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The Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins' 1875 masterpiece, is back at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it hangs when it is not at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The back-and-forth travels of this monumental painting, owned jointly by the two institutions since a dramatic public fund-raising campaign ended in its acquisition in 2006, have almost always been marked by something special: a complete cleaning and restoration of the picture, for instance; or its installation in an unusual setting, such as a 2011 exhibition focusing on the human body at PAFA, where Eakins taught and was famously fired for showing too much of the male anatomy to female art students.

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“The architect Frank Gehry’s design for a renovation and expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be unveiled on July 1 in an exhibition at the museum on Benjamin Franklin Parkway,” the New York Times reports. “The show, ‘Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art,’ will offer a first look at the architect’s large-scale models, site plans, sections and renderings of the project.”

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Thursday, 09 January 2014 18:26

Philadelphia Museum of Art to Receive Major Gift

Keith L. Sachs, the former chief executive of Saxco International, a packaging distribution company, and his wife, Katherine, have been longtime supporters of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The institution announced this week that it will receive 97 works from the couple’s collection of contemporary paintings, sculptures and drawings. The gift, which is estimated to be worth nearly $70 million, includes works by Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly and Gerhard Richter.

In honor of the Sachs’ generous donation, the museum will name its modern and contemporary art galleries the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Galleries. An exhibition of the collection is slated for the summer of 2016. 

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On December 18, the Philadelphia Museum of Art announced that it had successfully completed a five-year, $54 million campaign to endow 29 staff positions across the institution’s full range of operational departments. The campaign began in 2008 after the museum received a $27 million grant from H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, then chairman of the institution’s board of trustees, and his wife, Marguerite. The campaign challenged donors to match the grant, million for million, in exchange for the right to endow and name the positions.

The Lenfests, who have donated over $100 million to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to date, are the institution’s largest financial donors. Their challenge was met by 27 donors, 19 of whom are making their first gift of such magnitude.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s endowment now totals $408 million.     

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Friday, 13 December 2013 18:04

The Getty’s Curator of Paintings to Retire

Scott Schaefer, the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Senior Curator of Paintings, will retire on January 21, 2014. Schaefer joined the Getty in 1999 after stints at Sotheby’s, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Schaefer, who helmed the Getty’s Paintings department for four years, helped the museum acquire a total of 70 paintings and pastels and five sculptures. Among the most important recent acquisitions are the Getty’s first paintings by Paul Gauguin, J.M.W. Turner’s Modern Rome, and a rare self-portrait by Rembrandt.

Timothy Potts, the Getty’s director, said, “Through his acquisitions, Scott has made an impact on every one of the Museum’s paintings galleries and, in particular, transformed our eighteenth-century French collection. We will miss his discerning eye, keen intelligence and above all his unswerving commitment to the Museum.”

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents The Surrealists: Works from the Collection, an exhibition dedicated to one of the most significant art movements of the 20th century. The show spans from the mid-1920s to the late 1940s, when Surrealism flourished, and traces the movements roots in Paris to its acceptance by a broader international audience.

The exhibition contains approximately 100 works from the Philadelphia Museum’s collection as well as period journals, catalogues and archival materials. Some of the most celebrated Surrealists are represented in the show including Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Dorothea Tanning. The Surrealists presents a comprehensive survey of one of the most cohesive, long-lasting and idiosyncratic movements of the 20th century.

The Surrealists: Works from the Collection will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through March 2, 2014.

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013 17:46

Rare Vermeer Painting on View in Philadelphia

Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, one of only 36 known paintings by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, is currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The canvas, which is on loan from the private Leiden Collection, will remain on view through March 2014. The painting is the only remaining work by the artist still in private hands.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which boasts the largest collection of 17th century Dutch paintings in North America, has given Young Woman Seated at a Virginal its own wall in the museum’s galleries of European art. The work is accompanied by the Leiden Collection’s own Portrait of Samuel Ampzing by Frans Hals, another master of 17th century Dutch painting.

Scholars have long known about Vermeer’s rendering of a solitary woman but disagreed over its authenticity. Scientific and art historical studies started in the 1990s ultimately proved that Vermeer was, in fact, the painting’s creator. Recent analysis has provided further proof, finding that its canvas is from the same bolt of cloth that Vermeer used for his famous painting Lacemaker, which currently resides in the Louvre.

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents the exhibition Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, an interdisciplinary show that sheds new light on the experimental decade of the 1920s in Paris. During that time, Fernand Léger, a French modernist painter, played an important role in redefining painting by engaging with the urban environment as well as mass media.

The cornerstone of the exhibition will be Léger’s The City (1919), which is also a pivotal part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection. The show will include other works by the artist that explore the city theme as well as film projections, theater designs, architectural models, and print and advertising designs by Léger as well as his contemporaries including Piet Mondrian, Le Corbusier and Many Ray.

Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, presents over 120 works, including loans from American and European public and private collections. The exhibition will be on view through January 5, 2014.

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A necklace by the American sculptor Alexander Calder, which was purchased at a flea market for $15 in 2005, will be sold at Christie’s this fall. The brass necklace from 1938 is expected to bring between $200,000 and $300,000.

Philadelphia resident Norma Ifill spotted the rare necklace while she was browsing a local flea market. She was drawn to the piece’s tribal aesthetic but it wasn’t until she visited a Calder jewelry exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum that she realized she had a true treasure in her possession. Ifill spoke with the exhibition’s curator and later took the necklace to the Calder Foundation in New York, where her find was deemed a genuine Calder. She also learned that the piece was once on display at the Museum of Modern Art.

The necklace will be offered on September 26, 2013 at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art auction.

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First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia, which opens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on July 13, 2013, will present a selection of works from the 8,000 individual acquisitions the institution has made since July 1, 2008. The generosity of various donors is hugely responsible for the collection that is presented to museum visitors each day. Whether it is artworks or funds to make purchases, donations have helped sustain the institution since its founding in 1876.

First Look presents a cross-section of the many works acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the past five years, most of which will be on view for the first time. The new acquisitions span centuries, continents and media. Highlights include paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827).

 First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through September 8, 2013.

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