LACMA Collectors Raise $2.6M for Beauford Delaney, Super Objects & More

Beauford Delaney, Negro Man [Claude McKay], 1944. LACMA, Gift of the 2022 Collectors Committee with additional funds provided by The Buddy Taub Foundation, Jill and Dennis Roach, Directors

LACMA's Collectors Committee, a spring ritual lately curtailed by the pandemic, returned in to close-to-normal form this weekend. Seventy-six members raised over $2.6 million to purchase 9 artworks, ranging from an 18th-century Paraguayan Cabinet and Writing Desk to a 2021 film by Tacita Dean. The marquee acquisition is Beauford Delaney's dazzling portrait of Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay. 

The Collectors Committee is composed of museum supporters who pledge money to a pooled fund for buying art. They convene each year to hear LACMA curators make pitches for potential acquisitions. Committee members vote, and artworks are purchased in order of popularity, until the collective funding is exhausted. 

The recently closed exhibition "Black American Portraits" pointed up how few pre-2000 works were in the collection. Two Collectors Committee purchases address that, and the Delaney comes directly from that show's walls. It was lent by Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.

Delaney was an adept code switcher, moving between the worlds of Black Harlem, gay Greenwich Village, the white New York art business, and ultimately, the expatriate community of Paris. In 1950s Paris he often worked in an Abstract Expressionist mode. The vigorous impasto of Negro Man [Claude McKay] is a bridge between van Gogh, Soutine, and transatlantic action painting. Its incandescent quality belies the picture's modest size (19 by 16 inches). James Baldwin wrote: "Perhaps I am so struck by the light in Beauford’s paintings because he comes from darkness—as I do, as, in fact, we all do."

Pitched by modern art curator Stephanie Barron, Claude McKay becomes the first work by Delaney in Los Angeles and LACMA's only oil painting by a major Harlem Renaissance artist. (A Jacob Lawrence, added in 2019, is a gouache on paper.)

William Armfield Hobday, Portrait of Prince Saunders, about 1815. Gift of the 2022 Collectors Committee

The European Painting and Sculpture department acquired a portrait of the African American educator and abolitionist Prince Saunders (1775-1839) by the fashionable but minor British painter William Armfield Hobday. Educated at Dartmouth, Saunders taught at Boston's free African School before emigrating to Haiti to set up a school system for King Henri Christophe. Saunders introduced smallpox vaccination to Haiti and wrote an English-language commentary on the island republic's laws. His portrait was painted during a trip to England about 1815. Saunders became a sensation in British society, where his first name was confused for a royal title. The theatrical dress of Hobday's portrait emphasizes the sitter's aristocratic self-presentation.

Early European portrayals of Black subjects have become popular with museum acquisition committees. Last week the Metropolitan Museum announced purchase of an example by François-Auguste Biard.

Frank E. Cummings III, Only Time Will Tell, 2011-2013. Gift of the 2022 Collectors Committee
Another theme of LACMA's 2022 purchases is objects of virtuoso craftsmanship. They include a rare, multi-compartment cabinet with slide-out writing surface from 18th-century Paraguay; a unique Articulated 3-D Digitally Printed Gown (2013) by designer Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitoni; and a steampunk/Afrofuturist clock, with springs made of carved wood, by Long Beach artist-woodturner Frank E. Cummings III (Only Time Will Tell, 2011-13). 

Cummings' clock is a "super-object," a term coined in the 1970s for technically ambitious studio furniture. Cummings made just two clocks, the first now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The Boston website calls its clock "perhaps the ultimate 'super-object,'" but maybe that needs to be updated. The yet-more-intricate LACMA clock, sporting a crown of porcupine quills, was conceived as a self-contained retrospective of Cummings' techniques.

Michael Schmidt, Articulated 3-D Digitally Printed Gown (modeled by Lita Von Teese), 2013. Gift of the 2022 Collectors Committee. Schmidt created the mannequin headdresses for LACMA's Alexander McQueen show
Kezban Arca Batibeki, Feud, 2020. Gift of the 2022 Collectors Committee with additional funds provided by Arun Bohra & Ashita Shah-Bohra and Afghan A. Lakha
The Art of the Middle East department added three works by women artists addressing the body, costume, and violence: Feud (2020) by Kezban Arca Batibeki; Deconstruction (Venus) (2021) by Azade Köker; and Disposable Bodies 4 [Shahrazad] (2012) by Laila Shawa. All three will be featured in a 2023 show, "Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond."

