Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces Dozens of New Acquisitions

  • BENTONVILLE, Arkansas
  • /
  • September 12, 2019

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Emma Amos, The Reader, 1967. Oil on canvas, in artist's frame, 41 1/4 × 61 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art , Bentonville, Arkansas . Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has announced new acquisitions to the museum’s permanent collection, both historic and contemporary, including works by Kehinde Wiley, Jordan Casteel, Loie Hollowell, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and 23 artworks from the Gordon W. Bailey collection. 

“The museum is fully committed to diversifying our collection to better reflect a broad range of perspectives and experiences,” said Austen Barron Bailly, chief curator, Crystal Bridges. “Each new acquisition advances the conversation about American art in ways that are representative of more of the American people and their stories.”

New Acquisitions on View in the Contemporary Art Gallery:

“With the installation of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, we had a chance to reimagine a section of our contemporary gallery with the addition of these recent acquisitions. It’s thrilling to welcome artists like Kehinde Wiley, Jordan Casteel, and Loie Hollowell into the collection and to invite conversations with other works in the collection and our visitors,” said Lauren Haynes, curator, contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and curator of visual arts at the Momentary.

Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman by Kehinde Wiley

Wiley is an artist whose portraits merge contemporary life with traditional art historical references. Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman (2018), based on Francesco Salviati’s sixteenth-century painting, features Shontay Haynes of St. Louis, Mo. Apart from her pose which Wiley borrowed from the source painting, all of the decisions about presentation—from the subject’s outfit to her tattoos—reinforce a sense of the sitter’s agency and self-creation.

Kehinde Wiley, Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman , 2018. Oil on linen, 96 × 72 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art , Bentonville, Arkansas . Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

This painting is part of a series of artworks that the Saint Louis Art Museum commissioned for an exhibition called Kehinde Wiley: Saint Louis. For these portraits, Wiley selected residents from Ferguson and St. Louis as subjects and created 11 original portraits inspired by artworks in Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection, including the Salviati work.”

Crystal Bridges has acquired several other works by contemporary artists of color and female artists who are pushing boundaries of representation:

  • Ourlando (2018) by Jordan Casteel – the subject of the painting is a suit shop owner on 125th Street in Harlem, New York. The sitters in Casteel’s paintings are often people she has met and connected with in her neighborhood.
  • Mother’s Milk (2018) by Loie Hollowell – a painting that is exploring the artist’s experience of pregnancy and motherhood through her primarily abstract artistic practice. Hollowell was featured in the 2018 Crystal Bridges’ exhibition, The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art.
  • Dave Forsythe (2019) by Nathaniel Mary Quinn – Quinn distorts his friend’s body with a collage of other images to speak to the individual complexity of the person he portrays.
  • The Reader (1967) by Emma Amos – created in 1967 as part of a suite of works the artist referred to as her “attitude paintings,” Amos portrays herself reading in an otherwise abstract composition. Amos was featured in Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at Crystal Bridges in 2018.

Gifts / Purchases from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection

Crystal Bridges has acquired 23 artworks, by gift and gift/purchase, from the collection of Gordon W. Bailey, a Los Angeles-based collector.  Bailey is a noted scholar and advocate of untrained Southern artists, particularly African-American, who struggled during the Jim Crow era:

  • Leroy Almon, Adam and Eve (1996); The Slave (1994)
  • Thornton Dial Sr., Cocaine Dog (1980s)
  • Sam Doyle, Dr. Crow (1982-84)
  • Josephus Farmer, Behold the Lamb of God (1980s)
  • Roy Ferdinand, Sulton Rogers (1993); Do Not Cross (2004)
  • Clementine Hunter, Baptism (1950s)
  • Harry Lieberman, The Orphans’ Rights (1960s)
  • Joe Light, Colored Hobo (1980s)
  • Ronald Lockett, Wolves Look Back (1993)
  • J.B. Murray, Untitled (1970s)
  • Sulton Rogers, Haint House with 14 Haints (1990s)
  • Herbert Singleton, Angola (door)(1990s); Tree of Death (1980s); Untitled (cane)(1990s)
  • Welmon Sharlhome, Untitled (architectural with clock)(1990s); Untitled (architectural with dragon clock)(1990s); Untitled (architectural with heart)(1990s)
  • Purvis Young, Untitled (bound book with 53 artworks)(1990s); Angels Save the City (1990s); Blues Musicians (1990s); Three Dudes (1990s)

“Gordon W. Bailey’s generous gifts are a welcome addition to our collection,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “We’re grateful to be able to highlight and celebrate this array of inspiring works, primarily by African American artists, who have made important contributions to the American art historical canon. We look forward to featuring a selection of the works in a forthcoming focus exhibition and incorporating others into the collection galleries as these works deepen our understanding of our country’s rich and complex history.”

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Good Shepherd , 1917. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 × 32 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Ar t, Bentonville, Arkansas . Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

Highlights from Bailey’s group of works include: Dr. Crow, a painting on sheet metal by South Carolina artist Sam Doyle, whose works chronicled America’s unique Gullah culture, and were collected by Jean-Michel Basquiat; Cocaine Dog, a stirring, mixed media, metal sculpture by Thornton Dial Sr.; a poignant, 1950s, oil on board, Baptism, by Clementine Hunter; a six-foot tall, carved and painted, tree stump, Tree of Death, by Herbert Singleton, whose bas-relief works often address human frailty and hypocrisy; and several, outstanding, large-scale works by Purvis Young painted on wood panels reclaimed from cast-off shipping crates, and a 53-page book of Young’s mixed media works.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed organizing this gift with Rod. He has shown keen insight, and an evolved social consciousness,” said Gordon W. Bailey. “The museum’s progressive board, headed by Crystal Bridges founder and board chair Alice Walton, is making bold moves, and has impressed me with their collective wisdom and commitment. The addition of, the Momentary, an innovative, contemporary, arts center further ensures that the diverse and thriving region will continue to grow for decades to come.”

The Good Shepherd by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Crystal Bridges also acquired a painting by the pioneering African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) whose work, The Good Shepherd (1917), represents Tanner’s mature painting style and religious subjects deeply rooted in his own faith. This work will be on view in the Early American Art Galleries later this fall.

Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. and was accepted to the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in 1879, becoming the only black student. There, he studied with Thomas Eakins who encouraged Tanner to continue his training as a painter. He eventually moved to Paris in 1891 and gained international acclaim primarily for religious paintings such as Daniel in the Lions’ Den (1895), which won an honorable mention in the Paris Salon in 1896.  

“Tanner gained great success in the international art world around 1900 and his work inspired generations of American artists. The Good Shepherd is an important addition to the Crystal Bridges collection, and we’re looking forward to putting the work in context not only of Eakins, but also his other contemporaries,” said Mindy N. Besaw, curator, Crystal Bridges.

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