About the project

In 2019, the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University received a transformative estate gift from Indiana philanthropist Jane Fortune (1942—2018), a passionate advocate for women in the arts and founder of the Florence, Italy-based nonprofit Advancing Women Artists. In addition to a collection of 61 works of fine art, the donation established the Jane Fortune Fund for Virtual Advancement of Women Artists, which has provided the start-up funding needed for A Space of Their Own research database. Born and raised in Indianapolis, Fortune was an author, art historian, art collector, philanthropist, and cultural editor. Her commitment to supporting female artists has been recognized around the world. In honor of Fortune’s generosity, the Eskenazi Museum of Art named its first-floor gallery of American and European Art from Medieval to 1900 the “Jane Fortune Gallery.”

Fortune’s most recent endeavor, A Space of Their Own, brings together research by Advancing Women Artists, the Eskenazi Museum of Art, and Indiana University to build the world’s largest database on international female artists from the 1500s to the 1800s. Research for the database is led by Eskenazi Museum of Art Director Emerita Adelheid “Heidi” Gealt. A Space of Their Own will provide the most comprehensive resource to date of information on female painters, printmakers, and sculptors active in the United States and Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries. Once this is complete, the Eskenazi Museum of Art has plans to broaden the scope of A Space of Their Own to include women artists around the globe and eventually through all time.

About Jane Fortune's Collection

Many brightly-colored metal bottle caps have been woven together with wire to create a large, irregularly-shaped tapestry.
A woman kneels with an upturned face. She holds one hand toward her chest, with the other arm outstretched.
The light blue outlines images of two fern-like plants are visible against a vivid darker blue background.

Clockwise from top: El Anatsui (Ghanaian, lives and works in Nigeria, born 1944). Untitled, 2009. Aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, 77 x 88 in. Gift of Dr. Jane Fortune, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2019.1; Anna Atkins (British, 1799–1871); Anne Dixon (British, 1799–1877). Osmunda interrupta, North America, 1851–1854. Cyanotype, 13 5/8 x 9 3/4 in. [image]. Gift of Dr. Jane Fortune, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2019.7; Suor Plautilla Nelli (Italian, 1523–1588). A Kneeling Saint in Nun's Robes. Black chalk, pen, and brown ink on paper, 83/4 x 75/8 in. [image]. Gift of Dr. Jane Fortune, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2019.6

Jane Fortune gave 61 works of fine art to the Eskenazi Museum of Art. This includes works by female artists, photographs, and contemporary art. Among the highlights are a rare drawing by Sister Plautella Nelli, whose work has come to light through Fortune’s tireless efforts to identify and conserve works by female Florentine artists; a rare cyanotype photograph by the nineteenth-century British pioneer of photography, Anna Atkins; and a wall-mounted work by Ghanaian-born artist El Anatsui, the first work by that major contemporary artist to enter the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection. Some of the works from Fortune’s collection can be viewed in the museum galleries.

About the museum

Since its establishment in 1941, the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art has grown from a small university teaching collection into one of the most significant university art collections in the United States. A preeminent teaching museum on the Indiana University campus, its internationally acclaimed collection includes more than 45,000 objects representing nearly every art-producing culture throughout history.

The museum just completed a $30 million renovation of its acclaimed I. M. Pei-designed building. An enhanced teaching resource for Indiana University and southern Indiana, the museum is dedicated to engaging students, faculty, artists, scholars, alumni, and the wider public through the cultivation of new ideas and scholarship.