In Memoriam: Gudmund Vigtel (1925-2012)
Former director of the High Museum of Art oversaw the Midtown museum for almost three decades
July 9, 1925 – October 20, 2012
The board and staff of the High Museum of Art honor the extraordinary life of our friend and mentor Gudmund Vigtel. Vig, as he was commonly known, served as the director of the High Museum of Art for 28 years, from 1963 to 1991. Gudmund Vigtel's official title was director, but in the early years, he handled everything from curatorial duties and development to volunteers and local artist encouragement.
Vig took the helm at the High in the year following the tragic 1962 plane crash at Paris's Orly airport, which took the lives of 122 Atlanta arts patrons. Despite these challenging circumstances, during his tenure he tripled the size of the Museum's permanent collection, established more than $15 million of endowment and trust funds, and increased the Museum’s operating budget from $60,000 to $9 million. He also grew the Museum's staff from four to 150. Most notably, it was Vig who spearheaded the campaign that resulted in the construction of the High's iconic Richard Meier-designed building, which opened to the public in 1983.
The High Museum of Art as we know it today would not exist without the dedication and vision of Gudmund Vigtel. He was an artist, a scholar, a leader and a true friend of the arts. The High and the Atlanta community are forever indebted to him for the way he transformed both the museum and the city.
"Gudmund Vigtel built the High Museum of Art with integrity and with strength of character over nearly three decades. He led the High from a period of austere and challenging circumstances following the Orly tragedy, through the triumphant opening of the Richard Meier designed building in October of 1983. In so doing, he put Atlanta and the High on the world cultural map for the first time. The High Museum would not be what it is today without Vig. This is a tremendous loss for the High and for the Atlanta arts community."
— Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy & Holcombe T. Green, Jr. director of the High Museum of Art
"The High Museum as we know it today was built on his very broad shoulders. Vig was a very powerful force for art in Atlanta and his 28 year tenure speaks to the fact that he had so much support from the community."
— Terry Stent, former chairman of the board at the High Museum of Art
"As Director of the High Museum of Art, Gudmund Vigtel led the Museum out of a shadow and into the sunlight. It was a great pleasure for me to have had the opportunity to work with him."
— Richard Meier, architect of the High Museum of Art's 1983 building, also known as the Stent Wing
"There are plenty of museum directors across the country who do an outstanding job of running their museums. There are not many museum directors who actually create a museum, as Vig did. While he started with a little bit to work with, what he left to Atlanta has made a lasting difference and a lasting impression. He will always be one of the heroes of the art world in Atlanta."
— John Wieland, board member of the High Museum of Art
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Gudmund Vigtel to Hospice Atlanta or to the High Museum of Art's Gudmund Vigtel Memorial Fund at:
The Gudmund Vigtel Memorial Fund
c/o The Office of the Director
High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street, NE
Atlanta, GA 30309