In memory of Nanette Laitman

Nanette Laitman standing next to sculptures
Nanette Laitman, 2018


Wayne Higby
Director and Chief Curator
Alfred Ceramic Art Museum

Guiding light of the American Craft Movement and friend of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum Nanette L. Laitman died on March 23, 2020, she was 95. Laitman was a principal benefactor and founder of New York City’s Museum of Arts and Design. She served on the Museum's Board of Directors for 25 years, including as its president. Additionally, her visionary and unparalleled contribution acknowledging the lives and work of craft artists through the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art assures that the oral histories and the papers of many groundbreaking craft artists will not be lost.

Nanatte Laitman was an avid collector of the art of craft and assembled a definitive collection of ceramic art along with works in other media. In 2018, Nanette Laitman honored the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum with a major promised gift of ceramic art from her personal collection. Nanette Laitman’s promised gifts to the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum include works by Mary Frank, Richard DeVore, Tip Toland, Robert Brady, Daisy Youngblood and Ken Price among other well-known ceramic artists.

A highlight of my professional career involved the opportunity to visit with Nanette and see her important collection. I made several trips to her home in New York City to study her collection and sit down to talk with her. Our conversations were very informative and delightful. I learned a good deal from her by talking about the collection, her life and her interests. Nanette was captivating, exceptionally astute and articulate.

Included here is the photograph that my friend, photographer Brian Oglesbee, took of Nanette Laitman at her Manhattan home Friday morning January 19, 2018 at 11:45 am. I will never forget that morning. I wanted her picture for the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum’s News Magazine. We were on a very tight schedule. Brian and I drove into NYC from Alfred the night before. We stayed overnight in a nearby hotel and arrived at Nanette’s exactly at 11:30 am. Nanette greeted us looking fabulous and ready for her photo shoot. We picked a spot with good light and 10 minutes later we had the picture. She was so aware, smart, savvy, a pro –she knew exactly how to handle her photo shoot ---with considerable grace and elegance. At 12-noon Brian and I were on our way and Nanette was off to lunch.

Nanatte L. Laitman was one of a kind. Her presence, generosity and vision were rare aspects of a marvelous individual. It was my great privilege to have known her.

Wayne Higby