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Tuesday, 18 December 2012 13:28

Foremost Collector of Japanese Art Dies at 96

Mary Griggs Burke, who built the most comprehensive collection of Japanese art outside of Japan, passed away on December 8, 2012 at her home in Manhattan. She was 96.

Burke’s collection, which she amassed over fifty years, featured thousands of artifacts including paintings, prints, sculpture, textiles, lacquerware, ceramics, and calligraphy. Worth tens of millions of dollars, her meticulously assembled collection spans five millenniums and includes early pieces from around 3000 B.C. to works of the 19th century A.D.

Burke was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1916, where she grew up in a Victorian mansion adorned with 18th century French objets d’art as well as a few important Japanese artifacts. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1938 from Sarah Lawrence College and a master’s in clinical psychology from Columbia, Burke traveled to Japan in 1954. Japanese-influenced Bauhaus architect, Walter Gropius, who was designing a house for Burke, suggested the visit. Burke immediately fell in love with Japan and its art and returned to the country dozens of times throughout her life.

Burke began avidly collecting Japanese art in 1963. Her holdings eventually grew so vast that they required their own residence. Burke purchased the apartment adjacent to her own on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to house her collection; she also employed a curatorial staff and encouraged students and scholars to visit. In 2006, Burke announced that after her death her collection would be divided between the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Burke served on the boards of many institutions, including the Met. At the time of her death she was an emeritus trustee of the museum.       

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When the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened its doors for the first time in Bentonville, Arkansas on November 11, 2011, the institution presented about 450 works of art, nearly half of its entire holdings. A little over a year later, the Crystal Bridges’ collection has ballooned and now includes over 2,000 artworks thanks to an active acquisition program led by Executive Director Don Bacigalupi, museum curators, and a solid leadership board. Within the past year, the Crystal Bridges Museum has acquired five sculptures, eight paintings, one mixed media work, 468 prints, and 504 works on paper, including photographs, drawings, and watercolors.

Museum officials were particularly excited to acquire a large painting by Abstract Expressionist artist, Mark Rothko, titled No. 210/No.2011 (Orange) (1960) and held an official unveiling back in October. The piece, which has only been exhibited twice in public, is currently part of the museum’s temporary exhibition, See the Light: The Luminist Tradition in American Art. After the show closes in late January, the Rothko work will be moved to the museum’s Twentieth-Century Art Gallery.

Other major acquisition include a portrait by American folk artist Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), titled Woman in Black Ruffled Dress (circa 1835); a neoclassical white marble sculpture completed in 1867 by William Wetmore Story (1819-1895); a contemporary mixed-media work from the early 1980s by Californian artist Miriam Schapiro (b. 1923); and a large painting titled Tobacco Sorters (1942-44) by the twentieth-century American artist, Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), which was commissioned by the American Tobacco Company.

A private collector who specialized in early twentieth-century works facilitated the major growth in the museum’s print department. The recent acquisitions vary in style from Benton’s Regionalism to Charles Sheeler’s (1883-1965) Precisionism and include drypoints, etchings, engravings, lithographs, screenprints, woodcuts, and wood engravings. A selection of recently acquired prints will be part of the temporary exhibition Art Under Pressure: Early Twentieth Century American Prints, which will be on view from December 21 through April 22, 2013.

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Designed by Renzo Piano, the museum that houses the collection of John de Menil and Dominique de Menil opened to the public 25 years ago. A sold-out gala is being held tonight, November 29, to celebrate. The fete has raised $2.2 million, exceeding its $1.5 million goal. This is only the third gala held by the Menil Collection as the institution already boasts an endowment of approximately $200 million thanks to support from the board, donors, and corporate sponsors.

The theme of the night will be “Celebration in Blue,” a tribute to Yves Klein, an important figure in post-war European art and a personal friend of the Menils. Among the 700 guests will be Pablo Picasso’s grandson, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, philanthropist Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, and hedge fund chief John D. Arnold.

A silent auction will also be held at the gala. The 31 lots include works by Ed Ruscha, Olafur Eliasson, and Richard Serra. Proceeds will support operations and exhibitions. The museum plans to expand their contemporary art collection and hope to build the Menil Drawing Institute to house and exhibit modern and contemporary works.

The free museum features over 15,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books from the 20th century, all of which were once part of the Menils extensive private art holdings. Included in the impressive collection are works by Paul Cezanne, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollack.

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Paris’ Musee du Louvre and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum, announced that they have reached a mutual agreement and will collaborate on a series of exhibitions and exchanges. The institutions will share works from their incendiary collections over the course of the next five years including antiquities, paintings, decorative arts, prints, drawings, textiles, and sculptures.

