The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has announced its latest acquisitions of a wide range of artworks that significantly enhance its renowned American art collection. Ranging in date from 1869 to 2020, the museum acquired 168 works of art through purchase and gift. These new additions include historic, 20th-century, and contemporary art in the form of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper. Works by 62 living artists have joined the permanent collection, and 98% of the acquisitions represent the 20th and 21st centuries.
The growing collection is utilized in the 2020-2023 exhibition program with permanent collection projects featuring women and artists of color. Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale (open through September 5, 2021) and Women in Motion: 150 Years of Women's Artistic Networks at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (premiering July 8, 2021) are current examples. Reflecting on the past year of fine art collection growth Brooke Davis Anderson, the Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum said, “I am grateful for the laser focus of our curators who with verve and scholarship are building a singular collection at PAFA. We are supported in this shared agenda of a necessary retelling of American art history by numerous donors and patrons, friends and audiences, and we could not achieve this goal without our many communities wanting this too.”
Expanding and diversifying its permanent collection and exhibitions is a cornerstone of PAFA's vision, an inclusive, creative community of artists and audiences seeking education, inspiration, representation, and dialogue. Consistent with this commitment, one-third of the 2020 additions are works by women and one-third by African American artists. Also of significance, six of the 2020 acquisitions are in the current show Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale, an exhibition sourced entirely from PAFA’s permanent collection: Polly Apfelbaum, There Are Many Hearts (Heart Park), 2020, Louise Fishman, Antica Locanda Montin, 2016, Clarity Haynes, Janie, 2014, Winifred Lutz, Uncontainable, Once Begun, Light Flees Its Center Ceaselessly, 1985, Liliana Porter, Them with Christ IV (Dialogue with Christ Lamp IV), 1997, and Dyani White Hawk, She Gives (Quiet Strength VII), 2020. These recently acquired works account for 10% of this exhibition.
Highlights of the 2020 acquisitions include an architectural sculpture by Kambel Smith (b. 1986); a striking painting by Dyani White Hawk (b.1976); Derek Fordjour's (b.1974) recent work, Eulogy (2020); a 2016 work by abstract painter Louise Fishman (b.1939); a group of archival pigment prints by Kwame Brathwaite (b. 1938) artwork by the prolific American realist painter Jack Beal (1931-2013); landscape paintings by the innovative Philadelphia modernist and former PAFA instructor and dean Hugh Henry Breckenridge (1870-1937); and a charcoal by Mary L. Haines (1866-1951) to be included in the upcoming 2021 summer exhibition Women in Motion: 150 Years of Women's Artistic Networks at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
PAFA is the first museum in the region to add works by contemporary artists Kwame Brathwaite and Derek Fordjour to its permanent collection. While these artists hail from different generations, Brathwaite and Fordjour look to the beauty of everyday people in their work. "What excites me about having these Brathwaite photographs in PAFA's collection are the potential links between them and the portraiture in other mediums in the collection. Brathwaite's use of art as a form of activism that relies on aesthetic beauty is an impulse that has contemporary resonance, so I'm looking forward to what that might look like in future exhibitions," shared Dr. Brittany Webb, Evelyn and Will Kaplan Curator of Twentieth-Century Art and the John Rhoden Collection. The MACC Collection of Contemporary Art generously funded the purchase of Fordjour’s Eulogy. Currently, on view in PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building, the painting shows a preacher delivering a eulogy in front of a luminous stained-glass window. Made in 2020, a year marked by the massive death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic and hyper-visible racial violence, Fordjour’s Eulogy painting is part of a body of work based on Black funerary traditions and the vulnerability of being Black in the United States.
As a museum leading the charge of acquiring women's art, two notable 2020 additions to the permanent collection are Mary L. Haines and Dyani White Hawk's works. These artists share their first artwork to enter PAFA's collection and are both in 2021 exhibitions. In 1889, Haines attended the School of Design for Women in Philadelphia under American artist Emily Sartain (1841-1927). She received accolades and a scholarship to continue her work and later studied with William Merrit Chase. Haines exhibited watercolors and oil paintings at PAFA's annual exhibitions (1889-1891), and like many women artists of the period she was best known for her works on paper. Thus, Dr. Anna O. Marley, Kenneth R. Woodcock Curator of Historic American Art is thrilled that Southampton, NY, a 1909 charcoal by Haines has entered PAFA’s collection and will be on view in Women in Motion: 150 Years of Women's Artistic Networks at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
She Gives (Quiet Strength VII) by Dyani White Hawk celebrates the quiet power of women artists' invisible labor and resilience by using oil paint and minute brushstrokes on canvas to evoke beadwork traditions of her heritage. White Hawk, an artist of Sičangu Lakota and European American ancestry, draws from her cross-cultural education, experiences, and influences when creating her art. "Her work demands that we consider why native artists and their traditions are often missing from our museum galleries. When their impact, appropriated art forms, and images are present in everything from early American colonial imagery to modernist abstraction," said Jodi Throckmorton, Curator of Contemporary Art. She Gives (Quiet Strength VII) is currently on loan to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art for a significant solo exhibition of White Hawk’s work. It will return to PAFA this summer and rejoin Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale.