$25M gift to UNC's Ackland museum includes Rembrandt works

Posted January 25, 2017 10:44 a.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2017 8:34 a.m. EST

— More than 130 pieces of artwork valued at $17 million were donated to the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of the museum's largest ever gift.

Alumnus Sheldon and Leena Peck donated the works, which include seven pieces by Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn, the university announced Wednesday. With the addition of the art, the Ackland is the first public university art museum in the country to own a Rembrandt collection.

The Pecks also donated $8 million to support a new curator.

“We have been patient over the last forty years. We honed our discriminating eye to find and discover the best works available," Sheldon Peck said.

Peck, a Carolina alumnus and his wife ultimately decided to donate their collection to his beloved "blue heaven." Peck and his wife are both orthodontists and say they take pride in their eye for detail in artwork.

"Museums all over the world, as you can imgine, knew about our collecting, and our collection. and they were sort of romancing us," Peck said.

"(The Pecks) are making the Ackland a Mecca for everyone in the world interested in Dutch and Flemish drawings, an area where we held only a handful of works," said museum director Katie Ziglar.

For Dr. Peck, it's not only a gift to UNC, but a gift to the humanities.

"Nowadays we need art more than ever because art is a refuge from political instability, fom uncertainty. Art is truth and beauty personified," Peck said.

The original works are still at the Pecks' home and will be brought to the museum in February. It is unconfirmed exactly when the exhibit will open.

“This amazing gift of European Golden Age art treasures – preserved for nearly 400 years and lovingly collected by the Pecks over the past 40 years – delights us today with its timeless beauty and will forever inspire future generations of students, scholars and visitors that come to our historic campus,” Chancellor Carol L. Folt said in a news release.