The Lona-Frey Collection: a vibrant addition to UNCC’s Center City

Arts / Article

A sign on the second floor of UNCC’s Center City building.

The installation of the Lona-Frey Collection at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Center City building is a brilliant addition that lends a vibrancy to the building and to students’ relationship with art. On long-term loan to UNCC (roughly for the next three years), the collection opened to the public on August 4 and features American modern and contemporary art.

Andrew Lona began this collection after helping assemble a 20th-century American art collection for Southwestern Bell Corporation, where he was an administrator. Along with his life partner Brently Frey, Lona collected regional artists from the places he and Frey lived with a clear bent toward abstraction. A few figurative pieces such as Robert Longo’s charcoal drawings and Reginald Marsh’s photographs made it into the collection, but primarily Lona and Frey collected work along the abstract expressionist vein. Artists like Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Sam Francis are well represented in the Lona-Frey collection.

From left to right: “Barbara,” Robert Longo, 1998; “Raphael,” Robert Longo, 1998.

The Lona-Frey Collection is spread throughout the Center City building from the 2nd to the 11th floor. Do not expect a chronological layout; rather several works are grouped for their stylistic similarites. For instance, Sam Francis’s lithograph “Long Blue” is shown near Louisa Chase’s “Untitled.” Although separated by several decades, both pieces demonstrate a rhythmic quality created by the artists’ gestural marks. Two works by Julian Schnabel show well across from a silkscreen by Helen Frankenthaler, highlighting the continuation of abstract expressionism with neo-expressionism.

From left to right: “Last Attempt at Attracting Butterflies,” Julian Schnabel, 1995; “Last Attempt #2,” Julian Schnabel, 1995.

While the Collection dominates the 2nd and 3rd floors, its inclusion in student lounge/study areas on other floors is significant. The chance for college students in these formative years to experience art everyday is a huge benefit. Not only are they exposed to new ideas and expressions, but they get to experience art outside of imposing art museums and see it can beautify our everyday lives. Didactic labels and a collection catalog scattered throughout the building supplement the art works, allowing the curious to learn more about them.

Murano Glass Sculptures on 2nd Floor.

The Lona-Frey Collection is an obvious boon to UNCC, and it also adds to the visibility of modern and contemporary art in Charlotte. Queen City residents and visitors have a wonderful opportunity to now see works by Sam Francis and Sol LeWitt at two locations in Uptown: UNCC’s Center City and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. One can only hope that the Lona-Frey collection will continue to enliven UNCC’s Center City building longer than three years.

UNC Charlotte Center City Building: 320 E. 9th St. Charlotte; centercity.uncc.edu. Open Mon.-Sun., 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Updated 8/28/2012 : an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that art by Lee Hall was in the collection of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.