Five new accessions to include 19th-century genre painting, Renaissance sculpture, early photographs of Paris, contemporary glass, and large-scale painting by Kehinde Wiley.
Members of the Chrysler’s Mowbray Arch Society have added not just one, but five new works to the Museum collection. This Museum membership group features more than 300 patrons dedicated to supporting the Chrysler while learning about its permanent collection and promoting its growth. Each December, Society Members gather to hear the Museum’s curators and director present works of art they seek to add to the Chrysler’s world-class holdings. The 2014 Art Purchase Dinner presentations and discussions were enthusiastic, as always. Typically, the Society selects one work for purchase, while additional works may be acquired through sufficient fundraising. The most recent event and subsequent efforts met with exceptional success.
After three rounds of spirited voting at the December 9 event, Society Members agreed to purchase of The Child Canova Modeling a Lion out of Butter by Pinckney Marcius-Simons (1865–1909). Created around 1885, the New York-born artist’s historical genre painting playfully illustrates the rags-to-riches story of one of history’s greatest sculptors. Set in the kitchen of an 18th-century Italian palace, it depicts 10-year-old Antonio Canova astounding his elders by shaping a large block of butter into a regal statue of a lion. According to legend, this creation of a banquet table centerpiece revealed a child prodigy and launched Canova’s rise to international fame as a master of neoclassical marble carving.
Not content with only one winning selection, Members of the Mowbray Arch Society understood the merits of the other candidates and rose to the challenge of adding them to the Chrysler Collection. Immediately a group of volunteers pulled together to reach out to their fellow Members in what would be a record-setting effort. In a few short days, thanks to their generous pledges, the Museum secured funding to enable the Chrysler to purchase all five works of art presented that evening:
- St. Andrew by Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Heavenly inspiration finds a hip-hop interpretation in this wall-spanning oil and enamel painting by one of today’s leading portraitists. In his signature style, Wiley confounds genre, idiom, and expectations by depicting the apostle, martyred for his faith on an X-shaped cross, as a young African-American man clad in popular urban street fashion. Though thoroughly contemporary, the 2006 canvas resonates with more traditional depictions of Christian saints represented in the Chrysler Collection. With the artist’s profile on the rise, it is no surprise that the painting already was promised to loan for a traveling exhibition. Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic opens at the Brooklyn Museum in February and tours four other U.S. cities before returning the new acquisition to the Chrysler in Fall 2016.
- Colorbox II by Jun Kaneko (American, b. Japan 1942). Five columns of stacked sheet glass—each only five inches wide and two inches deep—tower seven feet tall. Kaneko’s kilnformed sculpture builds a rhythmic relationship of surface, pattern, and scale. In this 2008 collaboration with Bullseye Glass, he balances his Eastern heritage with his Western life experience, aiming to erase the space between maker and material. “I want my sculptures to shake the air around them—to stand just like they should be there in that space and in that time.”
- Madonna and Child from the Workshop of Hans Klocker (Austrian, active in Europe 1475–1500). The four-foot-tall altarpiece sculpture, delicately carved in mountain pine, dates to ca. 1485–1495, and remarkably retains its rich polychrome and original gilding centuries later. In late Gothic style, the Christ Child holds an apple, a symbol of paradise and sin, and his mother appears as human as holy. The Renaissance sculpture is already on view amid other sacred works from the Irene Leache Memorial Collection gifted to the Chrysler earlier this year.
- The Bois de Boulogne portfolio by Charles Marville (French, 1831–1879). This collection of photographs depicts 1850s Paris and its newly planned park. Under the patronage of Napoleon III, the onetime royal forest was transformed into a suburban oasis of gardens, streams, and monuments. The Bois quickly became one of the most commonly depicted venues of the age, not only in these 1858–60 landscapes commissioned from the city’s official photographer, but in paintings by many of the world’s leading artists of the 19th century.
“I have been amazed by the outpouring of support for these acquisitions. It really speaks to the confidence that people have in this Museum,” said Erik Neil, director of the Chrysler. “I applaud our curators, led by Jeff Harrison, for presenting such an impressive selection. The Kehinde Wiley painting, in particular, will be a transformative addition to our collection,” he said.
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