The Tacita Dean film One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting (2021) is a conversation between artists Luchita Hurtado and Julie Mehretu. Works by both artists were acquired by previous years' Collectors Committees.

Still from Tacita Dean's One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting, 2021


A beautiful Beauford Delaney portrait. I love the wet-on-wet affect. The real-expressionism of Alice Neel and the bravura impasto of Chaim Soutine.
The William Armfield Hobday portrait is positively Baroque, especially the background and the virtuoso treatment of the textiles. Rubens would be impressed.
The Michael Schmidt Articulated Gown is a bit underdone for my taste. But I rave of everything Iris van Herpen has ever conceived.
Anonymous said…
Since museums throughout America and the world do a constant series of acquisitions, most art objects in effect become new material for storage rooms.

Since LACMA is downsizing its public exhibition space, they should go into the business of companies like Public Storage. The museum can offer special rental locker rates for artists and collectors-investors.

Since a lot of tax breaks and deductions are involved too, LACMA can expand into a business similar to H&R Block or Turbo Tax.

But the museum definitely needs to expand into the business of window coverings and window draperies.

Also, since an endless series of cell-phone selfies and video clips on Instagram and TikTok are in LACMA's future, maybe they should open a branch in Silicon Valley?

By the way, the Ahmanson Foundation donated mainly junk.
The comment directly above has trod the same tired path endlessly. Boring does not begin to capture it. Zero value added.
Anonymous said…
^^^It's the same white nationalist who makes remarks against diversity and inclusion.

Unfortunately, there is a segment of the LA art audience that is reactionary, provincial, and thin-skinned. That includes the Ahmanson Foundation and the art critics at the LA Times.
Maybe we need to launch a conspiracy theory that trolling will make you blind.
Anonymous said…
> Unfortunately, there is a segment of the LA art audience
> that is reactionary, provincial, and thin-skinned.

LOL. Your comments are ironic since LA's government-affiliated, tax-supported art museum is being technically, symbolically returned to its rather half-crocked, provincial, reactionary past, when it was in Exposition Park stuck with the fossils, dioramas and dinosaurs of the Natural History Museum.

And to the commentator from NYC, the folks running LACMA are so blind and thick-skulled, they're similar to a blind person constantly needing a reminder that it's not ideal to cross a road when the sound of cars are detectable.

By the way, I've read that the massive, costly remodeling of the main concert hall (now named for David Geffen) at NY's Lincoln Center has been fully funded. The city it's in has a lot of deep-pocketed people, such as big corporate executives and hedgefund managers. Los Angeles doesn't.
Anonymous said…
^^^You read? I am surprised. Did you also read how long it took the NY Phil to raise that money? Geffen made the donation in 2015. The project was almost canceled because 2 years later the Phil had still not raised the remainder of the money. What revived the campaign was the hiring of the former President of the LA Phil (Deborah Borda). Now, that's irony.

For comparison, here's LACMA's funding timeline: In October 2017, Geffen made his donation to LACMA. In Jan 2020, the Keck Foundation pledged the last $50 million towards construction. Approximately 2 years after the Geffen donation, LACMA had the money to begin construction.

What holds LA back is not the lack of wealth. There's plenty here. Plus, as it turns out, Govan is very well connected. He helped Steven Cohen's daughter write her master's thesis.

What holds LA back is ignorant people like you. People with absolutely no cultural capital --- no sense of taste, no art, no ideas.
Re your comment, above, "What holds LA back is not the lack of wealth.":
The city is awash in a sea of money. A greater question is: don't monied Angelinos aspire to civic fame?
Is that even a thing there?
Anonymous said…
> What holds LA back is ignorant people like you. People
> with absolutely no cultural capital --- no sense of taste,
> no art, no ideas.

Actually, you come off like a Hollywood-type airhead, the kind of person who isn't much above the level of a so-called rube, hick or hayseed. [Blows air kisses]
Anonymous said…
) Is that even a thing there?

The reason the original LACMA was never properly remodeled and renovated going back decades is because it never han enough money to begin with.

When the main Ahmanson Gallery building was expanded in the early 1980s, it was a surprisingly cheap-looking addition to its north side. The outside of it had the design of a flimsy room addition to a tract house.

When the originally named Anderson Gallery in the mid-1980s was plopped down in the middle of the 1965-era entrance plaza, the areas all around it were never properly upgraded because of - again - a lack of enough funds.

Michael Govan and the board trustees had no damn business doing what they're now doing.