The Louvre and Fine Arts Museums have been working on the arrangement for the past two years and will celebrate its commencement with the exhibition, Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette. The show, which opened on November 17 and features a collection of decorative arts from the French monarchy, will be on view through March 17, 2013.

The agreement will allow each world-renowned institution to broaden their international reach and inhabitants of each city will have a new selection of masterpieces to view. Loans between the museums may include entire exhibitions or single objects.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012 00:10

Warhol Foundation Auction Hits $17 Million

Held at Christie’s in New York this past Monday, the first in a series of auctions to benefit the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts brought in over $17 million. The sale featured over 354 works by Andy Warhol including prints and photographs. Online auctions will begin this coming February.

Many works exceeded their high estimates including Jackie, a screen print and paper collage of Jacqueline Kennedy that had a high estimate of $300,000 and sold for $626,000 as well as Self Portrait in Fright Wig which was estimated at $12,000-$18,000 and sold for $50,000. The biggest sale of the night was a print featuring a butterfly titled Endangered Species: San Francisco Silverspot that reached over $1.2 million.

Profits from the sale will go towards the foundation’s endowment, and will help the organization to expand their contributions to the visual arts.

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Tuesday, 30 October 2012 12:38

Getty Museum Receives Gift of Rare Prints

The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles has acquired a number of 18th and 19th century prints by James Ensor (Belgian, 1860 – 1949) and Jean-Jacques de Boissieu (French, 1736 – 1810). An anonymous collector gifted the works to the museum. “Prints are a significant collecting priority for us,” said Marcia Reed, chief curator of special collections at the Getty. The gift will flesh out the museum’s already impressive Ensor holdings and will add a solid representation of Boissieu’s work.

Among the Ensor prints are three hand-colored etchings that are exceptional examples of his work from the 1890s, the period that is considered to be his artistic peak. Two of the three prints were inspired by Edgar Allen Poe stories and bear the skeletons, masks, and crowds of people that Ensor often included in his work. The Getty already has a compilation of Ensor’s correspondence and manuscripts including 100 signed postcards and letters, 16 prints, and his masterpiece, Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889 in its collection.

The gift of Boissieu’s work includes 23 etchings that span the artist’s career. Well-known as a painter and draftsman, Boissieu was also a renowned printmaker and was highly regarded for his work during the 18th century. The collection includes several sheets of Boissieu’s studies of heads – both human and animal.

The Getty Museum plans to host a major, monographic exhibition of Ensor’s work in 2014. The show will include the prints gifted to the Research Institute.


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After twenty-two years, Nicholas Capasso will be leaving his post at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA. Capasso, who is currently the deCordova’s deputy director for Curatorial Affairs, has been named the new director of the Fitchburg Art Museum and will start his latest venture on December 3.

During his time at the deCordova, Capasso has overseen a permanent collection that included 3,500 objects, changing gallery exhibitions, and an outdoor sculpture park. He helped to bring recognition to the institution and to reposition it as an important contemporary museum.

While Capasso specializes in contemporary art, he is eager to work with the Fitchburg Art Museum’s collection that spans more than 5,000 years and includes American and European paintings, prints, drawings, ceramics, decorative arts, and Greek, Roman, Asian, and pre-Columbian antiquities. The Museum’s collection, which is housed between twelve galleries, includes works by William Zorach, John Singleton Copley, Joseph Stella, Edward Hopper, Charles Burchfield, Charles Sheeler, Walker Evans, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Capasso will take over the role of director from the soon-to-be-retired Peter Timms who has held the position since 1973.

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The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Christie's jointly announced today that the Foundation has engaged Christie's for future sales of Andy Warhol's work from its collection. Recognizing that the arts community needs its support now more than ever, the Foundation seeks to significantly increase its endowment in order to ensure and expand its long-term support of the visual arts. Toward this goal, Christie's will conduct phased sales over a period of years using multiple platforms, including single artist live auctions, private sales and continuing online auctions, bringing a wide range of Warhol's art - much of which has never before been seem by the public at large - to existing as well as new collectors worldwide. At the same time, the Foundation also plans to mark its 25th Anniversary by making additional gifts of significant works to museums, continuing its long history of donating Warhol's art.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Ats was created at the late artist's direction for the purpose of advancing the visual arts. Since its founding in 1987, the Foundation has pursued that mission by making nearly $250 million in grants to hundreds of museums and non-profit arts organization nationwide; through grants made to individual artists and arts writers through its sister foundation Creative Capital; and through the Andy Warhol Museum, which it founded and endowed with a permanent collection of nearly 4,000 iconic artworks as well as with archival materials.

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