Museum acquisitions have the power to truly transform institutions and this was especially the case for some in 2018. Here, we reflect at some of the most groundbreaking museum acquisitions of the year.
Baltimore Museum of Art
Deaccession of Blue Chip art to fund works by underrepresented artists
Almost all institution leaders talk about the need to diversify their collections but Christopher Bedford, the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art actually did it. In an unusual and radical act this year, the BMA sold blue-chip art from its collection including works by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and other 20th-century titans, to buy work by underrepresented artists. The proceeds from the sale of these works, all whom were by white men, exceeded $12 million and in June, the museum announced its first purchase. The collection of 23 works includes paintings, sculptures, films and photographs by female artists and artists of color like Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Amy Sherald.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Dwell: Aso Ebi (2017), Courtesy of the Artist
National Gallery, London
Artemis Gentileschi’s self-portrait
The Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi had quite the renaissance in the past few years, as her portrayal of strong women have hit home with the #metoo era. London’s National Gallery paid a record £3.6m for the recently discovered self-portrait as Saint Cetherine of Alexandria, months after it was bought for €2.4m at a Paris auction against an estimate of €350,000. The painting was only the 21st artwork by a female artist to enter the gallery’s collection of over 2,300 works and will be displayed at the National Gallery in early 2019 after undergoing conservation.
Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1615-17), Courtesy of the National Gallery
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Xu Bing’s controversial video
Six months after pulling Xu Bing’s controversial video from its exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World due to animal rights protests, New York’s Guggenheim acquired the work with funds from an anonymous donor. The ten-minute film shows a performance in China where two pigs, one stamped with Chinese and one with English nonsensical text having sex in front of a live audience, referencing the economic and cultural clash between the East and the West.
Xu Bing’s A Case Study of Transference (1994), Courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris
1,300 works from Claude and France Lemand
The Paris-based art dealer and collector Claude Lemand and his wife, France, donated over 1,300 works of art to the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, allowing the institution to announce a new focus on modern and contemporary arab art. It was one of the largest donations in the museum’s history and included funding to support future exhibitions, research and catalogue publication. Lemand, who started collecting in the 1980’s, said a donation “gives meaning to our lives”. The donation included works by some of the region’s biggest artists like Dia Al-Azzawi, Etel Adnan, Shafic Abboud, and Abdallah Benanteur.
Shafic Abboud, Confidences (1981), Courtesy of the Institut du Monde Arabe
M+, Hong Kong
Archive and future works of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries
The M+ museum in Hong Kong acquired the full archive of the Seoul-based artist group Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, as well as the rights to all their future works. The archive includes over 500 works, among them every single animation posted on the group’s website as well as their lectures, drafts and installations. In a statement, the museum said that the “globally unprecedented deal” with the internet art pioneers would continue for as long as they “make new work and present projects internationally”.
A still from Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industrie’s The Art of Sleep (2006), Courtesy of M+ Hong Kong