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Bronx Museum completes $1 million acquisitions campaign in celebration of 40th anniversary
Pedro Reyes, Study for Moebius Chair, 2006. Collage, graphite and ink on paper, 40 x 58.8 cm.

BRONX, NY.- The Bronx Museum of the Arts announced that it completed a $1 million acquisitions campaign in honor of its fortieth anniversary and has added more than 40 works to its collection. The newly acquired works reflect the Museum’s multifaceted goals for collection growth, which include: extending the narratives that shape the collection through the acquisition of works by artists of African American, Latin American, and Asian descent, and works that deal with urban themes; acquiring works that increase the presence in the collection of artists who have strong ties to the Museum’s history and to the Bronx; supporting artists who have played key roles in the Museum’s exhibition history; and adding works by Bronx-born or Bronx-based artists. Photographs, paintings, and sculptures are among the acquired works, nearly all of which were created in the four decades since the Museum was founded. The acquisitions campaign was supported by a lead $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, which was matched by funding from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust and the Pinta Acquisitions Fund, as well as support from the Museum's Acquisitions Committee, funds provided by the Estate of Enid McKenna Soifer, and donations from individuals.

“The Bronx Museum’s collection has always reflected the vibrant, diverse community around us,” said Holly Block, executive director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts. “These new acquisitions highlight the Bronx connections of many contemporary artists—illustrating how the borough has served as inspiration for a wide range of artists over the past 40 years—and showing how themes that are important in our community are being explored by artists around the world. We’re deeply grateful to the Ford Foundation for their lead grant and to the other donors who helped make these acquisitions possible. I also want to thank our acquisitions committee, under the leadership of Laura Blanco and Marilyn Green, for their incisive guidance in adding these works to our collection.”

“The collection of the Bronx Museum has served to bring to the attention of collectors and other museums the work of artists working at the vanguard of free expression,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “For 40 years the museum has introduced new talent, rediscovered past talent, and brought to the spotlight artists and works that others have sometimes overlooked. The newly acquired work continues this proud tradition and showcases the vibrancy and distinct styles emblematic of the Bronx borough.”

Works acquired by the Museum fall into four major categories:

Asian-American Artists:
Martin Wong’s 1984 painting No Es Lo Que Has Pensado... (It's Not What You Think...) explores identity and transformation through a scene of urban decay and poverty. Wong drew inspiration for this painting and much of his work from locations, people, and happenings across New York City. The Bronx is home to a large Asian-American population, and this major acquisition continues the Museum’s commitment to representing that community in its collection. Other Asian-American artists whose works were added to the collection include Roger Shimomura and Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao.

African-American Artists:
Elizabeth Catlett was the subject of The Bronx Museum’s 2011 exhibition Stargazers: Elizabeth Catlett in Conversation With 21 Contemporary Artists. Elvira, a terracotta bust from 1997 that was featured in Stargazers, is the first of Catlett’s works to enter the Museum’s permanent collection. A pioneering African-American artist, Catlett played a critical role in the late stages of the Harlem Renaissance and later spent decades living and working in Mexico, and was affiliated with the Taller de Grafica Popular, a group whose work is represented in the Museum’s collection. Other African-American artists whose works were added to the collection include Jamel Shabazz and Glenn Ligon.

Latin-American Artists:
Raphael Montañez Ortiz was featured in The Bronx Museum’s seminal 1988 exhibition The Latin American Spirit; Art and Artists in the United States, 1920-1970. His sculptural work Archaeological Find #21, The Aftermath, a burnt sofa covered in resin from 1961, is the first of his works to enter the Museum’s permanent collection. The work is part of the Archaeological Finds series, which Montañez Ortiz produced between 1961 and 1967, by taking everyday household objects and subjecting them to various destructive processes including burning, mutilation, and dismemberment. Montañez Ortiz then sprayed the objects with plastic resin to produce a new skin for the liberated “inner spirit” of the object—a comment on the experience of Latinos in urban environments in the United States. The Museum’s already strong collection of work by artists from Latin America and the Caribbean will also be deepened through addition of works by artists of different generations from many areas of Latin America, including Juan Downey (Chile), Jarbas Lopes (Brazil), José Toirac, Sandra Ramos, Carlos Garaicoa (Cuba), and Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck (Venezuela).

Urban Themes and Bronx-Born Artists:
The urban narrative that runs through many of the works in The Bronx Museum’s collection is represented in new acquisitions that address themes including social activism and the processes of urban decay and renewal in the Bronx and other parts of New York City. For example, a series of photographs by Alvin Baltrop, a Bronx native, depicts Gordon Matta-Clark’s Day’s End, a slicing of Manhattan’s derelict Pier 52; and five photographs by Fred McDarrah depict the Young Lords, whose social and political movement played a critical role in the Bronx’s history. Untitled (Barbershop), 2009, a lithograph by Bronx native Glenn Ligon, complements works by Ligon already in the collection, and a new acquisition by Bronx-born Vito Acconci, Trademarks, 1970-2004, is a significant representation of the artistic practices that emerged in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s in New York. Öyvind Fahlström’s Mao-Hope March (1966), is a film which shows a group of people parading in the streets of New York with placards bearing the faces of Mao Tse-tung and comedian Bob Hope, while onlookers and passersby talk about the improbable connection between the two men. The film is an important example of the contributions Fahlström made to the urban avant-garde in the 1960s and 70s.

The Bronx Museum celebrated its 40th anniversary this year by implementing a policy of free admission for all visitors and “adopting” 40 schools in the Bronx. In 2010, the Museum was selected by the U.S. Department of State to serve as their partner for smARTpower, a major initiative to send visual artists abroad. The unprecedented partnership facilitated visual artists traveling around the globe to collaborate with local artists and youth to create socially engaged art projects. This year The Bronx Museum is the commissioning institution for the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale—where it is presenting the work of Sarah Sze—and is developing public and education outreach programs that engage with the themes of Sze’s Pavilion installations. These include a teen exchange between high school students in the Bronx and Venice; workshops with the Università IUAV di Venezia, a leading art and design university; an extensive digital platform; and “Venice Conversations,” a series of interactive discussions featuring artists, scientists, and scholars from around the world in association with Bloomberg.

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