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|
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 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|