The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) recently announced a gift of the collection of art by women from Philadelphia art collector and artist Linda Lee Alter. This collection includes approximately 400 works of art spanning the 1910s to the present in all media and by a wide range of artists from the well-known to the underappreciated.
It includes works by artists PAFA does not yet have in its collection such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Joan Brown, Viola Frey, Ana Mendieta, Christina Ramberg, and Beatrice Wood (among others) to complementary works by artists already in the collection such as Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, Gertrude Abercrombie, Edna Andrade, Sue Coe, Janet Fish, Sarah McEneaney, Gladys Nilsson, Elizabeth Osborne, Betye Saar, Nancy Spero, and many others.
Realizing that art by women artists was underrepresented in most art museums, Linda Lee Alter started collecting art by women artists in the 1980s, creating a significant collection of art by women with a distinct character and diversity museums would want. Alter states, “My hope was to find a museum emphasizing inclusion and diversity; one working toward greater representation of art by women and artists of color in its permanent collection, exhibitions and outreach programs; where the art by women would be fully accessible to students, teachers, scholars and the general public; and where my collection would be enthusiastically welcomed because it embodied the institution’s vision.”
Robert Cozzolino, PAFA’s curator of Modern Art, says, “Over the years, we have been impressed with the depth and reach of Lee’s collection, and her commitment to adding the voices of women to the story of American art. The gift greatly enhances our holdings of work by women and allows us to more fully examine the place of women artists in the canon of American art.”
“Lee has decided that PAFA is her preferred institution, and we are truly grateful for this very important gift,” adds David R. Brigham, PAFA’s president and CEO. “At PAFA this work will be integrated into how we present and teach art history, featured in rotating installations, highlighted in special exhibitions, brought to bear on the studio and liberal arts curriculum, included in public programming for all ages, and will be digitized and published in its entirety.”
Linda Lee Alter, whose collection includes ceramics, photography, painting, sculpture, assemblage, as well as works on paper, believes that her goal has been accomplished: “The Academy has warmly welcomed my collection. It is the home for the art by women I’d always hoped to find.”
Works from the Linda Lee Alter gift will be on view at PAFA by late spring, and a comprehensive catalog of the collection is planned in the near future.