In 2011, the South Dakota Art Museum received an extensive collection of original fine art prints from the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s donated by collector Neil C. Cockerline. The collection includes pop, op, abstract, color field, and photo-realist art. Currently, the collection consists of 532 works by 204 artists, including Jim Dine, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Robert Motherwell, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, and Robert Indiana.
Cockerline is a Midwesterner by birth, studied at Alma College in Alma, Michigan, and received his Master of Arts degree from the State University of New York-Buffalo. He settled on a professional career as a museum consultant and fine arts conservator. From the 1980s on, he scoured auctions, visited galleries, made friends with dealers and artists—all the while collecting by the mantra, “Acquire what you love and love what you acquire.”
Having worked with the South Dakota Art Museum, Cockerline concluded that its facility, staff, and standards met the qualifications he wanted for a permanent home for his collection. He donated the collection in memory of his late mother Florence L. Cockerline because of her influence as his artistic mentor as a child.
This rare collection has provided interns, students, faculty and researchers with experience in handling, cataloging, researching, and preserving contemporary works of art. History, political science and visual art students have been able to visually see the social impact that current events of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s had on the visual arts. In addition, students are learning about the printmaking process and composition through this collection.
Here is just a sample of the many works in the Cockerline Collection:
The 2013 premier exhibition at the South Dakota Art Museum of the Cockerline Collection.
Museum student worker and intern, Samantha Berry, conducted extensive research on the Cockerline Collection and wrote an introduction to the exhibition catalogue. Here she gives a tour of the premier exhibition to museum Guild members, 2013.
Diana Behl’s SDSU School of Design Printmaking students study original fine art prints from the Cockerline Collection, 2019.