The renaissance of Sam Gilliam

Edmund Barry Gaither (center) and Carol and Peter Segal with Sam Gilliam’s painting “Fold XII.”

Anna Miller/Tufts University

Edmund Barry Gaither (center) and Carol and Peter Segal with Sam Gilliam’s painting “Fold XII.”


The career renaissance of the estimable Sam Gilliam continued Friday as Tufts University added one of his paintings to its permanent collection. Gilliam, who’ll turn 83 next month, is one of the country’s greatest living abstract painters — quite an achievement considering his humble origin story. (He was the seventh of eight children, born in Tupelo, Miss., to parents of modest means.) In recent years, Gilliam’s work has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA, and the artist has an enormous piece on display at the Smithsonian’s newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. “The addition to our collection of a work by the incomparable Sam Gilliam is thrilling,” Nancy Bauer, dean of the SMFA at Tufts, said in a statement. “It signals Tufts’ renewed commitment to playing a leading role in promoting the education and expression of a wide variety of artistic voices.” Guests at Friday’s unveiling included Edmund Barry Gaither, director of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Boston, Jen Mergel, senior curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, and Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. Pictured: Gaither (center) with Carol and Peter Segal with of Gilliam’s painting “Fold XII.”

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