The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal art. Our mission is to advance knowledge and understanding of Australia’s Indigenous people and their art and culture worldwide. Working with living artists, international scholars and arts professionals, we provide a wide range of learning experiences to the University community and the public through exhibition, research and educational programs.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection came into being in 1997 through a gift by American businessman, John W. Kluge (1914-2010). Influenced by the Dreamings exhibition in New York, Mr. Kluge began collecting Aboriginal art in 1988. Over the next decade he compiled one of the finest private collections of Australian Aboriginal art in the world.
In 1993, Kluge purchased the collection and archives of the late Professor Edward L. Ruhe (1923-1989) of Lawrence, Kansas. Ruhe began collecting Aboriginal art while visiting Australia as a Fulbright Scholar in 1965. He built a collection of the highest quality and exhibited it widely in the United States between 1965 and 1977. Ruhe’s research on Aboriginal art resulted in the publication of several exhibition catalogues and articles. His archives comprise the core of the Kluge-Ruhe Study Center.
In addition to exhibiting works from the collection at our Pantops location, there are always works from the Collection viewable on U.Va. Grounds and we regularly send work on loan to museums nationally and internationally.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection reports to the Vice-Provost of the Arts at the University of Virginia, Jody Kielbasa. The museum is advised by a non-governing board called the Kluge-Ruhe Advisory Council, which includes the following members: Katherine Brooks, Brenda L. Croft, Stephen Gilchrist, Julie Harvey, Ambassador Joe Hockey, Teresa Keleher, Howard Morphy (also Adjunct Curator), Marc Sobel (Council Chair), Terry Snowball, and John Wilkerson.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which its building rests, the Monacan Indian Tribe. We pay our respects to their elders, past and present, and the elders from other communities who may be here today.