The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has stepped up its efforts to expand and diversify its renowned collection of American art. The strategic plan, approved by PAFA’s Board of Trustees, calls for the growth of the collection through gift and purchase to fill gaps, including improving its holdings of Hudson River School artists, selected movements in 20th-century art, and contemporary art. In addition, PAFA seeks to add greater representation of works by women and African Americans.
“We are very excited about the focused attention we are placing on the development of PAFA’s already renowned collection of American art,” said David R. Brigham, PAFA President and CEO. “Recent acquisitions will enable us to more fully tell the story of American art and culture.”
Recent artwork purchased to begin addressing the strategic collecting initiative include Lilly Martin Spencer’s Mother and Child by the Hearth (1867), Philip Evergood’s Mine Disaster (1933), Dorothea Tanning’s Midi et Demi (Half past Noon) (1956-57), Norman Lewis’s Redneck Birth (1961), Nancy Spero’s At Their Word (The Sick Woman) (1957-58), The Great Mother, (1960) and The Bug, Helicopter, Victim (from her War series) (1966), Mickalene Thomas’s, Din Avec la Main Dans le Miroir (2008), Odili Donald Odita’s Future Perfect (2009), Mark Bradford’s Untitled: [Dementia] (2009).
PAFA’s purchases are being paid for by a combination of proceeds from endowment funds restricted for art acquisition and proceeds from deaccessioning. Five paintings from the collection have been sold to help fund the Collecting Plan: Autumn Still Life by William Merritt Chase (sold by Avery Galleries), Flowers (1893) by John H. Twachtman (sold by Menconi & Schoelkopf), Looking over Frenchman’s Bay at Green Mountain (1896) by Childe Hassam (sold by Avery Galleries), Bathers in a Cove (1916) by Maurice Prendergast (sold by Menconi & Schoelkopf), and Great White Herons (1933) by Frank Weston Benson (sold by Menconi & Schoelkopf).
Proceeds from these sales total approximately $5 million and are restricted to the purchase of works of art, in accordance with PAFA’s Collection Policy, which adheres to the professional standards of the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).
Works were chosen for deaccessioning through a systematic and comprehensive review of the collection, conducted by President and CEO David R. Brigham, Ph.D., and PAFA’s curators and conservator. In each case, the artists of deaccessioned works are represented in PAFA’s collection by more important examples and/or ones that relate better to core works in the permanent collection. The recommended works were reviewed by independent curators, scholars and PAFA’s Collections Committee and approved for sale by the Board of Trustees.
James C. Biddle, Chair of PAFA’s Collections Committee, remarked: “PAFA’s staff and Board have made an extremely thoughtful and responsible decision in deaccessioning these paintings. Working towards the goal of strengthening the Academy’s collection where needed, the sale of the paintings by artists who are represented in the collection by more significant works, will enable PAFA to make future noteworthy and necessary purchases.”
PAFA’s Board has also approved the sale of five additional works: Girl at Piano (ca. 1887) by Theodore Robinson (consigned to Menconi & Schoelkopf), Top of Cape Ann (1918) by Childe Hassam (consigned to Menconi & Schoelkopf), The Turkey (1927) by Arthur B. Carles (consigned to Menconi & Schoelkopf), Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia (1924) by Ernest Lawson (consigned to Menconi & Schoelkopf), and Still Life #1 (1827) by James Peale (consigned to Avery Galleries).
PAFA has also successfully attracted a number of important gifts that further support the Collecting Plan, most notably the remarkable recent gift from Linda Lee Alter of 400 works by such women artists as Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Faith Ringgold, and Miriam Schapiro. Other recent gifts include five drawings by Norman Lewis given by Billy E. Hodges, a group of 86 prints by Sue Coe and other contemporary works of art donated by the Sue Coe Archives, Tom and Judy Brody, Frances and Robert Kohler, and The Raymond K. Yoshida Living Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc. and Jared French’s silverpoint portrait of George Tooker presented to PAFA by Tooker.
PAFA will continue its ongoing efforts to build relationships with major national collectors of American art, utilizing a multi-faceted strategy for keeping collectors engaged through loans, meetings, and collector-specific programs.