a true Renaissance man. He could speak well on any topic and was known as a great supporter of the arts. In addition to his work at RAM, George was President of the Board of Florentine Opera and a Board member of Present Music and the Next Door Foundation in Milwaukee. George was prized as a Board member because of his knowledge and the way he shared this with others, always sprinkled with a solid dose of good humor and dry wit. We express our gratitude to him and extend our condolences to his wife Angela—herself a former RAM Board member who served beside George on our Accessions Committee—and his family and friends. 

The George T. Jacobi Fund has been established at RAM and contributions are welcome.

Posted on Monday, June 4, 2018 - 2:57pm

We are saddened to announce the death of internationally recognized handbag designer Judith Leiber at her home in East Hampton, New York on April 28 at the age of 97. Mrs. Leiber died just hours after the death of her husband of 72 years, the painter, printmaker, and sculptor, Gerson Leiber who also died at their home. They both died of natural causes and were buried together on April 30. Mrs. Leiber has been affiliated with RAM since 2004 when we hosted the only Midwest venue of the popular 2002 traveling retrospective of her work organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. 

Judith Leiber’s name became synonymous with high style and the red carpet for her crystal-encrusted handmade metal evening bags, created in whimsical shapes, which were frequently seen in the company of celebrities from all fields. Leiber bags were also carried by numerous first ladies to their husbands’ inaugural galas, beginning with Mamie Eisenhower. With a zest for life and a sense of humor, Mrs. Leiber designed bags devoted to every subject and topic imaginable. Her works are represented in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and in RAM’s art to wear collection. People collect Leiber bags as works of art and frequently display them accordingly in their homes.

The Leibers were a tight-knit couple who built complementary careers—he, as an American-born artist and she, a Hungarian native who narrowly evaded the Holocaust. Mrs. Leiber eventually rose to receive most of the fashion industry’s major prizes. She created five collections a year and completed about 100 designs, most of which were included in her show at RAM. She said she was inspired by paintings, historic artifacts, and nature. Mr. Leiber was also a noted landscape designer who turned their property on Long Island into a much-sought-after spot for anyone seriously interested in studying formal gardens.  

In 2008, they opened the Leiber Collection on their Long Island property. The gallery they built has housed exhibitions of both their work and that of other artists. Mr. Leiber’s work can be found in many museum collections including that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Whitney Museum. 

While Judith Leiber was famed for her gold-plated hard-case evening bags (minaudières), she excelled at fitting leather, a skill readily displayed in her beautifully detailed daytime bags. All of her work is incredibly well-crafted and was made in her atelier in the US. Mrs. Leiber served as her firm’s “Inspector 12.” No bag left the floor without being personally inspected by her, until the Leibers sold their business in 1993. For many years, Mr. Leiber would deliver his wife’s bags, picking up each order late in the day and carrying the boxes to the appropriate department store on a New York City transit bus. These two, who initially met on the street in Budapest where Mr. Leiber was stationed at the end of World War II, were indeed, kindred spirits. In recent years, both Leibers were honored with retrospective exhibitions in New York and we join in honoring their accomplishments and contributions to the fields of fine art and fashion.

For more about her career, please read:

Article in The New York Times

Article in Vogue

Article in Harper’s Bazaar

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 2:13pm

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of fiber artist Mary Giles on April 11, 2018 at the age of 73, at her home near Stillwater, Minnesota. Giles was born in St. Paul but spent much of her adult life in St. Louis where she was employed as a schoolteacher. It was there that she began working in fibers and became particularly interested in basketry techniques. She knotted dyed linen thread to create vessel forms and sculptural works that responded to the functional history of baskets, while referencing the natural environment and the powerful connections all people have to it. Giles developed techniques for adding metal elements that she created to her sculptures, frequently suggesting the surface embellishments people have historically added to their baskets.

Her career as an artist took off when Giles retired from teaching school in the late 1990s and her work began to be included in national and international exhibitions devoted to the ways fiber artists were using traditional basketry techniques to make unconventional contemporary works. In 2006, she and her husband, architect Jim Harris, moved back to Minnesota. Giles’ work was featured in an important show of contemporary American basket artists at the Barbican Centre in London and she represented the US in the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland. In 2013, she was named a Master of the Medium by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Her work is included in over 15 museums, including RAM, which owns eight of her pieces spanning 1987 through 2001.

Learn more about her career:
From Textile Art Center, Minneapolis

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune