There are few types of art news as sweet as those concerning museum acquisitions: works of art leaving the rough-and-tumble market or the hands of private collectors and entering into an institution’s collection—into the canon! There they will remain, hopefully, forever.
Today it is the Whitney Museum sharing the news of 417 works it has acquired over the past year, which involves 62 artists entering the collection for the first time, including Yuji Agematsu, Mary Beth Edelson, Gran Fury, Marlon Mullen, Ming Smith, Sable Elyse Smith, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. (A special bonus for these newcomers: all artists in the Whitney collection receive a special card allowing lifetime free admission to the museum.)
One could spend a very enriching day looking through the the full list of acquisitions—that follows below—but here are a few key additions.
The artist collective Gran Fury has donated seven of its incisive political posters concerning the AIDS crisis and sexism, dated from 1988 to 1991.
Two works by Faith Ringgold are also now in the Whitney’s hands—her poster United States of Attica (1971), which is also on view in the exhibition “Soul of a Nation” at the Brooklyn Museum right now, and the drawing Hate Is a Sin (2007), which features its title crossing a Confederate Flag and a text circling it that begins: “The first time I was called a Nigger was at the Whitney Museum in NYC . . .” (The former is a gift from ACA Galleries in the artist’s honor; the latter is a purchase through the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.)
On the emerging-artist front, four works by Bunny Rogers, who had a show at the Whitney last year, have entered the collection—three as purchases, one as a gift from the Simkins Family. And a delicate, detailed graphite drawing of a building facade by Milano Chow has been purchased with funds from Laurie Tisch. Two large framed drawings by Kyle Thurman have been donated by the art adviser Alex Glauber, and two major works by Sable Elyse Smith—inkjet prints affixed to sueded mat board—have been purchased.
A few of the acquisitions had previously been reported, like an extremely rare Florine Stettheimer (little of her work is in private hands) through a bequest of William Kelly Simpson in honor of his father and mother, and Dread Scott’s flag A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday (2015), which was purchased through the director’s discretionary fund.
Certain estates and foundations also helped make acquisitions happen. Three Sylvia Sleigh paintings were given by the artist’s estate, including a 1973 work called Watergate Diptych, which features scenes from those hearings. A 1960 Leon Polk Smith was given by his foundation. And the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation gave funds to acquire a Mierle Laderman Ukeles masterpiece, I Make Maintenance Art One Hour Every Day (1976), in conjunction with the museum’s photography committee.
Also juicy: photography collector Harold Berg gave more than 40 photographs by Gordon Matta-Clark. And the dealer and adviser Lois Plehn gave three works in honor of the museum’s chief curator, Scott Rothkopf, and publisher Jonathan Burnham: a 1980 Jonathan Borofsky, a 1987 Ashley Bickerton, and a 1992 Robert Gober. Plehn also gave a drawing by Si Lewen in honor of the Si Lewen Art Museum at the International Institute for Restorative Practices, which is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Some of the freshly acquired pieces have been or are on view right now at the museum, but most have not. Looking forward to seeing a few of them on view soon! Below, the list.
Whitney Museum of American Art: New Acquisitions, September 2017–September 2018