Baltimore Museum of Art announces acquisition of more than 150 artworks for its Encyclopedic Collection

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Baltimore Museum of Art announces acquisition of more than 150 artworks for its Encyclopedic Collection
Pablo Picasso. Woman with a Cat. 1964. Collection of Norman and Lorraine Rocklin, Towson, Maryland: Promised Gift to The Baltimore Museum of Art © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

BALTIMORE, MD.- The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced today that it has acquired, through purchase and gift, 162 works of art, capturing a wide range of artistic perspectives and innovations. The latest group of acquisitions highlights the museum’s expanded efforts to close critical gaps across the full range of its collection departments. This work emphasizes both historic and contemporary omissions and focuses on revealing the fuller spectrum of voices and practices that have shaped the development of art across time, culture, and geography. The new acquisitions also continue the BMA’s work to support Baltimore- based and -affiliated artists at pivotal moments in their careers.

Among some of the highlights are historic and contemporary paintings and works on paper by Sarah Biffin, Lucy Bull, Nancy Ellen Craig, Cianne Fragione, Beatrice Glow, Rachel Jones, Bertina Lopes, Nengi Omuku, Anil Revri, Deborah Roberts, Esphyr Slobodkina, Lilly Steiner, Joan Witek, and Bai Yiluo; video work by Alan Michelson; sculpture and objects by Brent Crothers, Theaster Gates, Duane Linklater, and Eva Zeisel; photographs by Daido Moriyama, Dodo Jing Ming, Kimbei Kusakabe, Shikeith, Wei Rong, and Wang Wusheng; and works by Baltimore artists Nefertiti Goodman, Erin Fostel, and Jackie Milad.

The acquisitions also include several gifts of collections and groups of works, including 27 examples of Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential pattern china from Jonathan Kolker and Frederica Kolker Saxon, given in memory of their parents. The pattern was designed by Theodore Russell Davis (1840-1894) between 1879-80 and produced by Haviland and Co. in Limoges, France, first for the White House and then for public acquisition from 1880-1886. The Enamel Arts Foundation, an organization founded by Harold Nelson and Bernard Jazzar in 2007 to further scholarship and public awareness of 20th- and 21st-century American enamel arts, gifted the museum 17 objects by important art and design voices such as Harold B. Helwig, Juan Esteban Perez, June Schwarcz, and Jade Snow Wong. Additionally, a significant promised gift from long-time BMA supporters Norman and Lorraine Rocklin comprises three major Modernist works: Woman with a Cat (1964) by Pablo Picasso, Bronzino Young Man (1985) by Grace Hartigan, and Blue Violin (1986) by Susan Rothenberg.

“We are looking forward to sharing the newest acquisitions with our audiences and to presenting more complex and nuanced narratives about the evolution of art and its relationship to everyday experiences in our galleries. I am grateful for the deep and thoughtful work of our curatorial team in advocating for voices and objects that have long deserved institutional and scholarly recognition as well as for identifying new and emerging talents, in Baltimore and across the country and the globe,” said Asma Naeem, the BMA’s Interim Co-Director and Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator.

More information about acquisitions highlights follows. Each work is the first by the artist to enter the BMA’s collection.

Sarah Biffin. Self-portrait, 1842. This highly finished self-portrait captures the incredible vision and skill of one of the most remarkable British artists from the first half of the 19th century. Biffin (British, 1784-1850) was born with a medical condition that left her without arms and legs. Despite this disability, she taught herself to use her mouth to write, sew, and paint, achieving significant fame as a miniaturist in her lifetime. By the time of this work’s creation, Biffin was already a household name, and the Self- portrait reflects her skill, success, and self-conception as a professional, high-society painter despite her working-class origins.

Akea Brionne. How I Hate to Leave, 2022. This embellished jacquard textile was created as part of Brionne’s six-work series “An Ode To You’(All)” for the exhibition A Movement In Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration currently on view at the BMA. It takes inspiration from a trove of photographs found in the family homestead of Brionne’s (American, born 1996) great-grandmother and three great-aunts, who were known as the Phelps Sisters. The sisters remained in Columbus, Mississippi so that the men in the family could migrate North. This work celebrates Black maternal care and the impact of family archives and oral histories. Its acquisition is partially funded with support from the BMA’s Joshua Johnson Council, one of the oldest African-American museum groups in the country.

