After ending its long-term partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year amid a dispute over the museum’s renovation, the Ahmanson Foundation has brought its business to another California institution.
On Monday, the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino said that the 70-year-old foundation will begin gifting artworks to the institution and supporting the institution’s purchases of European and American art. The first work entering the Huntington’s collection under the new agreement is Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole’s landscape Portage Falls on the Genesee (1839). The seven-foot-tall painting was previously on display at the mansion of a Civil War–era politician, now a museum in upstate New York.
“This is absolutely transformative for The Huntington’s art museum, enabling us to add masterpieces on a regular basis,” said Huntington president Karen R. Lawrence in an email to ARTnews. Over the course of the 45-year partnership with the Huntington, the foundation has provided around $30 million in funding.
LACMA’s partnership with the Ahmanson Foundation transformed the museum’s holdings, allowing it to add much-loved works by Georges de la Tour, Rembrandt, and more to its collection. With more than $1.2 billion in assets as of 2020, the Ahmanson Foundation had also aided LACMA by funding educational programs and supporting environmentally minded initiatives.
When the foundation terminated its relationship with LACMA, it was seen as a major blow to the museum. The Ahmanson Foundation expressed concern over the museum’s renovation plans, which were to see some of the gifts of European art removed from public view and a LACMA building titled after the foundation be replaced by an exhibition hall named for David Geffen. The music industry mogul gave $150 million to the construction project.
“Now that LACMA is no longer in the position to exhibit additional works, a new venue was sought,” William Ahmanson, the foundation’s president, said in an email to ARTnews. “This acquisition of the Thomas Cole Portage Falls on the Genesee continues that tradition. The Huntington is a museum that continues to be good stewards of its permanent collection, but also has the capacity and desire to strengthen their collection.”
The Huntington’s initiative is focused on enabling the museum to buy historically valuable works produced between the 15th and 20th centuries. The gifting program will mirror that of the partnership with LACMA, which allowed museum curators to propose specific works for acquisition to the foundation, but the specifics of the Huntington’s arrangement were not made publicly available.
Lawrence described the partnership as a means of “activating our collections to connect the past to the present while [also] looking toward the future.”