Guests voted to secure four new acquisitions for the High Museum of Art
at its fourth annual Collectors Evening on Jan. 11, 2013. The selected pieces are Sebastião Salgados photograph titled Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India (1995, printed 2012); an African mask by a Pende artist (ca. 1875-1925); George Henry Yewells Self Defense (1854); and Edmé-Alexis-Alfred Dehodencqs Self-Portrait (ca. 1870). These works will be on view at the Museum by April 2013.
The fourth acquisition was made possible by the proceeds from the evenings live auction, which featured 11 lots for bidding. Lots included four worldwide business-class tickets from Delta Air Lines and pieces of artwork on which guests could bid for their own collections. Those pieces included oil paintings, works on paper, drawings, photographs, jewelry and furniture.
Collectors Evening, established in 2010 to build and improve the Museums permanent collection, invites guests to take an active role in choosing the next work of art to join the permanent collection. During the evening, each of the Highs curators presents a work of art as a potential new acquisition for their collection. Guests then cast their votes, and the High purchases the works of art that receive the most votes.
Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India (1995, printed 2012) by Sebastião Salgado was acquired for the Highs photography collection. Salgado is among the most recognized documentary photographers of the 20th century, celebrated for his epic and compassionate depictions of the developing world, manual labor and populations in distress. Church Gate Station depicts a train depot in Mumbai, India. Commuters whirl around two docked locomotives in the jam-packed station, which itself is only one portal to a city of mesmerizing proportions. The picture points to the simultaneously exhilarating and frightening rate of growth in developing-world cities, a phenomenon that presents dramatic benefits and challenges for the future of humanity. The image was a seminal influence on the train scenes in Danny Boyles Academy Awardwinning film Slumdog Millionaire.
The work acquired for the African art collection is a wooden mask by a Pende artist of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ca. 1875-1925). The extreme distortion of the face on this mask resembles that of one of the women depicted in Picassos famous 1907 painting Les Demoiselles dAvignon. Within Pende communities, masks with distorted faces represent individuals who have fallen into a fire, leaving their faces permanently disfigured. The masks promote compassion toward individuals who have suffered such calamities. This striking mask will join other important Pende works of art in the Highs collection, including a magnificent feather mask currently on view, a Pende cup currently on view, two face masks and a ceremonial axe.
George Henry Yewells oil on canvas Self Defense (1854) is set on the streets of 1850s New York and depicts a boy preparing a snowball in response to one that landed just inches away from him. Yet this vignette is not merely one of childs play. A painter of genre scenes often embedded with wry commentary, George Henry Yewell includes a series of broadsides plastered to the building walls, which advertise the various mass entertainments that in Yewells day had generated scandal, moral protest or even political debate. In many ways, Self Defense serves as a timeless American allegory, promoting the quick wit and strength of character required to steel oneself against various temptations.
French artist Edmé-Alexis-Alfred Dehodencqs Self-Portrait (ca. 1870) was acquired by the European art department. This oil-on-canvas work is a penetrating self-depiction that brings to mind several of Rembrandts mature self-portraits in the attire of the sitter, his pose and the pictures overall seriousness and monumentality. Signed and dedicated to Dehodencqs friend and fellow Orientalist painter Eugène Fromentin (18201876), the work was probably given as a gift in thanks for Fromentins recommendation that Dehodencq, along with seven other artists, including Gustave Courbet, receive the prestigious Légion dhonneur in 1870. This painting will complement one of the Highs most important European paintings, Eugène Fromentins Arabs on the Way to the Pastures of Tell.