Apollo Magazine

Acquisitions of the month: April 2018

Chris Ofili’s notorious ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’ goes to MoMA and the Baltimore Museum of Art updates its contemporary art collection

Still Life with Bottles and a Cowrie Shell, Vincent Van Gogh

Still Life with Bottles and a Cowrie Shell (detail; 1884), Vincent Van Gogh Photo: Marjo van de Peppel-Kool; Courtesy Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch

A round-up of the best works of art to enter public collections recently

Noordbrabants Museum, ’s-Hertogenbosch
Still Life with Bottles and Cowrie Shell (1884), Vincent Van Gogh

With this important early still life, the Noordbrabants Museum acquires its third work by Van Gogh in as many years, and moves closer to realising its intention to ‘offer a permanent representative overview of Van Gogh’s Brabant period’. The work was purchased from a private collection for £2.5m.

National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
Two portraits by Sir Henry Raeburn (c. 1809–11)

These two portraits by Henry Raeburn have entered the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. The paintings depict the two eldest sons of banker and art collector William Forbes, and were commissioned when the boys were around seven years of age between 1809 and 1811. Their transfer into public ownership from the Forbes of Pitsligo Collection settled £631,600 of tax. Prior to the allocation, the National Galleries of Scotland held only one example of Raeburn’s child portraiture.

John Stuart Hepburn Forbes, later 8th Baronet of Monymusk and of Fettercairn and Pitsligo (1804–66) (c. 1809–11), Henry Raeburn. Courtesy National Galleries of Scotland

Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Holy Virgin Mary (1996), Chris Ofili

This work by British artist Chris Ofili, in which a black Virgin Mary is depicted adorned with real elephant dung, was at the centre of a major controversy in 1999 when New York’s then-mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to cut funding to the Brooklyn Museum for exhibiting the painting. Now it has been donated by collector Steve Cohen to the permanent collection at MoMA, joining around 30 works by Ofili currently in the institution’s collection.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ten works acquired through Collectors’ Committee Weekend

At this year’s annual Collectors’ Committee Weekend LACMA raised around $2.65m for the acquisition of ten new artworks, half of which have been made by women in the last 100 years. Included among these was Betye Saar’s I’ll Bend But I Will Not Break (1998), an installation juxtaposing imagery taken from an 18th-century slave ship and the KKK.

I’ll Bend But I Will Not Break (1998), Betye Saar. Photo: Tim Lanterman/Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art; Courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California; © Betye Saar

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Maine
Collections of Marion Boulton ‘Kippy’ Stroud and Walter Pach

The acquisition of two significant private collections was announced simultaneously by Bowdoin, whose modern and contemporary holdings have accordingly increased by more than 1,500 objects. The Stroud collection, from the estate of the late founder of Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, includes nearly 350 works from artists including Alfredo Jaar, Carrie Mae Weems and Ann Hamilton. The archive of curator Walter Pach (1883–1958) includes some 1,200 objects, ranging from books and sketchbooks to paintings and prints.

Bird’s Nest (2000), Kazumi Tanaka. Courtesy Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Baltimore Museum of Art
Nine works by contemporary artists

The Baltimore Museum of Art has acquired nine works by six artists including Mark Bradford, Jack Whitten, Trevor Paglen, and Sarah VanDerBeek as part of a broader move to diversify its contemporary holdings. The decision to acquire works by these artists was announced at the same time as the museum’s deaccessioning of seven works by white, male post-war artists already represented in its collection, including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Franz Kline. Museum director Christopher Bedford said the museum’s aim was to build ‘a collection which is more relevant to the community it serves’.

White Nude (2013), Sarah VanDerBeek. © Sara VanDerBeek