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Contemporary Art Tops ’07 Museum Acquisitions

Amid the continuing boom in museum expansions, 2007 was another active year of acquisitioning for U.S. institutions, with many emphasizing contemporary art, the fastest-rising sector of today’s robust art market.

NEW YORK—Amid the continuing boom in museum expansions, 2007 was another active year of acquisitioning for U.S. institutions, with many emphasizing contemporary art, the fastest-rising sector of today’s robust art market. Museums surveyed by ARTnewsletter report that major purchases and gifts ran the gamut from antiquities to Old Masters to Impressionist and modern art, photographs and cutting-edge contemporary works. Here are reports from some museums around the country:

• The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y., drew fire for deaccessioning more than 200 older artworks in order to strengthen its collection of contemporary pieces. Nonetheless it succeeded in raising $67.2 million, including $28.6 million for a bronze figure of the Greek hunter-goddess, Artemis and the Stag, circa first century A.D., at several auctions last year. The museum has been able to increase its restricted acquisitions endowment, which currently stands at $92 million. “We’ll be drawing out about 5 percent a year for acquisitions, say, $4.5/5 million a year,” director Louis Grachos told ARTnewsletter.

Some of the museum’s cash already has gone toward the purchase of new works in 2007, including a copy of Matthew Barney’s 21⁄2-hour video Drawing Restraint 9, 2005; an hourlong video, Green Horses, 1988, by Bruce Nauman (a joint acquisition with the Whitney Museum of American Art, Manhattan); a large-scale, untitled 2002 sculpture by Rachel Whiteread (a joint acquisition with the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh); and a black-pencil wall drawing by Sol LeWitt, created shortly before his death last year. Other pieces Albright-Knox has acquired in the past year are by Mona Hatoum, Fred Sandback, John Simon and Robert Therrien.

The additional money has helped the museum “feel we have more flexibility, not only to track and acquire the work of young artists early in their careers, but to go after more established artists, like Nauman and LeWitt,” says Grachos. “It has also given us the ability to act quickly and spontaneously when an opportunity arises.” Grachos hopes to use the funds to “fill in some of the holes” in the collection and to broaden the museum’s holdings in new media.

• The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is nearing completion of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, a new LACMA building made possible by a $50 million gift from Los Angeles collectors Edythe L. and Eli Broad (see story p. 4). The Broads gave an additional $10 million for contemporary art purchases. Last year LACMA bought one of sculptor Andrea Zittel’s A-Z Homestead Units, along with Richard Serra’s monumental Band, 2005.

The museum enhanced its European collection by acquiring St. Martina, circa 1635-40, by Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), with funds provided by the Ahmanson Foundation, Los Angeles.

LACMA also received a major donation, reportedly worth more than $100 million, from Los Angeles collectors Janice and Henri Lazarof, who gave a 130-work collection of modern art as a fractional and promised gift. Included are: works by Constantin Brancusi (two sculptures); Georges Braque; Edgar Degas; Alberto Giacometti (seven bronzes and a painting); Wassily Kandinsky; Paul Klee (11 paintings); Fernand Léger; Henry Moore; Pablo Picasso (20 drawings, paintings and sculptures); and Camille Pissarro (three paintings).

LACMA’s American art collection was boosted by a donation from the Raymond J. and Margaret Horowitz Foundation: a 40-by-32-inch painting by George Bellows, Emma in the Purple Dress, 1919.

• Also in Los Angeles, the J. Paul Getty Museum purchased a wide range of artworks in 2007. Among them: several drawings by Paul Gauguin, including The Nightmare, 1899; a Jacques Joseph Tissot oil, Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, 1866; Claude Lorrain’s painting Coast View with the Abduction of Europa, 1645; Tim Hawkinson’s photographic collage Octopus; and a trove of 834 photographs of war and social upheaval by Felice Beato (1825-1908).

San Francisco Modern Adds to Ruscha Trove

• Last year the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) purchased a 1987 painting by Ed Ruscha, Parts Per Trillion, adding to the institution’s already sizable collection of the artist’s books, paintings, photographs and works on paper. (Local collectors Eileen and Peter Michael further enhanced the museum’s Ruscha collection with a gift of 142 chromogenic prints created in 2005.)

Other notable SFMOMA purchases include: a 1991 multimedia sculpture by Ann Hamilton, a 1963 blue fluorescent light tube by Dan Flavin, a 1978 assemblage sculpture by David Ireland, a 2006 chromogenic photograph by Rineke Dijkstra, and video installations by Dennis Oppenheim, Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson.

• The postwar collection of Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art benefited from the purchase of a 1963 etching on newspaper by Gerhard Hoehme (1920-89), Die Zeitung; Alfred Jensen’s 1978 painting Twelve Events in a Dual Universe; an untitled 1976 sculpture by Robert Morris (b. 1931); a 2001 etching by Martin Puryear (b. 1941); Ruscha’s 2006 drawing The End #68; a 2003 portfolio of ten color works, Etchings for Federico Garcia Lorca, by Sean Scully (b. 1945); and a 1990 lithograph by Kiki Smith (b. 1954).

Largest Collection of Johns Prints

The National Gallery’s collectors committee provided most of the funding for these acquisitions. The museum also entrenched its position as holder of the largest collection anywhere of Jasper Johns prints by purchasing the artist’s own collection of his works—1,700 reliefs and screenprints. The price, reportedly reaching several million dollars, is being paid over a period of years, with money coming from trustees and the endowment fund.

