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In 1978 Arthur Roger opened an art gallery on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans on a commercial stretch better known for thrift shops, dusty antique emporiums, and corner stores selling po-boys—an unlikely space for the sale of bold, cutting-edge works of art in a city yet to fully embrace the avant-garde.

“At that time in New Orleans, it often felt as if art ended in the 1950s, and contemporary art didn’t exist,” Roger said. “When I opened the gallery, it was a real battle to overcome the resistance to contemporary art, although there were a few artists who were starting to develop their own market and audience. Artwork made here was just not valued the same.”

Lee Deigaard, "Steady Star", 2011

Bruce Davenport, Jr., "I'm a NOLA Art Beast", 2013

Robert Gordy, "Male Head", 1983

Luis Cruz Azaceta, "Museum Plan for New Orleans", 2006

Forty years later it’s an understatement to say that Arthur Roger transformed the way New Orleanians create, collect, and admire art, and the role of the city as a wellspring for emerging artistic visionaries. He launched the careers of countless artists and along the way collected works by those he represented, creating an unparalleled, eye-popping assemblage that reflects both the vibrant culture of New Orleans as well as social issues confronting the city and the nation in the last four decades of political upheaval and social change.

Roger recently donated his collection to the New Orleans Museum of Art and the public can now behold this transformative gift in the exhibition Pride of Place: The Making of Contemporary Art in New Orleans, opening June 23 and on view through September 3, 2017.

Roger’s collection includes works by locally familiar names — Ida Kohlmeyer, Willie Birch, George Dureau, John T. Scott, Dawn DeDeaux, Douglas Bourgeois, and Robert Gordy among them — along with nationally famous artists known for pushing the boundaries of social convention and physical materials, including filmmaker John Waters, photographers Gordon Parks and Robert Mapplethorpe, and glass artist Dale Chihuly. The exhibition of more than 70 works is both aesthetically forceful and socially provocative with pieces that address gender and race issues, violence, environmentalism, and the fallout of Hurricane Katrina.

When I opened [my] gallery, it was a real battle to overcome the resistance to contemporary art, although there were a few artists who were starting to develop their own market and audience. Arthur Rogers

Rogers views NOMA as the ideal space for the long-term conservation and public appreciation of his collection. “I’ve been around long enough that I have seen too many good collections broken apart,” he said. “In many cases I have played a role in building those collections, and there is something incredibly sad about it. I didn’t want that to happen to my collection.”

In conjunction with Pride of Place, a film series in tribute to Roger’s friend and represented artist John Waters will be screened in NOMA’s Stern Auditorium on select Friday nights. All movies start at 7 p.m. and are free to NOMA members; standard admission prices apply to non-members. The cult classics will include Pink Flamingos (July 21, NC-17), Polyester (July 28, R), Hairspray (original 1988 film, August 4, PG), Cry-Baby (August 11, PG-13), and Pecker (August 18, R).

Numerous artists represented in the exhibition will also offer perspective lectures on Fridays at 6 p.m., including Simon Gunning (June 23), Dapper Bruce Lafitte (June 30), Bob Snead (July 21), Lee Deigaard (July 28), Nicole Charbonnet (August 4), Courtney Egan (August 18), and Douglas Bourgeois (September 1).

For more information, visit noma.org.

Main image: Robert Colescott, “Power for Desire-Desire for Power”, 1987.

Our Local Publisher Partners

The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

WWNO

WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

WWOZ

WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

PRC

Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

NOMA

As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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