Boston ICA Gifted a Trove of Works by Female Artists

Philanthropist Barbara Lee

A Boston philanthropist and Institute of Contemporary Art board member, Barbara Lee has bestowed on the museum an extraordinary gift: a trove of 43 works by 25 artists, all of them women.

The collection is valued at over $10 million, and boasts big names like Cindy Sherman, Amy Sillman, and Louise Bourgeois, many of whom Lee first encountered during various ICA exhibitions. The gift expands the museum’s current holdings by about 30%.

It’s a move that will help shape the museum’s growing collection for years to come and carve out a permanent space for work by female artists within that collection. “The next step is to build a robust collection,” Lee told the Boston Globe. “I hope to inspire others to step forward.”

Cornelia Parker, Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) (1999) Courtesy ICA

Cornelia Parker, Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson), 1999.
Courtesy ICA

In 2005, Lee gave the museum one its first permanent pieces, Cornelia Parker’s 1999 Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson), which has since become a favorite of visitors.

An exhibition will be organized around the new works once they’ve had time to settle into their new home. “We need to live with the work so we can organize an exhibit as exciting and important and scholarly as these works deserve,” explained ICA director Jill Medvedow.

“One of the most important stories of our time is the story women tell,” she continued. “Their representation has greatly improved [in the art world], but it’s still not excellent. Ours is excellent.”


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