• Other major museums strengthened their contemporary art holdings. In October the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., purchased 39 conceptual art pieces from contemporary art collector Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo. Among these were works by Robert Barry, Hanne Darboven, Robert Irwin, On Kawara, Joseph Kosuth, LeWitt, Nauman and Doug Wheeler. Estimated at a reported $5/7 million, the collection was obtained for less, reports indicate.

• The Miami Art Museum, Fla., which is moving ahead on a new $200 million building overlooking Biscayne Bay (targeted for completion in 2011), purchased an 8-by-6-foot painting by Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977), Regard the Class Struggle as a Main Link in the Chain, 2007. Funds were generated from the museum’s collectors council.

• In other mediums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, did well as both the buyer and recipient of photographs, particularly those by Diane Arbus. Her daughters Amy and Doon authorized the donation of Arbus’ entire archives—consisting of 7,500 rolls of film, negatives, early prints, diaries, correspondence and other treasures for scholars.

The Met also purchased, for a reported $5 million, 20 of the photographer’s most notable works from San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery, which represents Arbus’ estate (ANL, 12/25/07, pp. 3-4).

Through purchases the Met also obtained other photographs, including an early 1930s nude by Brassaï; a 1943 black-and-white abstract of sunlight on water by Harry Callahan; a 1985 black-and-white print, Arches, by James Casebere; and a 2005 series of eight color prints by Chinese artist Hai Bo.

In the modern and contemporary art field, the Met bought a wood sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, Oval Form with Strings and Color, 1966, and received as gifts a 1998 oil on canvas, Wall of Light White, by Scully, as well as drawings by Lucian Freud and Arshile Gorky.

MoMA Lands Kentridge and Kippenberger Works

• The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, purchased William Kentridge’s 2005 model Preparing the Flute; a monumental 1997 aluminum sculpture, Crushed Metro Station, by Martin Kippenberger (1953-97); two untitled 2002 paintings by Scottish artist Lucy McKenzie (b. 1977); and a 1989 aluminum sculpture, Tanya as a Bandit, by Cady Noland (b. 1956). MoMA received as gifts a set of vitrines, ca. 1948-82, by German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86), which were donated by museum trustee Maja Oeri.

And with the recent appointment of Kathy Halbreich, former director of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, to MoMA’s newly created position of associate director for contemporary art, observers predict the museum will become more aggressive in its pursuit of contemporary acquisitions.

• As part of its Asian Arts initiative, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, bought several works by contemporary Asian artists, including a drawing by Cai Guo Qiang, who will be the subject of an upcoming retrospective at the museum; a large-scale installation by Moriko Mori; a video by Cao Fei; and photographs by Zhang Huan and

O Zhang.

• The Cleveland Museum of Art’s purchase of 171 Surrealist-era photographs from collector David Raymond, through Manhattan dealer Charles Isaacs, has added to the institution’s growing photography collection.

Also of note: The Cleveland Museum purchased an 11th-century sculpture, Shiva as Brahma, from Sotheby’s last March for $4 million. (The Shiva was among works that had been deaccessioned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.)

• Elsewhere, the Indianapolis Museum of Art purchased a mixed-media-on-canvas, 2004 painting by Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca (b. 1961), Everything, and the Dallas Museum of Art bought a 1985 oil on canvas, Electric Painting, by German Jorg Immendorff (1945-2007).

• A list of 17 donors from the community and from African-American art scholar David C. Driskell also enabled the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo., to acquire a mural study for Aspects of Negro Life: An Idyll of the Deep South, by the Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas.

•The Dallas Museum of Art purchased “Equilibres,” a series of 82 photographs from the mid-1980s by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, who have collaborated for nearly three decades now.

• The Art Institute of Chicago acquired approximately 760 objects in 2007, which was described by a spokesperson as a “typical year,” though lower in its number of acquisitions than during the two prior years: 950 in ’06; 808 in ’05.

Among the works that entered the Art Institute’s collection in 2007: a drawing, Departure (with the Sled), 1950, by German artist Richard Oelze (1900-80); a drawing by British artist Sir David Wilkie, Guess My Name, 1821; an oil on panel by Piero di Cosimo, Virgin and Child with the Young St. John the Baptist, Saint Cecilia and Angels, ca. 1505; and two large-scale paintings by Cy Twombly (b. 1928). The museum also purchased Claude Cahun’s Surrealist Object, 1936, to enhance its growing collection of two- and three-dimensional Surrealist works. All but the Twombly were purchases.

As spelled out in the will of Richard S. Zeisler (1917-2007), a private investor who was born in Chicago but lived mainly in Manhattan, 16 institutions around the country were bequeathed artworks from his collection, including both the Guggenheim and the Art Institute of Chicago. The Guggenheim received what it called “a significant group of paintings and works on paper,” including pieces by Max Beckmann, Juan Gris, Yves Tanguy and Edouard Vuillard; and the Art Institute received ten works by such artists as Klee, Le Corbusier and Gino Severini.

Another Chicagoan, Brooks McCormick— great-grandnephew of Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-84), inventor of the mechanical reaper and a onetime trustee of the Art Institute—died in 2006, leaving the museum 11 works from his collection, including paintings by Paul Cézanne, Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, as well as a monotype by Degas.