Gift Transforms Collection

Maria Cox, at home in Ponte Vedra Beach (Photo courtesy of MOCA Jacksonville)

Shortly after their 1977 marriage, New Yorkers Donald and Maria Cox began collecting art at a time considered to be “very alive” for art in New York. Nearly four decades later, they bequeathed their modern and contemporary art collection to the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville.

Their impressive selection of works by Joan Mitchell, Philip Guston, Joel Shapiro, Frank Stella, Keith Haring, Malcom Morley, Jasper Johns, and many more artists was built throughout the Coxes’ 29-year-marriage.

Two years before Donald’s death in 2006, the couple gave to MOCA Jacksonville a gift of 48 works, which are considered to be some of the most active and educationally valuable objects in the museum’s Permanent Collection.

Now 82, Maria Cox has finished the planned bequest to MOCA with another 50 artworks valued at about $5.8 million. The Donald and Maria Cox Collection includes Mitchell’s 1986 painting “Chord III,” two paintings by Guston, a bronze sculpture by Shapiro, and Haring’s “Two Dancing Figures” sculpture. The 98 objects in the entire Cox Collection include 16 paintings, 27 sculptures, 52 works on paper, one photograph, and two pieces of ephemera.

Cox, a MOCA trustee for 12 years, has also created The Donald and Maria Cox Fund by pledging a gift to help support research, conservation, access, and future growth of the Permanent Collection.

“Maria Cox’s generous gift transforms MOCA’s Permanent Collection,” said Ben Thompson, acting director. “These important works by top-tier artists bolster the strength of the Permanent Collection, dramatically increasing its significance, and will provide joy, education, and scholarship for generations.” 

While living and working in New York City, the Coxes frequented many art galleries, studios and museums in search of museum-quality artwork. “In New York, sometimes on a Saturday, we might have visited up to 28 galleries,” said Maria Cox. “There was so much going on in the galleries and the museums uptown, midtown, SoHo, and then Tribeca and further east and south. It was always good to go to a museum along with the galleries; it sharpened the focus.”

JOEL SHAPIRO, Untitled, 1988. Bronze, 14 ½ x 12 x 14 inches. Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Gift of Donald and Maria Cox. © 2016 Joel Shapiro / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (Photo courtesy of MOCA Jacksonville)

JOEL SHAPIRO, Untitled, 1988. Bronze, 14 ½ x 12 x 14 inches. Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Gift of Donald and Maria Cox. © 2016 Joel Shapiro / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (Photo courtesy of MOCA Jacksonville)

Residents of New York City for decades, in 1999 Donald and Maria built a retirement home in Ponte Vedra Beach. Not too long after moving to Northeast Florida, Maria became involved with MOCA Jacksonville, serving as a Trustee for 12 years.

The couple might well have chosen to give this collection to Bluefield College, Bluefield, Virginia, where they established The Donald and Maria Cox Visual Arts Center in 2002. Instead, they made a significant gift to MOCA Jacksonville in 2004, and then Maria added to the collection in August 2016.

“At another institution, her gift would have to compete with many other significant works for exposure from storage. And once their works were curated into an exhibition, they would be competing with myriad other great art offerings about town for an audience,” said Charles Gillman III, chair of the MOCA Board of Trustees and president of Cumberland Woods, LLC. “Now, it’s up to MOCA to prove to our local constituencies the exceptional value of this gift that has come to us here in Jacksonville.”

The Cox Collection includes 60 artists previously not represented in MOCA’s Permanent Collection. Although the collection primarily focuses on American artists, there are works from German, British, Italian and other artists as well.

“The Cox gift will greatly strengthen MOCA’s Permanent Collection, considerably enhancing the Museum’s outreach and education efforts,” said Preston Haskell, founder of integrated design-build firm The Haskell Company and a former chair of the MOCA Jacksonville Board of Trustees. “It’s a great statement about MOCA and the community to have Maria and Don Cox, who could have gone anywhere, to choose Jacksonville and to choose MOCA as the principal benefactor of their generosity.”

To celebrate this transformational gift, MOCA Jacksonville is exhibiting a selection of the new objects in “Breaking Ground: The Donald and Maria Cox Collection,” through January 8, 2017.