It’s with a heavy heart that we report the passing of famed art collector and Studio Museum in Harlem board member Nancy Lane. As the institution’s longest serving board member, Lane championed the work of Black artists for nearly 50 years. Her death was announced on March 28th by Thelma Golden, the museum’s director and chief curator.
Lane was recruited to the board in 1973, five years after its founding, and served as chairwoman from 1987 to 1989. When the museum became the nation’s first Black or Hispanic institution to be accredited by the American Association of Museums, the acquisition committee led by Lane was able to add some 300 works to the collection. She is also credited with spearheading the museum’s current plans to replace the building with one designed by the Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye. The new building will cover the museum’s current site, at 144 West 125th Street, as well as an adjacent lot. As the head of the building committee, Lane has always had a hand in its development, and in her wake, the collaboration between Adjaye and New York-based architecture firm Cooper Robertson will be carried out.
“For five decades, she was a pillar within the institution whose fearless dedication to our mission and generous stewardship of art and artists would go on to define who we are today,” Ms. Golden told The New York Times.
A predecessor of Golden at The Studio Museum, Kinshasha Holman Conwill, said Ms. Lane’s “profound interest in artists and engagement in their work were ineffable and rare things.”
Nancy Lane was also a force in the corporate world. She began her career in the 1960s where she served as the program manager for The National Urban League. During a time where there were very few Black women in positions such as hers, she continued to climb the ladder in the 1970s at companies such as Chase Manhattan and Johnson & Johnson. And while her corporate achievements are plentiful, many would say she was most passionate about the contributions she continued to make to Black art and its makers throughout her life.
She personally advocated for artists such as Mark Bradford, Kehinde Wiley, Carrie Mae Weems, and the world renown Elizabeth Catlett who died in 2012.
Alvin Hall, who shared the chairmanship of MoMA’s Black Arts Council with Lane stated that:
“As an art collector and patron, Nancy truly delighted in seeing artwork in her own home and in institutions that made her see and think differently.”
Nancy Lane died in her Manhattan home. She was 88 years old.