LACMA and Brooklyn Museum to share 200 photographs of European women artists

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Two hundred contemporary photographs of nearly 90 female artists from across Europe were co-acquired by the Brooklyn Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), as part of a broader trend of joint acquisitions between museums. The donation, which is the Brooklyn Museum’s largest joint acquisition to date, will filter through museum collections over the next 10 years in installments chosen by the donor, as well as curators from both institutions. The donation includes photographs from a mix of well-known and emerging artists, many of whom work in multiple disciplines; Moroccan and French artist Yto Barrada, Czech artist Eva Koťátková and Dutch artist Melanie Bonajo are among the multidisciplinary creators represented.

The works were donated by Mark Fehrs Haukohl, a Houston investment banker and longtime art collector, perhaps best known for co-founding the Florence-based Medici Archive Project and having one of the largest collections private Florentine Baroque art in the United States. Over the past two decades, Haukohl has built up a pan-European collection of contemporary photographs of women, with the declared intention of donating the collection – the largest of its kind – to a museum, along with an additional travel grant and funds. to cover 10 years of annual museum acquisitions in the category.

For Haukohl, there has been a dearth of historical art attention given to photographs taken by European women artists.

Marlene Haring, “Because Every Hair is Different” (2005) (pledged gift from the Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photograph Collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, © Marlene Haring, digital image courtesy of Vargas Organization, London)

The giveaway includes the photographic exploration of the hair of Austrian-born, England-based artist Marlene Haring, in which she emphasizes the grotesque and humor of the feminized attribute; the investigation of the Romanian artist Alexandra Croitoru on the asymmetry of power in the sexual bodies, illustrated by the figure of the male bodybuilder; and the recoding by Finnish artist Elina Brotherus of the historical canon of art, playing the role of woman in Marcel Duchamp’s painting of 1912 Nude descending a staircase, n ° 2.

Drew Sawyer, curator of photography at the Brooklyn Museum, told Hyperallergic that none of the artists included in the donation were previously represented in the museum’s collection. “The gift is truly transformative,” Sawyer said, “in that it adds the work of so many artists and offers a more international perspective on contemporary photographic practices. This is in addition to a recent significant donation. of photographic works by Chinese artists.

Britt Salvesen, department head and curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Prints and Drawings Department at LACMA, told Hyperallergic that the museum’s collections of contemporary photographs of European women stood at around 120 when the museum was approached by Haukohl. There was an overlap of only 11 artists, and no duplication of images.

Sarah Pickering, “Landmine” (2005), dye coupler print, 20 × 20 inches (pledged gift from the Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photograph Collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, © Sarah Pickering, digital image courtesy of the artist)

In a recent article for ARTnews, Claire Selvin looked at the co-acquisition phenomenon, referring to the shared purchase of a Sam Gilliam painting by Dia: Beacon and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston earlier this year. Another high-profile example from 2021 is the joint acquisition of Breonna Taylor’s Amy Sherald portrait by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, and the Speed ​​Art Museum in Louisville. The Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia also jointly acquired six works this year, adding to the 23 they acquired together as part of a program started in 2015.

Selvin explained that joint acquisitions are an attractive option for museums that simultaneously face financial pressures exacerbated by the pandemic and the need to maintain and diversify their collections. When the Association of Art Museum Directors relaxed the mandates surrounding the surrender in April 2020, a number of museums – including the Brooklyn Museum – controversially sold millions of dollars of art to pay for the upkeep of the collections, employee salaries or the diversification of collections. Joint acquisition is another potential avenue, a way for museums to share the costs surrounding not only the acquisition itself, but, as in the case of a donation like Haukohl’s, the associated costs like the storage and preservation.

Ulla Jokisalo, “Wasteland” (2015), inkjet print with pins, 23 5/8 × 16 in. (pledged gift from the Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photograph Collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, © Ulla Jokisalo, digital image courtesy of the artist)

In a statement, LACMA CEO and Director Michael Govan expressed his enthusiasm not only for the gift, but also for the opportunity “to broaden and deepen the field in close collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum.” Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that Govan lost the housing he got as a job benefit when the museum put it on the market to help raise funds.

“We believe the collaboration allows us to reach an exponentially larger audience,” a LACMA representative told Hyperallergic. “Additionally, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in Brooklyn creates a critical framework for the collection.

Sawyer told Hyperallergic that there are many benefits to collective ownership. “This not only means sharing the costs of storing and maintaining works, but more importantly, it allows institutions to form long-term partnerships and share works with a wider audience,” he said. he declares. “It also means challenging to some extent a fundraising model that prioritizes individual ownership and rewards institutions with the greatest resources.”

A selection of donated works will be showcased in the exhibition In the Now: Gender and Nation in Europe, which will open at LACMA in November and visit the Brooklyn Museum in 2023.

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