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LACMA Acquires Major Collection of Modern Art, Including Twenty Works By Picasso
(Left) Edgar Degas, The Dancers, pastel on paper on board, 73.66 x 60.96 cm. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, fractional and promised gift of Janice and Henri Lazarof. Photo © 2007 Museum Associates/LACMA. (Right) Pablo Picasso (Spain, 1881–1973, active France), Head of a Woman in Profile (Jacqueline), 1970, oil on canvas, 116 x 89 cm, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, fractional and promised gift of Janice and Henri Lazarof, © 2007 Estate of Pablo Picasso/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo © 2007 Museum Associates/LACMA.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) announced today the acquisition of a major collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings by leading modern artists that will significantly transform the museum’s collection of twentieth-century art. The fractional and promised gift of 130 works is remarkable for its concentration on the leading figures of modern art and for individual objects that in many cases represent LACMA’s first major work by that artist.

Among the highlights of the gift are twenty works by Picasso—paintings, drawings, and sculpture that span the years 1905 to 1970, including bold portraits of Dora Maar from the 1930s. Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, who both taught at the revolutionary Bauhaus school in Germany in the 1920s, are represented by twenty-one watercolors and paintings that form a fundamentally interrelated group. Seven bronzes and one painting by the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti are a particular strength of the collection. Numerous works by Alexander Archipenko, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque, Edgar Degas, Lyonel Feininger, Fernand Léger, Henry Moore, and Camille Pissarro are also included as part of this transformative addition to the museum’s collection.

“We are deeply grateful to Janice and Henri Lazarof for bringing this collection to LACMA,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “At a time when the art market has made it nearly impossible for museums to purchase works of this quality, this important acquisition brings to the people of Los Angeles works by key figures that define the modern century.”

Mr. Lazarof, a well-known composer, was on the faculty of UCLA for many years. In making the gift to the museum, Mrs. Lazarof explains, “Having been residents of Los Angeles for most of our lives, we decided the Los Angeles County Museum of Art should become the permanent home for our Collection. Gathering this art has been an exhilarating and meaningful experience for us. We hope the many visitors that view the Collection in our Gallery will share the same experience.”

Stephanie Barron, the museum’s senior curator of modern art, who has worked for several years to bring the Lazarof collection to the museum commented, “This is a collection that has been built carefully and painstakingly over several decades. Having these works available at LACMA will forever change how future generations of visitors will understand modern art in Los Angeles. That these marvelous works of art will have a permanent home in the museum, is an example of the greatest philanthropy.”

Kevin Salatino, the museum’s curator of prints and drawings remarked, “The extraordinary quality, and equally extraordinary number of superb drawings, watercolors, and gouaches by the great twentieth-century triumvirate of Picasso, Klee, and Kandinsky, among others, utterly and permanently changes LACMA’s modern works on paper.”

Works from the collection will be on view beginning January 13, 2008. They will be installed in three galleries on the plaza level of the Ahmanson Building within the 22,000 square foot modern art galleries where a new presentation of paintings, sculpture, and selections of works on paper and decorative arts collection will be exhibited.

Highlights of the Collection

PICASSO - Among the twenty works by Picasso are seventeen portraits, many of them women with whom he shared his life. Head of a Woman (1906) is a late Rose-period painting from the autumn of 1906 that reflects the powerful influence of Iberian sculpture. This mask-like portrait, which may represent his companion Fernande, is characterized by a haunting face framed by arched eyebrows, exaggerated eyelids, and oversize ears. Head of a Woman is from the same period when Picasso was completing his Portrait of Gertrude Stein.

The Picasso group includes three portraits of Dora Maar with whom Picasso lived for a decade beginning in the mid 1930s: Bust of a Seated Woman (1938), Head of a Woman with a Hat (1939), and Bust of a Woman (1941). His portraits of her are among his most searing: she is alternately depicted as the weeping woman, the harpy, the woman with basketwork hat: a disfigured and monstrous subject that inspired some of his most haunting works.

At the end of 1954 Picasso began a series of fifteen paintings based on Delacroix’s Women of Algiers. Completed in February 1955, this series, known by the same name, reveals his fascination with the harems of North Africa and their milieu of sexual abandon. The collection includes the fourth in the series depicting women in repose.

Picasso’s depictions of his second wife, Jacqueline, constitute his largest group of portraits, and they dominate his oeuvre during his last two decades.

Among the works in the collection is the colossal Head of a Woman (1961–1962), over three feet tall and almost as wide, a daring canvas which attains its looming monumentality through the combination of absolute scale and the frame’s abrupt cropping. This was the first of a group of four portraits of Jacqueline done between December 18 and December 21, 1961. In 1969, at the age of eighty-eight, Picasso painted the large, bold canvas Man and Woman, a colorful and powerful celebration of sexuality. The last Picasso in the collection is a monochromatic large portrait of Jacqueline, Head of a Woman in Profile (1970) which retains a boldness that belies the artist’s advanced age.

GIACOMETTI - The collection includes seven bronze sculptures by the Swiss Alberto Giacometti, as well as a single great oil painting. Postwar Giacometti sculptures were created as deliberate images of a humanity brutalized by recent events, or as spare existential images. In The Cage (1950) his thin, fragile, almost dematerialized figures convey a sense of profound loss and reflect a personal struggle for the impossible unity of world and ego. The Leg (1958) is a representation of a body fragment, suggested perhaps by the mutilation that Giacometti witnessed in survivors of the War. Here he elevates the lowly foot, places it on a pedestal, and makes a memorial of it. The collection includes Monumental Head (1960) one of a group of larger-than-life size figures conceived for the headquarters of the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. Bronze portraits of his wife Annette and his brother Diego, both frequent subjects, as well as a painting of the Japanese philosopher Isaku Yanaihara are part of the collection.

KANDINSKY - Wassily Kandinsky, often credited with the initial transition from representational to abstract art (suggested in Untitled [Composition no. 1], 1915) was a crucial figure in the development of twentieth - century modernism. Between 1909 and 1914 Kandinsky’s landscapes evolved into increasingly abstract compositions, to which he gave musical titles, including Improvisations, Impressions, and Compositions. Intense and sometimes dissonant color harmonies began to dominate his compositions, while representational elements were reduced to dark lines and compact colored shapes. He hoped these works would convey what he called the “largely unconscious, spontaneous expression of inner character, non-material nature” in his 1912 book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art.

The remainder of the Kandinsky works date from his years as a teacher at the highly influential Bauhaus school in Germany. Three Free Circles (1923) harks back to Kandinsky’s connection to Russian Constructivism, with its simple geometric shapes, lines, and patterns.

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