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Acquisitions of the Month: August 2023

31 August 2023

A round-up of the best works of art that have recently entered public collections

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C
Sentinel (2022), Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh originally created Sentinel (2022), a bronze sculpture of an abstracted female body standing at more than 16-feet tall, for the Venice Biennale in 2022, where she became the first Black woman to represent the United States. The vessel-like head of the sculpture recalls histories of labour and the consumption of the body, while the erasure of facial features at once makes reference to the historic obscurity of Black women and to the stylistic influence of African sculpture on modern Western art. Thanks to funds provided by the Glenstone Foundation, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has acquired a new edition of Sentinel – the first work by Leigh to enter the museum’s collections. It will go on show from September.

Van Abbemuseum and Eindhoven Museum, Eindhoven
Two chalk sketches by Jan Toorop

The Van Abbemuseum and the Eindhoven Museum have jointly acquired two drawings by the 20th–century artist Jan Toorop. Toorop was born in Indonesia but became a key member of the Amsterdam Impressionist movement. Depicting women working in the Mignot & De Block cigar factory – one of the largest in Amsterdam at the time – the drawings record an important moment in the city’s industrial history.

Two cigar makers in the tobacco factory of Mignot & De Block in Eindhoven (1918), Jan Toorop. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

Two cigar makers in the tobacco factory of Mignot & De Block in Eindhoven (1918), Jan Toorop. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Bélizaire and the Frey Children (c. 1837), Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans

Bélizaire and the Frey Children (c. 1837) represents an extremely rare depiction of an enslaved Black person with the family of his white enslaver. Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans was commissioned to make the work by the German-born merchant and banker Frederick Frey, featuring his three children Elizabeth, Léontine, and Frederick Jr. The Afro-Creole teenager, Bélizaire, who leans against a tree as he solemnly watches his charges, was painted out of the composition in the late 19th or early 20th century and has only recently been uncovered through a process of careful restoration.

Bélizaire and the Frey Children (c. 1837), Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Green Vault, Dresden
Chess set, with figures carved by Paul Heermann (1705), and board made by Paul Solanier (1705–09) 

In celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Green Vault, the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation has donated a 17th-century chess set made in Augsburg to the museum. The ornate 32-piece set, attributed to the baroque sculptor Paul Heermann, includes figurines of peasants and soldiers as well as war elephants – a reference to the Syrian Wars (192–188 BC). The chess set is thought to be among only three of its kind.

Sainsbury Centre, Norwich
Two reliefs by Sérgio de Camargo and Günther Uecker

Relief, Opus 267 (1970) by Sérgio de Camargo is a striking example of the Brazilian artist’s series of monochromatic white reliefs; produced in Paris from 1961 to 1974, the series demonstrates de Camargo’s fascination with the interplay of light and shadow. Diagonal Cut (1965) – created by the German sculpture Günther Uecker while he was part of Group Zero, a kinetic art group established by Otto Piene and Heinz Mack – captures the artist’s signature technique of hammering nails in to a board. Together, these two acquisitions by the Sainsbury Centre build on the museum’s already impressive holdings of reliefs, and will enable it to explore the ways that the medium developed in both Europe and South America.

Relief, Opus 267 (1970), Sérgio de Camargo. © Estate of Sergio de Camargo

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
Family (1955), Chang Ucchin

Last recorded on the occasion of its sale to the Japanese collector Sadao Shiozawa in 1964, Chang Ucchin’s Family (1955) had been presumed missing for decades. It was recently rediscovered in a cupboard of the Shiozawa family’s old atelier in the suburbs of Osaka by Bae Wonjung, the curator responsible for planning an exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul (‘The Most Honest Confession: Chang Ucchin’; 14 September–12 February 2024), which has now acquired the work.

Family (1955), Chang Ucchin. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul