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Artist Seymour Lipton’s Legacy Memorialized in Dell Medical School Award

Feb. 26, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas — To honor recipients of its annual Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership, Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin has chosen the work of artist Seymour Lipton (1903-1986) to represent this prestigious award.

Since 2017, Dell Medical School has awarded the annual Ken Shine Prize to an innovative national leader who has made significant contributions to advancing health and the health care system. As the result of a partnership between the university and the Estate of Seymour Lipton, awardees will now receive a small bronze reproduction of Seymour Lipton’s sculpture, Pioneer.

Ken Shine Award

Pioneer was fabricated by the artist in 1957 and donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Mrs. Albert A. List in 1958. It is one of three Monel metal sculptures by the artist held in the museum’s collection that are on long-term loan to Landmarks, the university’s public art program.

The original full-scale sculpture is exhibited at the medical school’s Health Education Building, where medical students and faculty encounter it daily. Clay Johnston, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the Dell Medical School, was inspired by the sculpture as a model for the award. “Lipton’s Pioneer stimulates our imaginations and serves as a frequent reminder that the arts foster creative thinking—a must for our future leaders,” he said. “It also represents the innovative and pioneering spirit of the distinguished awardees.”

Michael and Alan Lipton, who represent their father’s estate, are thrilled that the sculpture has proved to be inspirational to the school and to the extraordinary physicians making a difference in the field. “We are honored that our father’s legacy has been advanced by this special recognition,” they said.

The connection between the artist’s work and the medical school is especially poignant given Lipton’s early training and career as a dentist. “Our father, who had a lifelong interest in science, would have appreciated the use of his unique sculptural form to act as an important symbol for this esteemed award.” In his lifetime, Lipton was commissioned to design an award for the magazine Art in America (1957), so the bronze created for the Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership is particularly fitting.

The winner of the Ken Shine Prize is the featured speaker at an annual lectureship event. The prize and lecture are made possible by the Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., Excellence Fund in Health Leadership, endowed in 2016 to honor the former Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs of The University of Texas System. Dr. Shine is currently a professor of medicine in the school’s Department of Internal Medicine.

The award was established in 2016 with an inaugural presentation by Dr. Shine. Subsequent awardees have included Donald Berwick, M.D., MPP, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (2017); Steven Schroeder, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care at the University of California, San Francisco (2018); Carolyn Clancy, M.D., Deputy Undersecretary for Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks at the Veterans Health Administration (2019), and Kathleen Dracup, R.N., Ph.D., Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco (2020).

About Seymour Lipton

Seymour Lipton is celebrated as one of the most significant Abstract Expressionist sculptors of his generation, known for his pioneering use of metal to create dynamic and heroic sculptures. Born in New York City in 1903, Lipton was interested in the dialogue between artistic creation and natural phenomena from an early age. In the early 1920s, Lipton studied electrical engineering at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and pursued a liberal arts education at City College. Ultimately, Lipton became a dentist, receiving his degree from Columbia University in 1927. Largely a self-taught artist, he began to explore sculpture and started creating work, initially in clay and wood and then later in metal, in social realist, surrealist and cubist styles. Lipton’s turn towards increasing abstraction in the 1940s allowed him to fully develop his metaphorical style, which in turn gave him a stronger lexicon for representing the ambiguities of human experience. In 1950, he arrived at his signature mature style of brazing on Monel metal. The forms that Lipton produced during this period were often anthropomorphic and zoomorphic, exemplifying the tension between the souls of nature and the automatism of the machine. Through the 1950s, Lipton’s work became increasingly optimistic; Pioneer is emblematic of themes of rebirth, growth and progression from this time. In 1958, Lipton was awarded a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale and was thus internationally recognized as part of a small group of highly regarded avant-garde constructivist sculptors. In 1960, he received a prestigious Guggenheim Award, which was followed by several prominent public commissions, including his heroic Archangel, currently residing in New York City’s David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. Lipton has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions at major institutions across the country. Since 2004, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York City has been the exclusive representative of the Estate of Seymour Lipton.

About Landmarks

Landmarks is the award-winning public art program of The University of Texas at Austin. Its collection of modern and contemporary art celebrates diverse perspectives, featuring commissioned projects alongside sculptures on long-term loan for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By making great art free and accessible to all, Landmarks inspires thought and growth. For more information visit