Mystery art leads to Fortune Smiles

For years, Charles Millard kept a small sculpture, which he purchased at an auction, on a coffee table in his home. The former director of UNC’s Ackland Art Museum knew little about the object’s history or creator.

Then an article about the sale of a similar piece piqued his curiosity. To his surprise, his own sculpture was soon identified as a valuable and highly sought-after work of art.

Instead of simply giving the Ackland this one piece, Millard sold it and used the proceeds to establish a foundation that would acquire multiple works. Millard, of Chapel Hill, named the foundation for the Greek goddess of fortune. The Tyche Foundation acquired 51 works of art tailored to fit the Ackland’s collection.

The works are unveiled in the museum’s current exhibition, “Fortune Smiles: The Tyche Foundation Gift,” up through Aug. 29. The gift represents one of the most significant contributions in the Ackland’s history.

“Charlie knows this collection intimately – our strengths and our gaps – but he also has his own very particular tastes and interests,” said Ackland Director Emily Kass. “Because of this rare combination, each of the works in this amazing gift enriches and adds an important aspect to the permanent collection and reflects the singular vision of this donor.”

The gift includes drawings, paintings, sculpture, calligraphy and photographs. Among the pieces are a Greek head dating from 500 B.C., a minutely-detailed Indian watercolor from the 17th century and Edouard Manet’s first published etching (“The Gypsies,” 1862). The collection also includes nine examples of 19th- and early 20th-century photography, 12 pieces of Asian art and nine works by old masters.

The Ackland is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, contact the museum at (919) 966-5736 or Ackland@email.unc.edu.