ESAC Receives Exhibit Donation Valued at $1.2 million from Nall!

ESAC receives donation of exhibit valued at $1.2 million from local artist Nall!

In June and July 2019, the Eastern Shore Art Center hosted internationally renowned artist Fred Nall Hollis’ exhibit “Alice in Wonderland”. The extensive exhibit boasts over 50 original pen and ink drawings done over the course of 3 years, 1977 – 1979.


After the exhibit’s closing, the Eastern Shore Art Center approached Nall with an intriguing opportunity. To keep the legacy of “Alice in Wonderland” alive, Executive Director Bryant Whelan suggested to Nall that ESAC operate on behalf of the artist to create a traveling exhibit, coordinated by the Art Center. Whelan explained, “From the get-go, Nall expressed unequivocally that the collection was only to be exhibited (or sold) as a complete body of work. He wanted the entire exhibit to stay together always.” Whelan said the at the conclusion of the two-month exhibit, the staff of ESAC did not want to see the exhibit leave. “We were concerned that the exhibit was likely to go in hiding once it came down. We felt this historic, international treasure by an Alabama native and Fairhope local artist needed to be shared with the world.” Board President Jimmy Prestwood of Birmingham has followed Nall’s career for many years and was excited about the opportunity. “It happened quickly,” said Prestwood. “The Board met and unanimously agreed to make a proposal to Nall that ownership of the exhibit be transferred to the Art Center. We presented it the next morning to Nall, who literally said “Where do I sign?,” and within days an agreement was made,” said Prestwood.


The next steps are to apply for grant funding and donations in order to create a visually captivating catalog to represent the artwork, and to begin developing communications plans to offer the opportunity for national galleries and museums to exhibit the collection.


“This is an exciting opportunity for our little non-profit,” added Marketing and Exhibits Director Adrienne Clow. “This is ESAC’s first chance to promote an internationally recognized artist and exhibit directly from the Eastern Shore on a national level. In the past we have been able to bring national traveling exhibits to Fairhope, like the American Watercolor Society, but this is our moment to bring a part of ESAC to the rest of the country,” said Clow.


The Eastern Shore Art Center has already begun making plans for promoting the ‘Alice’ exhibit to other museums.

More about Nall’s “Alice in Wonderland”:

In 1975, Nall was given a copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass” which he read, re-read, and read again.


Two years later, the idea to illustrate ‘Alice’ matured into an attempt to unravel the mysteries and joys of Lewis Carroll’s tale. Nall began to search for the keys to unlock the many doors of the author’s mind.


Nall traveled to many countries during that period searching for the proper models to pose as characters, including friends, political figures, and even royalty. “I drew them as they were,” he said. “This was a wonderful time in my life, coming to terms with myself as an artist and as a man. ‘Alice’ was an ingredient, a psycho-analytical tool that grew me up.”


It was in trip to Oxford, England, more specifically the Lewis Carroll Library, where the head librarian and president of the Lewis Carroll Society, confirmed theories and erased doubts concerning Carroll’s life. They delved into Carroll’s background. He was the son of a preacher, one of eleven children, a bachelor, an accomplished photographer, a mathematician and wine taster for the school. “Carroll adored costumes and the theatre” said Nall. He revealed that a growing esteem for Lewis Carroll urged him to “unveil the Victorian restraints and allow a post-hippie culture to applaud his nakedness,” and to “look directly into the eyes of this man who mirrors our own fantasies and secret passions, and who was brave enough, wise enough, to write them down.”


“He enchants us as children, defines us as adults; and, in truth, lets us mingle with the Gods.”

What is your favorite part of “Alice in Wonderland”? Let us know in the comments below!


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