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Carnegie Museum of Art announces recent acquisitions; Newly acquired objects build on collection strengths
George Romney (British, 1734–1802, born Dalton-in-Furness, Lancs, England), A study for Elizabeth Warren as Hebe, 1776. Pen and brown ink wash over graphite on paper. H: 7 in. x W: 3 3/4 in. (17.80 x 9.53 cm). J. Willis Dalzell Memorial Collection, bequest of Mrs. J. Willis Dalzell, by exchange,

PITTSBURGH, PA.- Carnegie Museum of Art announces major additions to its collection in a wide variety of media, complementing a multi-year effort to evaluate and shape existing holdings, build upon collection strengths, and expand upon the stories related to works in the galleries. Recent acquisitions include what is arguably the greatest painting by visionary artist and scientist Andrey Avinoff, prints from a 1968 album of studio portraits by Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, a large installation in two parts by Irish artist Cathy Wilkes, a new video work by Californian Frances Stark, and an impressive Modernist chandelier by Belgian designer Henry van de Velde measuring approximately five feet in length. These major works and others join the museum during a time of exciting developments in the permanent collection, including a nearly-complete reinstallation of the museum's galleries, and an ongoing effort to make the collection more accessible, highlight masterworks, and contextualize artworks both in history, and within artistic traditions.

"The Van de Velde Chandelier is a masterpiece of modernist design that would captivate any visitor, and the works by Stark and the Sidibé enhance and broaden our very important contemporary collections," remarked Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of the museum. "It's also crucial that we collect from our shows," she continued. "Museums put an enormous amount of resources into exhibitions, and this past year we commemorated several of them with acquisitions, including significant works from, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World's Fairs, 1851–1939 (2012–2013), Maya Lin (2012), Cathy Wilkes (2011–2012), and Andrey: Avinoff In Pursuit of Beauty (2011).

Selected Recent Acquisitions

Andrey Avinoff (American, b. Russia, 1884–1949), Reminiscences of the House in Russia, 1916–1917. Watercolor on paper mounted on card, 12 1/2 x 9 in. (31.8 x 22.9 cm). Alice and Jim Beckwith Act Acquisition Fund, Foster Charitable Trust Fund, Robert S. Waters Charitable Trust Fund, Major Painting Acquisition Fund, Charles J. Rosenbloom Fund

Past director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (1926–1946) and best known for his scientific research on butterflies, Andrey Avinoff created a little-known yet rich body of fantastical, symbolist watercolor paintings that express ideas about metamorphosis, transience, and change. This work is Avinoff’s greatest painting: a technical tour de force and a profound statement of his intellectual, spiritual, and philosophical beliefs. Created at the moment Avinoff was forced to leave his native Russia forever, it connects 20th-century symbolism and surrealism to the scientifically oriented realism of 19th-century Europe. The iconography combines vignettes of his family home in Ukraine with a central motif of biological metamorphosis, growth, and decay.

Maya Lin (American, b. 1959), Mac World (Cupertino), 2009. Cardboard and adhesive, 6 7/8 x 21 3/4 x 27 in. (17.5 x 55.2 x 68.6 cm). Gift of the Drue Heinz Trust
Maya Lin has worked at the intersection of art, architecture, landscape, and environmental activism since completing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, in 1982. Her practice includes buildings, monuments, and land art as well as intimately scaled artwork. This work, presented in the exhibition Maya Lin at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center in 2012, is an example of Lin’s imaginative re-creations of natural forms transformed into objects of contemplation. Lin cut and layered discarded cardboard Apple Mac boxes to create a three-dimensional topographical map of Cupertino, California, the headquarters of Apple Inc. Such works evoke Lin’s own unique experience of the environment while encouraging viewers to consider the physicality of the world in which we live.

George Romney (English, 1734–1802), Neoclassical figure studies, c. 1776 -1777. Pen and brown ink and wash on paper (recto); charcoal on paper (verso), 4 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (11.4 x 19 cm). J. Willis Dalzell Memorial Collection, bequest of Ms. J. Willis Dalzell, by exchange

A Study for Elizabeth Warren as Hebe, 1776. Pen and brown ink wash over graphite on paper, 7 x 3 3/4 in. (17.8 x 9.53 cm). J. Willis Dalzell Memorial Collection, bequest of Ms. J. Willis Dalzell, by exchange

These two drawings by famed English portrait painter George Romney join a small but very strong group of objects at Carnegie Museum of Art that vividly evoke the seismic cultural shift from Neoclassicism to Romanticism in art, literature, music, and drama in the 18th and early 19th centuries. With their blend of classical motifs and emotionally charged brush and pen work, Romey’s drawings typify the transition.

