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Local donors strengthen Virginia Museum of Fine Art's contemporary collection
Elaine de Kooning, Bull, 1958.

RICHMOND, VA.- Recent acquisitions place the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at the forefront of museums and research institutions collecting African American art. These collecting areas are directly related to the museum’s strategic plan goal of significantly increasing VMFA’s holdings of African and African American art.

This strategic plan initiative also has inspired Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr., the president of VMFA’s Board of Trustees, to donate 18 works of art, half of which are by major contemporary African American artists.

VMFA now has its first two works by the late Alabama-based artist Thornton Dial: Old Uncle Buck (The Negro Got to Find Out What's Going On in the United States), of 2002, and Freedom Cloth, of 2005. Dial, who passed away on January 25, 2016, was a self-taught artist whose paintings and assemblages of found objects were deeply rooted in the folk traditions, belief systems, and history of the South. Other gifts include Jack Whitten’s 2010 monumental painting Port au Prince: A Painting of Hope and Spirit for the Haitian

People and recent works by emerging contemporary African American artists, such as Rashid Johnson, Titus Kaphar, and Charles McGill. Other significant artists whose work is included in this donation include Richard Artschwager, Shepard Fairey, Tristin Lowe, and Donald Sultan, along with a major 1958 painting entitled Bull by Elaine de Kooning.

“We are thrilled to increase our holdings of contemporary African American art through Bill and Pam’s extraordinary vision and generosity,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said. “The museum acquired its first work by an African American artist in 1944 when Leslie Garland Bolling’s 1935 sculpture Cousin-on Friday entered the collection. This commitment to living African American artists plays a vital role in VMFA’s strategic plan and we look forward to installing these works in our 21st-Century Gallery and sharing them with our visitors.”

Over the past several years, Pam and Bill Royall’s support has served as a catalyst in the growth of VMFA’s exceptionally strong collection of 21st century art. This year they have given 15 major works of contemporary art by 11 different artists, continuing their significant commitment to promoting the work of contemporary artists within the context of a global, encyclopedic museum. Many of these pieces have been borrowed by VMFA in the past for display in the 21st Century Gallery and three are currently on view. The familiarity of these works to regular visitors to the museum illustrates the central role they already play in VMFA’s narrative of contemporary art.

“It has been a tremendous privilege to work alongside the VMFA curators for the past several years and share their vision for building a dynamic, and provocative contemporary art collection that also resonates with the museum’s diverse audiences,” Bill Royall said. “Pam and I are also passionate supporters of the museum’s strategic focus on African and African American art and we are committed believers in the role that contemporary art can play in the community. We hope that the works we have donated will inspire and challenge VMFA’s visitors for many years to come. ”

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