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UC Berkeley Art Museum Receives Grant To Conserve Hans Hofmann Collection
Hans Hofmann, Morning Mist, 1958; oil on canvas; 55 1/8 x 40 3/8 in.; gift of Hans Hofmann.

BERKELEY, CA.- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is the recipient of a $93,825 award from the federal grant program Save America’s Treasures to conserve the museum’s remarkable collection of paintings by German-born artist Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), one of the most significant figures in the development of Abstract Expressionism. The grant supports essential conservation work on forty-eight paintings to resolve threats ranging from accumulated dust and debris to paint loss and instability, discoloration, and abrasions. Conservation work will take place over two years in collaboration with conservators at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Plans are currently under way for future exhibitions and a possible international tour following completion of the conservation project in 2013.

A gift from the artist to UC Berkeley—Hofmann taught at Berkeley and across the U.S. after emigrating from Germany in 1930—BAM/PFA’s Hofmann collection remains the largest in any museum. While his work is significant, Hofmann’s influence extends beyond the canvas: his collection together with a $250,000 gift to UC Berkeley enabled the museum’s founding in 1963. As a beloved teacher, Hofmann’s ideas shaped the perceptions of hundreds of art students, many of whom went on to attain international stature including Helen Frankenthaler, Red Grooms, Alfred Jensen, Wolf Kahn, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson, and Frank Stella.

As the steward of this extraordinary resource, BAM/PFA is committed to ensuring the collection’s care and survival, to furthering scholarship on Hofmann’s work, and to making the paintings accessible for future generations. After a 1999 survey, a number of paintings were treated in preparation for a national tour of the Hofmann collection (the exhibition traveled to the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in Texas, the Des Moines Art Center, the Akron Art Museum, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art between 2002 and 2004). Over the past twenty years, BAM/PFA’s ongoing care and treatment of the paintings has been in partnership with the SFMOMA conservation lab, and has been supported in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the J. Paul Getty Trust; and the Renate, Hans, and Maria Hofmann Trust.

Among the first works to go to SFMOMA’s conservation lab is Sanctum Sanctorum (1962). This painting shows all the exuberance, confidence, and striking scale of Hofmann’s late signature works, in which the artist employed contrasts of color and arrangements of shapes as expanding and contracting forces to make the viewer experience space and color. Hofmann stated, “In nature light creates color. In painting color creates light.”

A selection of Hofmann’s work is on view in Nature into Action: Hans Hofmann through July 3, 2011. This installation reveals the relationship between nature as source and action as method in the great abstract painter’s work.

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