Neoclassical figure studies represents figures in classical-style draperies possibly engaged in contemplation or worship. The artist’s technique of working in dark ink with reserves of blank paper for the lights is analogous to ancient Greek black-on-red vase painting methods.

Romney’s study for Elizabeth Warren as Hebe is one of many preliminary drawings for the full-length oil portrait of the same title (National Museum & Gallery, Cardiff). Romney developed the composition in an unprecedented number of studies of the figure, her attributes, and the setting.

Kataro Shirayamadani , decorator (American, b. Japan, 1865–1948), Rookwood Pottery Co., manufacturer (American, 1880–1967), Vase, 1900. Glazed earthenware and copper, 18 1/4 x 5 ¾ in. (46.4 x 14.6 cm). Berdan Memorial Trust Fund, DuPuy Fund, Decorative Arts Purchase Fund, Women's Committee Acquisition Fund, Harlan E. Youel Bequest Fund, Edgar L. Levenson Fund, and the following, by exchange: Anonymous Gift, Dr. Grace K. Martin, G. David Thompson, Margaret Taylor Douglass, Mr. and Mrs. G. Harton Singer III and Mr. and Mrs. Pearce D. Smith, in memory of Anna Turner Singer, Mrs. Paul B. Ernst, Walter Read Hovey, Childs Frick, Mrs. David P. Bennett, Sr. in memory of Joseph D. Bennett, Dr. Frank Anderson Trapp, and Mrs. Jay Klein

One of Rookwood’s most outstanding achievements was the perfection of an electrodepositing process in 1897 that enabled unprecedented integration of ceramic and metal. Electrodepositing used electricity to apply copper and silver on carved and fired clay. The copper-coated fish on this vase blend seamlessly into the watery depth of the body, achieved with a wash of dappled black underglaze oxide and Rookwood’s famed “Sea Green” glaze. Rookwood unveiled this technique to the world at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900; this vase was almost certainly part of the triumphal display. A true masterwork in art pottery, the vase is one of the top extant examples of decorator Kataro Shirayamadani’s work in this technique. Rookwood produced fewer than 100 electrodeposited objects over a five-year period, making them extremely rare today.

Malick Sidibé (Malian, b. 1936), Les Associés, 1968. 24 vintage gelatin prints mounted on pink-colored folio, 13 3/4 x 20 3/8 in. (34.9 x 51.8 cm). Second Century Acquisition Fund

Les Associés is a compilation of index prints from an album of studio portraits by Malian photographer Malick Sidibé. Clients visiting Sibidé’s studio could order the photographs they wanted enlarged from arrangements of small prints like this one. Sidibé is well known for his images of the independent youth of Bamako, Mali, in the 1960s and 1970s, and his approach captures the tastes and identities of his sitters.

Frances Stark (American, b. 1967), My Best Thing, 2011. Digital video; color, sound. Approximate running time: 1:40. The Henry L. Hillman Fund

An exploration of the nature of online relationships, My Best Thing is constructed as a feature-length animation in the form of a serialized soap opera, made up of snippets of virtual encounters in video chat rooms. Produced using a text-to-speech animation program that became an internet meme, rapidly-spreading by means of creative appropriation in 2010–2011, My Best Thing is a blend of pop culture, literary references, and Stark’s own personal encounters. The female protagonist’s flirtatious discussions with random participants soon expand beyond sex into broader topics including film history, politics, and protest, as the character—an alter ego for Stark—gradually grows fond of her interlocutors, who transform from strangers into confidants and collaborators.

