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Studio Magazine

In Memoriam: Nancy Lane (1933-2022)

Studio Museum

The Studio Museum in Harlem remembers Nancy Lane: an unparalleled champion of artists of African descent, tireless advocate for the Studio Museum's mission, and pillar of the institution for five decades. As a Board member since 1973, Chair from 1987 to 1989, founder of the Acquisitions Committee and Co-Chair of the Legacy Society, she not only embraced what the Studio Museum was but imagined what it could be. Lane's visionary commitment helped the Museum evolve from its first home in rented quarters on Fifth Avenue to its current building project on 125th Street. She leaves behind a legacy that will inform the Museum's work for years to come.

Nancy Lane was a dear friend and an inspiration. She lived life on her own terms and her lifetime of leadership and service touched more people than even she realized. Nancy supported African American artists, curators, and executives with a firmly held belief that we deserve the same recognition and opportunities as our counterparts from different backgrounds. With her seemingly boundless energy, Nancy made an indelible impact on organizations dedicated to civil rights, education, the visual arts, women’s rights, and international affairs. She cherished her friends and family and took a genuine interest in the well-being and happiness of those around her. “What’s new with you?” was her favorite phrase. Nancy encouraged us to keep pressing on, with grace, and that is her greatest legacy. I miss her dearly.

—Valerie S. Grant

A mutual friend introduced Nancy and me. We bonded over art. Nancy introduced me to artists, took me to galleries, and highlighted exhibitions and museums she thought I might enjoy. Nancy got me over the hump from looking at art to buying it. She was always clear: “Buy what you like, not what you’re supposed to.” I continue to spend time with her amazing collection. She had more class and taste than anyone I know. I miss her.

—Marsha E. Simms

I first came to know Nancy Lane through the Harvard Business School alumni network. She embodies the school’s mission to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. Nancy chose to make a difference in the worlds of civil rights, higher education, business, and the arts. The embodiment of elegance and joy, Nancy shared her wisdom and passions. And happily, I was a beneficiary. Thanks to Nancy, I traveled with The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Global Council to two Venice Biennales and the opening of the Soul of a Nation exhibit at the Tate Modern in London. I miss Nancy almost daily whenever I come across an intriguing idea or surprising development or fun fact that only she would appreciate. I guess that’s what’s called immortality.

—Jacqueline Adams

I had the joy of knowing Nancy for over forty years. Our friendship developed through our mutual love of art and The Studio Museum in Harlem. She was dedicated to promoting the work of African American artists and was passionate about collecting art. Her dedication to the Studio Museum is widely known, and she has created a significant legacy that will help ensure the future of the Museum. One of Nancy’s last tasks for the Museum was to Co-Chair the Studio Museum Legacy Society. At an event in 2019, Nancy eloquently summed up her commitment: “What I want to be able to do is have my commitment and my involvement last beyond me. When I am no longer on the right side of the grass, I still want to make a difference at the Museum and that’s what the Legacy Society permits me to do.” These are powerful words to consider as we think about our legacy and the future of the Studio Museum.

— Joyce K. Haupt

Nancy L. Lane and Raymond J. McGuire at Gala 2021. Photo: Julie Skarratt

“Here? There? Where?” This was often the three-word text message or email I received from Nancy when she wanted to know if I was free for a quick dinner near her apartment. The two bar seats near the window of Gotham Bar and Grill at 12 West 12th Street were her favorites. She would, with a look of bemused dissatisfaction, tolerate other seats, but she was more satisfyingly at ease when we were in “our seats.” The protocol was fixed. We ordered drinks—a rum and coke for Nancy and a vodka martini for me. Once the order was in, Nancy’s opening sentence was my cue: “So tell me what’s going on in Alvin’s world.” Nancy almost never said “your world.” For about an hour we would dine and chat back and forth about Alvin’s world and Nancy’s world. When she was ready to leave, she pushed the remainder of her rum and coke toward me to finish. “So, what’s ahead for Alvin?” she would ask as we strolled to Butterfield House at 37 West 12th Street. Our final conversation over that short distance was invariably about the future. I would say good night and give Nancy a gentle hug and a kiss on her cheek. She would look me in my eyes and say “Alvin, don’t we just love our bar?” and walk into her building smiling. I still see that smile and still feel all that it meant.

— Alvin Hall

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