ARTnewsletter Archive

Major U.S. Museums Made Important Acquisitions in 2006

For major U.S museums, 2006 was a busy year in which many of them strengthened their holdings in modern and contemporary art, an ARTnewsletter survey has found.

NEW YORK—For major U.S museums, 2006 was a busy year in which many of them strengthened their holdings in modern and contemporary art, an ARTnewsletter survey has found.

Generous funding from museum patrons, as well as significant donations, brought about major acquisitions, ranging from antiquities to 19th-century works to recently executed paintings and installations. Strong patron support enabled institutions to keep pace with an extremely competitive—often heated—art market.

Another trend apparently gaining ground is the frequency with which museums are joining forces to purchase and share major works in instances where the cost may be prohibitive for one institution to handle on its own.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) jointly purchased a large-scale sculpture by artist Chris Burden. Meanwhile the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y., acquired a large-scale 2002 untitled sculptural installation by British artist Rachel Whiteread.

“The art market is very hot right now,” LACMA director and CEO Michael Govan told ARTnewsletter. “If we’ve doubled our average in terms of the value of gifts, we’re still barely keeping up with the market.” However, he points out, not every segment of the art market is noting record-breaking prices,allowing institutions that collect broadly to acquire objects at reasonable prices in less-heated fields“such as Chinese or African art.”

But in those segments of the market that are booming, he says, “all museums can do is gauge those private collectors as potential donors. You know, a down art market is really best for museums, because they generally have high expertise and relatively few dollars. When the art market is up, our expertise matters much less to enthusiastic collectors, and we can’t compete dollar for dollar.”

In June LACMA purchased a painting by French artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Portrait of Jean-Pierre Delahaye, 1815, at a Christie’s Paris auction for $2.7 million, with funds provided by The Ahmanson Foundation Beverly Hills—and in October promptly made it the centerpiece of an exhibition. LACMA also purchased an almost life-size terra-cotta statue of Saint John Capistran, circa 1550, by Santi Buglioni (1494-1576) in a private sale.
$150M Contemporary Art Wing

Presently in the throes of an overall museum renovation, LACMA has hired Renzo Piano to design its $150 million contemporary art wing, which is slated to open in late 2008. The advent of the museum’s 40th anniversary last year has inspired increasing gifts of money and artworks, Govan reports.

“We received gifts from a lot of new donors, and we also experienced the strength of long-term patrons of the museum,” he says, adding that the increase in contributions reflected “the growth of Los Angeles as a major center of the art world.” In all, 1,566 artworks, with an estimated value of $40 million, entered the collection last year, which is nearly twice the museum’s average (dollarwise) during the past 20 years.

In 2006, contemporary art was the most active area of the art market; for many museums it comprised the largest single area of accessions.

The Art Institute of Chicago purchased a work by Nan Goldin (b. 1953)—a 43-minute, 720-image slide show, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1981-87)—from the artist’s New York dealer, the Matthew Marks Gallery. Perhaps most notable in this purchase was that two separate departments of the Art Institute, contemporary art and photography, joined together to finance the accession.

The Art Institute also received, as a fractional gift (ANL, 1/17, pp. 1-2), a porcelain Woman in Tub, 1988, by Jeff Koons (b. 1955). (The highest auction price for the sculpture was the $2.9 million paid at Christie’s in May 2001). The museum also acquired four wall drawings by Sol LeWitt (b. 1928) through a combination of gifts and endowment purchases; the color video Girls, Tricky, 2001, by Steve McQueen (b. 1969), and three photographs by Louise Lawler (b. 1947), through gifts; the 35 mm. color film Torqued Chandelier Release, 2005, by Rodney Graham (b. 1949), through an acquisitions fund; the sculpture Venus de Milo with Drawers, 1946, by Spanish Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí (1904-89), as a donation; and an untitled 1963 painting on paper by American sculptor David Smith (1905-65) as a purchase.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art also expanded its contemporary collection, picking up a series of 12 abstract paintings from 2005 by German artist Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) as a fractional gift; and a 2005 painting, Do the Dance, and nine preparatory drawings for it by American Elizabeth Murray (b. 1940), as a gift from some of the museum’s trustees. Yet another trustee declared a large-scale painting, The Propitious Garden of the Plane Image, Third Version, 2000-06, by Brice Marden (b. 1938), as a promised gift.

The Modern purchased two paintings—The Secretary of State and Demolition—by Belgian Luc Tuymans (b. 1958); an untitled glass sculpture by American Roni Horn (b. 1955); a wood sculpture, Orée, 1962, by Brazilian Sergio Camargo (1930-90); and an untitled 1963 painting by Brazilian Mira Schendel (1919-88).