Rachel Jones. Tender Crags, 2022. This work emerges from Jones’s SMIIILLLLEEEE (2021) and Tender Crags (2022) series, which investigate motifs of mouths, crooked, imperfect teeth, orifices, and tongues as an exploration of self-expression. These references appear as heavily abstracted landscapes that inspire questions about what it means to see, feel, and be within a body, especially for Black subjects. With Tender Crags, Jones (British, born 1991) positions the viewer inside of another body, conflating the viewer’s vision with that of another’s mouth. The ascendant painter is a part of a multi-generational cohort of Black British artists and painters working in abstraction that are bringing into play important questions through gestural abstraction.

Duane Linklater. what grief conjures, 2020. Linklater (Omaskêko Cree, born 1976) is a Plains Cree artist currently based in North Bay, Ontario. His practice offers contemporary portraits of Indigenous life in the face of common myths of extinction and his work is notable for its multilayered explorations of materiality and his use of objects and cultural symbols tied to life before first contact and after it. what grief conjures is a major sculpture created during the acute experience of grief following the loss of the artist’s mother in 2019. The piece speaks directly to his feelings of erosion and remembrance and connects to his experiences as the descendant of Cree parents. The acquisition supports ongoing efforts to expand holdings by Native artists and examine the boundaries and definitions of American art.

Bertina Lopes. Totem N. 2, 1968. Lopes (Mozambican, 1924-2012) is among the most important Mozambican artists of the 20th century. Totem N. 2 is part of a series that reflects on the artist’s exile in Rome, starting in 1963, following her involvement in the movement for Mozambican independence. The vibrant painting incorporates references to historic African and European modernist art, with Lopes abstracting an unidentified African mask into arcing, geometric facial planes across the canvas. The acquisition reflects the BMA’s commitment to bringing works by contemporary African artists into the collection.

Jackie Milad. Daughter of Shu and Tefnut (Dedicated to Amira), 2022. Among Milad’s most complex works to date, this composition integrates fabric appliqués, paint, text, beadwork, and fragments of repurposed drawings to create a multimedia constellation of the artist’s past and present. By executing the large-scale painting on a coverlet that belonged to her late aunt Amira, Milad (American, born 1975) pays homage to the women of her family and her Egyptian heritage. With a cacophony of references from the patterns of Coptic textiles to objects from the Metropolitan and British museums and American pop culture, the work establishes unexpected juxtapositions that speak to personal and political histories. A newly commissioned work by the Baltimore-based artist will debut in April 2023.

Nengi Omuku. Reclining Figures, 2022. Grappling with gender, cultural heritage, and race, Omuku (Nigerian, born 1987) explores the complexities of identity through her intimate and psychologically charged paintings. She focuses in particular on how interior states are manifest in the physical world through the position and expression of the body. Composed with live sitters in her studio, Reclining Figures depicts two figures in a knotted repose surrounded by tropical philodendron monstera plants in
vibrant cobalt aquamarine pots, capturing the artist’s prior study as a florist and horticulturist.

Anil Revri. Pages from A Manuscript 1, 2015, and Pages from A Manuscript 3, 2012. Over the course of more than two decades, Revri (Indian, born 1956) has created a body of work inspired by sacred architecture from around the world. His abstract works, which reference and embrace elements of classical Indian dancing, geometric abstraction, and non-Western decorative and book arts traditions, allow for a meditative experience. These two works are part of a series of intimate, highly detailed drawings that served as an important basis of the artist’s subsequent large-format abstract works. The drawings are the first works by the artist to enter the BMA collection and increase the museum’s representation of artists from the subcontinent.

Esphyr Slobodkina. Elements of Music, c. 1950. Slobodkina (American, born Russia, 1908-2002) was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group in 1937, and worked across a wide range of media throughout her career. Her practice was championed by Clement Greenberg as a forerunner of hard-edged abstraction. Elements of Music is a bold Cubist-influenced work painted in a muted palette and accented with black. Fret boards, strings, instrument keys and keyholes punctuate the composition’s sharply angled forms, creating an architectural cacophony that harmonizes into a unified whole. The acquisition supports the BMA’s commitment to expanding its collection of works by Modernist women.

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