McNay Art Museum acquires three new outdoor sculptures for permanent collection

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McNay Art Museum acquires three new outdoor sculptures for permanent collection
Willie Cole, The Sole Sitter, 2013. Bronze. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts. © Willie Cole.

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- The McNay Art Museum adds three new outdoor sculptures to its more than 22,000-piece Permanent Collection this summer, enhancing the richness of the Museum’s outdoor experience as Phase I of its Landscape Master Plan completes in September. The Sole Sitter by Willie Cole, Hashtag-Orange by Alejandro Martín, and Standing Tulip by Tom Wesselmann will be on view throughout the McNay’s 25-acre grounds beginning this August.

“When our community is ready to reconnect with the beauty, hope, and inspiration that has defined us for decades, the McNay will be waiting with an experience that is more open, welcoming, and inclusive than ever before,” said Richard Aste, McNay Director and CEO. “Our new outdoor sculptures and our expanded, more accessible campus reflect our commitment to a mission of engaging and uplifting everyone.”

The Sole Sitter by Willie Cole is inspired by the traditional masks of the Luba people, a large Bantu-speaking group from Central Africa, indigenous to the southern-central Democratic Republic of the Congo. In line with Cole’s body of eclectic postmodernist works, the sculpture combines the forms of several large high-heeled shoes to create a sitting figure reminiscent of a traditional Luba mask. This is the McNay’s first acquisition of an outdoor sculpture by an African American artist. Cole's work has been the subject of several one-person museum exhibitions at, among others, the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, Montclair Art Museum, Pérez Art Museum Miami (formerly Miami Art Museum), Bronx Museum of the Arts, and The Museum of Modern Art. The acquisition of The Sole Sitter is made possible by a gift from the Russell Hill Rogers Funds for the Arts.

Hashtag-Orange by Alejandro Martín is a vibrant orange painted metal sculpture reflecting the hashtag symbol, which will welcome visitors as they enter the McNay campus via North New Braunfels Avenue. Born in 2000, Martín is an emerging artist based in Mexico City. He began sculpting in 2017 after being exposed to the art form in high school, and his sculptures are informed by digital symbols of his generation. Bold, larger-than-life hashtags feature prominently in his artworks alongside asterisks and block figures that seem to emerge from a Minecraft© game. Martín’s first solo exhibition was on display at the San Antonio Botanical Garden from January 2019 through January 2020. The acquisition of Hashtag-Orange is made possible by a gift from Carolyn and Allan Paterson.

Standing Tulip is the first work of art in any medium by Pop artist Tom Wesselmann to be included in the McNay Collection. Standing 13-feet tall, the aluminum sculpture greets visitors with a bright pop of color as they enter the Museum’s main entrance. Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1931 and died in 2004. He received a BA in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 1956 and a BFA from Cooper Union, New York in 1959. The artist embraced the large scale of Abstract Expressionism, but applied it to objects from pop culture and everyday life. A laser cutting application allowed him to translate his drawings into cut-out metal. The acquisition of Standing Tulip is made possible by a gift from Marie Halff and the G.A.C. Halff Foundation.

“The acquisition of these artworks is a reflection of the McNay’s ongoing commitment to ensuring our Collection continues to champion diverse artists of all ages, races, identities, and backgrounds,” said René Paul Barilleaux, Head of Curatorial Affairs. “Focusing on enhancing our outdoor sculpture holdings is particularly important at this time as our community yearns for safe open spaces to experience moments of beauty, healing, and reflection.”

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