Henry van de Velde, designer (Belgian, 1863–1957), Otto Seyffart Werkstaaten fur Kunstgewerbliche Metallarbeiten, maker German, active c. 1904), Chandelier, 1904. Brass, copper, and glass, H. 56 in. (142.2 cm), diam. 28 in. (71 cm). Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, Berdan Memorial Trust Fund, Women's Committee Acquisition Fund, Second Century Acquisition Fund, Decorative Arts Purchase Fund, Helen Johnston Acquisition Fund, DuPuy Fund, and Martha Mack Lewis Fund

This masterful chandelier is the pinnacle of Henry van de Velde’s achievement as a designer in metalwork. Skillfully combining pierced brass and copper sheets with opalescent glass, the chandelier moves beyond the more literal, plant-inspired Art Nouveau aesthetic for which Van de Velde is best known and becomes truly Modernist. With its restrained geometric form, straightforward assemblage of parts, and blatantly exposed electric light bulbs, the work proclaims its place in the age of the machine. In 1904, Peter Hermann Harkort and his wife Elisabeth Funcke Harkort commissioned Van de Velde to redesign the interior of their villa Gut Schede (built 1804–1810) in Wetter, Germany. Van de Velde designed this chandelier for the dining room. The chandelier stayed with the original family until it was acquired by the museum; this is the first time it has ever been publicly exhibited.

Cathy Wilkes (Irish, b. 1966), No title, 2011–2012. Two installations. Mixed media. Dimensions variable. The Henry L. Hillman Fund.

Wilkes's emotional installation, acquired from Carnegie Museum of Art’s 2011–2012 Forum Gallery exhibition, bring together sculptures, paintings, and personal belongings. In her installations, Wilkes connects a personal, introverted sense of memory and experience to a more public expression of past, shared experiences. Low, table-like platforms collect her paintings and collages alongside figurative sculptures and objects that were dug up from the site of the World War I battle of the Somme. While the sculptures and semi-abstract paintings might evoke old soldiers or burned battle fields, the final works remain open to personal interpretation and meanings accumulate over the process of their making and exhibition.

Research and Evaluation
Even as it adds major works to its galleries, Carnegie Museum of Art has begun the process of a multi-year evaluation of its permanent collection. This undertaking comes on the heels of extensive reinstallations of the museum's permanent collection galleries, beginning with the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Galleries of Decorative Arts in 2009, moving through the Scaife 19th-century galleries in 2012, and the Scaife Modern and Contemporary galleries in June, 2013, which is also a component of the 2013 Carnegie International. The process will be complete when the Museum’s galleries of Non-Western and pre-1800 art are reinstalled in 2014. According to Chief Curator and Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts Jason Busch, "Periodic evaluations of collections are one part of responsible collection management practices at any major museum."

As part of the process, curators, registrars, conservators and outside experts have been assessing artworks, addressing criteria such as the artworks’ authenticity, artistic strengths, condition, and contribution to the stories told by the larger collection.

The first round recently concluded, during which curators and conservators examined several paintings that have been in storage for decades. In many cases, the works in storage are not of museum quality. In other cases, curators make interesting discoveries, and these objects are set aside for further research. "Sometimes, we get some intriguing finds," said Louise Lippincott, curator of fine arts. "When this happens, we turn to outside experts to thoroughly investigate works, so that we have an independent assessment of art that has not been researched in quite some time."

When artworks are not of museum quality or do not represent an artist or style as well as other works hanging in the galleries, they are deaccessioned, which releases an object from the museum's collection, and sold. All such decisions are undertaken according to the museum’s rigorous collections management policies, which require outside appraisals, notification of the works donors (if any), and approval by the museum’s board. All proceeds from the sale of artworks go towards the acquisition of works of a similar period or aesthetic that are more suitable to the museum's mission.

Curators expect this collection management process, which will take several years, to better position Carnegie Museum of Art to build upon its existing world-class collection, which has been made possible through generous donations of artwork, and donations toward the museum’s endowed acquisition funds. Lynn Zelevansky is especially looking forward to a round of acquisitions that will come out of the 2013 Carnegie International, which opens October 5. "In 1896, Andrew Carnegie founded the exhibition as a way for his fledgling museum to build its collection, and it remains a priority for us today to acquire works by artists in the exhibition. This is a remarkable legacy—not only is the Carnegie International what we’re best known for, it also actually helped to build the museum, and it continues to do that today."

Adds Jason Busch, "Through refining our collection, the Carnegie is poised to celebrate and build upon our internationally-recognized strengths, and make the museum a must-see destination."

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