Largest Gift of Art in the Museum’s History Reflects Continuing Tradition of Close Ties Between Albright-Knox and Contemporary Artists
Janne Sirén, the Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, on Tuesday revealed that one of the epoch-making artists of the 1960s, Marisol(María Sol Escobar, Venezuelan and American, born France, 1930–2016), bequeathed her estate to the museum, based on her longstanding ties with the Albright-Knox.
Through the artist’s generosity, the museum is the recipient of more than 100 sculptures spanning the entirety of Marisol’s 60-year career, more than 150 works on paper, thousands of photographs and slides, and a small group of works by other artists Marisol had collected. The bequest also includes the artist’s archive, library, studies, tools, and New York loft apartment. With this bequest, the Albright-Knox now holds the world’s most significant collection of Marisol’s work, bringing remarkable depth and richness to the museum’s superb collection of Pop art and modern sculpture.
Dr. Sirén commented, “Marisol helped define the 1960s through her innovative and groundbreaking work, emerging as one of the most prominent artists of her generation. The Albright-Knox is proud to have been the first museum to acquire Marisol’s work, having purchased her sculptures The Generals from her solo show at the Stable Gallery in 1962 and Baby Girl in 1964. We are moved, and profoundly grateful, that Marisol was similarly proud of her association with the Albright-Knox and took the extraordinary step of leaving her estate to our museum.”
The museum has previously received major donations from artists whose work it has championed. Notable among these was a gift in 1964 of 31 paintings by Clyfford Still, which remains one of the most extensive collections donated by a living artist to a public museum. The substantially larger Marisol gift becomes part of this ongoing tradition of artists the museum has supported early in their careers later helping to build the Albright-Knox’s outstanding modern and contemporary art collection.
Tom Hyde, Chairman of the Albright-Knox Board of Directors, said, “The Albright- Knox accepts Marisol’s marvelous bequest with gratitude and a thrill of expectation. The museum has long sought to establish relationships with artists just starting their careers. Marisol’s generous gift shows how deeply she valued that relationship. We look forward to celebrating Marisol and championing her complex and engaging works for generations to come.”
Marisol, one of the twentieth century’s most gifted and poignant sculptors, had her first solo exhibition in 1957 at Leo Castelli Gallery, in the legendary gallery’s inaugural year. Her 1962 solo show at the Stable Gallery, whose exhibitions are widely credited with launching the Pop art movement, brought her public acclaim far beyond the art world. In 1968, she represented Venezuela at the Venice Biennale and was one of only four women among the 149 artists selected for that year’s Documenta exhibition in Kassel, West Germany. A retrospective exhibition titled Marisol: Sculpture and Works on Paper originated at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in 2014 and traveled to El Museo del Barrio in New York, stimulating fresh critical interest in her immense and varied achievement.
The commitment of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to Marisol’s work at an early stage in her career is characteristic of the museum, which became known in the 1950s for its courageous and farsighted collecting, a philosophy that continues to this day. Under the leadership of Board of Directors President Seymour H. Knox, Jr., and Director Gordon M. Smith, the Albright-Knox acquired major works by cutting-edge artists including Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, Jasper Johns, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, David Smith, Still, and Andy Warhol.
Marisol was among the artists supported by this collecting policy, and she developed an enduring respect for the Albright-Knox and the people associated with it, including Mr. Knox and the artist’s longtime gallerist and friend Sidney Janis, a native of Buffalo and her dealer from 1966 until his death in 1989. The artist’s decision to bequeath her estate to the museum, rather than transfer it to a foundation, is a testament to her belief in the importance of art museums.
Mimi Trujillo and Carlos Brillembourg, Marisol’s close friends and the executors of her estate, said, “We are so happy that Marisol’s longtime wish for her collection to be placed in the caring hands of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will become a reality.”
The Albright-Knox will soon begin the years-long process of cataloguing and photographing the Marisol bequest and will subsequently make images of the artworks accessible on its website. Dr. Sirén announced that when the Albright- Knox completes its current expansion project, known as AK360, the new Buffalo Albright-Knox-Gundlach Art Museum, designed by OMA/Shohei Shigematsu, will incorporate a gallery named in Marisol’s honor. Proceeds from the sale of Marisol’s Tribeca loft will be added to the museum’s capital campaign to realize and sustain the AK360 project. The AK360 capital campaign reached its first milestone in record time thanks to the unprecedented generosity of financial visionary and art collector Jeffrey Gundlach, who, with an historic $42.5 million donation to the museum in 2016, spurred an outpouring of additional support for the project. Speaking about today’s announcement, Gundlach said, “I first saw Marisol’s The Generals and Baby Girl right around the time they were acquired. Even though I was quite young, their visual impact, materiality, and form were so strong that I never forgot them. There is an arresting combination of otherworldliness and immediacy in Marisol’s work.”