The auxiliary print committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York,purchased two 2006 prints by Kiki Smith, Home and Still. Whitney board chairman Leonard A. Lauder gave the institution eight works by Smith, including prints, books, drawings and sculptures made of glass, bronze, cotton and hair, among other materials. “This really makes the Whitney a key repository of works by Kiki Smith,” said Whitney director Adam Weinberg.

Many of these works are now on view at the Whitney in the exhibition “Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005,” which runs through Feb. 11.

In 2006 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York,acquired approximately 80 contemporary artworks, which a spokeswoman described as “fairly level with overall numbers from the past two years, although a larger proportion this year—over half—were gifts or purchases with gifted funds.”

Among the highlights: This Is Not a Time for Dreaming, 2004, by Parisian digital artist Pierre Huyghe, winner of the 2002 Hugo Boss Prize; a double video projection, Zidane, a 21st-Century Portrait, 2006, by artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parenno;the installation Untitled (Dance Floor), 1996, by Piotr Uklanski; and photographs by Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Except for the works by Prince, all were purchased with either acquisition funds or gifted funds.

A variety of recently created works by contemporary artists entered the collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, last year, many of them purchased by the museum. These include: a 16-minute DVD by Kara Walker, 8 Possible Beginnings Or: The Creation of African-America, Parts 1-8, A Moving Picture, 2005; a multimedia piece, Deluxe, 2004-05, by Ellen Gallagher; the mixed-media Kitchen, 2005, by Kiki Smith; a 16 mm. film, Pine Flat, 2005,by Sharon Lockhart; and a 2005 untitled sculptural installation by Rirkrit Tiravanija.
Blockbuster Acquisitions at Auction

The Neue Galerie, New York, which had already benefited from Ronald Lauder’s acquisition of Gustave Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, last June (ANL, 7/5/07), also bought Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s much-prized Street Scene, Berlin at Christie’s in November for $38 million.

At Christie’s in October, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn., bought An Interior with Two Ladies and a Gentleman, 1776, by French painter Louis-Rolland Trinquesse (1745-circa 1800), for $968,000 (from the Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund), while the Detroit Institute of Arts purchased James McNeill Whistler’s small oil-on-panel Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers, 1893, at Cottone’s auction house, Mount Morris, N.Y., for $1 million.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass., which acquires most of its art through endowment-fund purchases from dealers and at auctions, says donations are actually quite rare. “We see collecting as a core activity,” Richard Rand, senior curator at the Clark told ARTnewsletter.

Last year the Clark collection, which specializes in 19th-century French and English art, gained an 1828 painting, Two Horses Fighting in a Stormy Landscape, by Eugène Delacroix (purchased through a Parisian broker); a variety of 19th-century photographs (from both auctions and dealers); a 1745 terra-cotta bust of French king Louis XV (bought at The European Fine Art Fair, Maastricht); and two drawings by Claude Monet:Man Holding a Snuff Box, 1858; and The Port of Touques, 1864 (one from a London dealer, the other from a New York gallery), among other pieces.

Another institution that tends to purchase most of its artworks is the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, which has actively pursued new acquisitions in 20th-century and contemporary photography. The museum presently is expanding its exhibition and conservation space for photographs from 1,700 to 7,000 square feet in a Richard Meier & Partners redesigned section of the institution’s West Pavilion.

The 2006 acquisitions in this field include works by Edie Adams, Robert Adams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Robert Capa, Imogen Cunningham, Leonard Freed, Nan Goldin, John Humble, Kenro Izu, André Kertész, Jerry Uelsmann and Minor White.

Additionally, the museum continues to pursue other areas of collecting, purchasing a drawing, Windmills on a Canal, 1660, by Dutch artist Anthonie van Borssom (ca.1629-77); the painting Exaltation of the Cross, 1680, by Spanish artist Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-90); and a book published in 2005 by artist Chris Burden (b. 1946), entitled Coyote Stories.

Acquisitions by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, included: a 16th-century Flemish tapestry designed by Karel van Mander the Elder (1548-1606), a purchase; The Penitent Magdalen, 1750, painted by Italian Corrado Giaquinto (1703-66), a gift; and a 1759 portrait of Moses Gill, painted by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), partly a purchase and partly a gift from Manhattan art dealer Martha Fleischman.

Among other gifts received by the Met: a picture by Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Number 28, 1950; and a photograph by Canadian artist Jeff Wall (b. 1946), The Storyteller, 1986.