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High Hosts Second Annual Collectors' Evening to Help Build the Museum's Collection
“Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci” by Vik Muniz, American, born Brazil, 1961, from the "Pictures of junk" series, 2009, digital C-print, 90 x 72 inches. Purchase through funds provided by patrons of the Second Annual Collectors' Evening, 2011.

ATLANTA, GA.- The High Museum of Art will host the second annual Collectors’ Evening on Friday, January 28. The event, instituted in 2010 to build and improve the Museum’s permanent collection, invites guests to take an active role in choosing the next work of art to join the collection. During the evening, each of the High’s current curators will present a work of art as a potential new acquisition for their collection. Guests will then cast their votes and the High will purchase the work of art that receives the most votes.

“The second Collectors’ Evening arrives with much anticipation and excitement, both by our curators and the attendees who will be voting,” said David Brenneman, the High’s Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Frances B. Bunzl Family Curator of European Art. “Not only is it a meaningful opportunity to help the Museum acquire great works of art, but as we learned last year, it is an exhilarating event that brings out the competitor in us all. We look forward to starting the new year by having some fun through this new annual event, and building on its popularity for future years.”

In January 2010 participants voted to secure four new acquisitions for the Museum, including a collection of 20 photographs from the “Robert F. Kennedy Funeral Train Rediscovered” portfolio by Paul Fusco; the painting “Thiogo Oliveira do Rosario Rozendo” from Kehinde Wiley’s series “The World Stage: Brazil”; an African art sculpture titled “Ntadi”; and a round-back chair and table from the “Sketch Furniture” series by Sweden’s Front Design.

This year’s proposed acquisitions include the following:

African Art
The proposed work from the African art department is “Elephant Headress.” During the nineteenth century when this work was made, elephant masks were among the most prestigious of all the masquerades performed by groups of wealthy, titled men in the small Bamileke kingdoms of the Cameroon Grassfields. The elephant, like the leopard, was a royal symbol, though both elephants and leopards have long since become extinct in Cameroon. These two animals were also considered the alter egos of Bamileke kings, who were described as having the ability to transform into either creature at will. Elephant masks were referred to as “things of money” because they were profusely ornamented with glass beads made in Venice or Czechoslovakia. The acquisition of this work would strengthen the High’s holdings of African masks and the art of Cameroon as well as diversify the materials represented in our collection.

American Art
Robert Laurent’s limestone sculpture “Lamentation” (1946) is the proposed acquisition for the American art collection. Laurent was at the forefront of new trends and is often considered a link between the classicism of Beaux Arts sculptors and the abstractionists. His work is relatively rare, with much of it existing either in monumental size as public art or scattered among public and private collections. “Lamentation” was inspired by a dance of the same title choreographed by Martha Graham in 1930, where the dancer is dressed in a sheath that at times covers and absorbs her entire body. For Laurent, as for Graham, the expression of “Lamentation” was intended to cross cultural boundaries and probe at the universal experience of grief. It would join the High as the first work by Robert Laurent and will complement the elegant, stylized forms of John Flannigan, William Zorach and Paul Manship, the cubist composition of Berta Margoulies and the abstract work by Theodore Roszak already in the collection.

European Art
Auguste-Jean-Baptiste Vinchon’s “Portrait of Nency Destouches” (1829) is the proposed acquisition for the High’s European art collection. A mentee of Jacques-Louis David, French painter Auguste-Jean-Baptiste Vinchon (1789–1855) maintained a level of success during his lifetime that rivaled his contemporaries Eugène Delacroix and Théodore Géricault. Landscape paintings dominate his early career, and in 1819 he expanded his subject matter to include portraiture and historical scenes. “Portrait of Nency Destouches” most likely depicts the daughter of architect Louis Nicholas-Marie Destouches. Vinchon’s skill is evident in the way he uses light to illuminate Nency’s angelic cheeks, rosy lips and glowing skin. This portrait would be the first work by Vinchon to be acquired by the High and will expand the Museum’s collection to fuller illuminate the era of French Romanticism. Other examples of Vinchon’s works are in the Musée du Louvre and the Château de Versailles.

Folk Art
Minnie Evans is among the most highly regarded of self-taught artists. Her elaborate painting on paperboard created in 1968 is the proposed acquisition for the folk art collection. Evans’s drawings were inspired by the dreams and visions that came to her night and day. She layered nature and spirit, plant and animal, human and divine in symmetrical compositions of swirling intricacy. The proposed painting, an untitled work, is a collage comprising at least two earlier works: a drawing from 1941 and a mid-career drawing from 1951. This painting is larger and more elaborate than any of the five Evans works already in the High’s collection. It would also be the first example of Evans’s most fully realized creations, in which she completely covered the surface with the arabesques, plant forms and mask-like faces typical of her designs. Evans’s works are included in many museum collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American Folk Art Museum, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne and the Newark Museum.

Modern and Contemporary Art
The proposed work from the modern and contemporary art department is Spencer Finch’s “Bright Star (Sirius)” (2010). Finch, a New York-based artist, recently completed this work, which brilliantly illustrates what he has described as art’s ability to “ignite our capacity for wonder.” It is based on the star Sirius, otherwise known as the “Dog Star” due to its prominence in the constellation Canis Major (Big Dog). Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky because of its intrinsic luminosity and its proximity to earth, and is probably the inspiration for the nursery rhyme “Star Light, Star Bright.” Finch’s light sculpture replicates the bluish cast of Sirius as seen with the naked eye and measured by astronomical research by attaching colored gels of specific widths on fluorescent tubes at prescribed intervals. With this acquisition, the High would further its commitment to this increasingly important young artist and complement its core areas of Color Field and hard-edged abstraction holdings by extending those traditions to the present day with Finch’s light works, which are neurologically hardwired into our visual perception. In addition to the High, Finch’s work has been acquired by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, among others.

The photography department has proposed an acquisition of Vik Muniz’s “Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci,” (2009). Born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1961, Muniz works with unconventional materials—including sugar, tomato sauce, chocolate syrup, dust and garbage—to craft narrative subjects before recording them with his camera. In “Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci,” from the artist’s “Pictures of Junk” series, Muniz placed his camera on a platform elevated by crane high above a warehouse floor. Using the open space as a canvas, he employed impoverished art students from the outskirts of São Paulo to help him collect detritus from the city’s dumps and arrange it into the shape of a recognizable painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Seen from more than 40 feet above the floor, objects such as discarded hub caps, pipes, appliances and tires became the building blocks for an imaginative but ephemeral recreation of the celebrated Renaissance painting “Leda and the Swan.” Measuring approximately 7½ feet high, the photograph Muniz made of the sculptural arrangement remains the only permanent record of this amazing deed. Muniz’s work is included in the collections of leading national and international museums and was the subject of the award-winning documentary film “Wasteland” (2010). This would be the second photograph from the artist’s “Pictures of Junk” series to enter the High’s collection.

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