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UCSB's Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Bringing Global Art to UC Santa Barbara

Curated pieces from the Jere and Fima Lifshitz art collection find a home on campus

Fima Lifshitz’s work as a pediatric endocrinologist has taken him to universities and hospitals around the world as a doctor and visiting professor. When he describes his career, he recollects the Diego Rivera mural in the Hospital Infantil de México where he trained and the Brazilian artist whom he paid in installments as a young doctor. Fima and his wife Jere, who is a retired nurse and medical writer, estimate that their collection represents nearly 60 countries. In 2020, the Lifshitzes finalized a significant donation of African Art to the Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

“Jere and Fima Lifshitz are dear, muy queridos, friends of the Art, Design & Architecture Museum,” said Acting Director Silvia Perea. “They exhibit a unique taste for collecting on the canon’s fringes, and an immense philanthropic heart. Thanks to their generosity, the AD&A Museum has expanded its holdings of non-Western art and, with it, the diversity of offerings for teaching and research on our campus.”

The Lifshitzes have collected for decades. When Jere first stepped into Fima’s New York apartment almost 40 years ago, she marveled at the art hanging from the walls, ceilings, and every inch of the small space. One year later, the couple married and embarked on a lifetime of collecting art together from around the world.

Along with the vast collection of African art that Jere and Fima have contributed to the AD&A Museum, they have donated a painting by Robert Piesen (2019) and nine sculptures and paintings by various Latin American artists (2017). Most recently, the Lifshitzes donated two sculptures to the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center by African American artist Reginald Madison.

“Reginald Madison creates these sculptures from found pieces,” Jere said. “He paints and assembles them slowly while listening to jazz and African American music, and so his sculptures have a musical theme to them.”

Twenty-three pieces chosen by the Lifshitzes as part of a 2018 gift also grace the UC Santa Barbara Library’s permanent collection. The majority of these works are from Brazil and Peru, where Fima often taught and carried out research.

“University work has meaning,” Fima said. “You can't live without art, and you can't live without the sciences. Both are important.” “The humanities open a window into thinking differently,” added Jere.

Jere and Fima moved to Santa Barbara when he accepted a position at the Sansum Medical Research Institute. He has written or edited 20 books — including “Pediatric Endocrinology,” now in its fifth edition — and has spent the last year collaborating with Jere on two books about their collection. One was just published, and the other will likely come out later this year.

“When you have a passion, you also have very good friends,” said Fima. “What a great partner to have, not just in collecting, but in life.”

The UC Santa Barbara AD&A Museum will exhibit a selection of the Lifshitzes’ African collection in fall 2021 in honor of their most recent gift.