Commemorating the life and work of UIC Art History professor Victor Margolin

David Sokol, Professor Emeritus of American Art, Modern Art, and Museology

Victor

I hired Victor to teach Design History because of a curriculum need,
and he had the background and unique qualifications to help our UIC
Art History Department develop that new and untried area.  None of us
dreamed what he would make of that position, developing a whole area
of study in our department, founding a pioneering journal that soon
attracted world-wide attention, writing books, articles, and reviews,
speaking at and serving as a juror at design conferences around the
world.  At the time of his death, last week, he was completing the
third and  last of the volumes of his exhaustive and compelling WORLD
HISTORY OF DESIGN.  Indeed, his work in the field has been so
wide-ranging and pervasive, that he is known as one of the founders
and fathers of the discipline of design history.

Victor was a scholar, a great raconteur, an intellectual of broad,
wide, and diverse interests, but most of all to me, he was my good
friend.  We had discussions [and sometimes arguments] about art,
authors, music, popular culture, and more.  On a trip to Mexico City,
consulting for a university there, we shared more of our personal
stories than before, and that cemented our relationship

My wife, Sandra, joined me in getting to know Victor in the domestic
sphere as well, and we became friends with both Victor and Sylvia.  We
shared Passover Seders, New Year’s Eve celebrations, family events, and
often just got together to eat, drink, and talk.  We were pleased to
have them attend our 50th anniversary party and, not long before his
terrible accident, our son’s wedding.

Victor’s family, his colleagues, his many friends, our Art History
Department and College, and the world of design mourn his passing, and
I mourn the loss of a very dear friend.

Hannah Higgins, Professor of Intermedia and Avant-Garde Art and Culture

Victor

After Victor retired from UIC in 2006 we were in touch every few months as news about our lives required it. But that contact after he left scarcely matches the importance Victor played in my early academic life in ways that aren’t obvious.

His Museum of Corntemporary Art (touristic kitch of the best kind) taught me that Art History (and Design History as Victor practiced it) could be both serious and fun, could be serious fun, could be funny too. I was working on my first books when he was my very senior colleague, and he never failed to make sure I’d forget that he was so much my senior. “Han,” he’d say with a very long a as I’d pass by his open door, “I’ve got something to show you.” Which he always did – some weird but gripping piece of racist tourist kitsch or plastic food that reminded us that food was quickly becoming plastic. It was just so much fun to pretend we weren’t insanely busy, to take those few minutes to goof off in our minds.

That goofing off is essential to invention, to the best forward moving scholarship as I have come to understand it. His museum catalogue,  Culture Is Everywhere: The Museum of Corntemporary Art, which was published by Prestel, was as joyful, witty, fun, and earnest as Victor. I gave him a short piece for it that served as a reminder in my later days in the department, that what we do can uplift in ways we tend to forget as the professionalism of syphons off the joy and curiosity that brought us/me here to begin with. When I reflect on Victor’s  friendship, this is what I feel. He was so excited, so loving, so interested, so amusing, and so quick that he made me love my work and job in ways I didn’t know I could.

Victor Margolin Memorial Celebration, 2/12/2020