The Brooklyn Museum Is Expanding the Story of Art History With 200 Acquisitions Spanning Indigenous Textiles and Brand New Photography
The highlights include a cache of watercolors by Emily Sargent, John Singer Sargent's overlooked sister.
A beaded full-size trailer, an ancient Egyptian relief linked to King Tutankamun, and a cache of watercolors by an artist whose work was often attributed to her more famous brother are among the 200 objects to enter the Brooklyn Museum‘s collection this year, the institution announced today.
In expanding its holdings, the museum sought to tell new stories from variety of perspectives, and “to strengthen areas of the collection that may have been overlooked in the past,” Catherine Futter, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs and senior curator of decorative arts, told Artnet News.
Many of the newly acquired works are destined for the museum’s American art wing, which will unveil a major new installation in 2024, featuring work by more Black, Asian American, Native American, and women artists who have historically been excluded from mainstream art history. That includes a Lenape Bandolier Bag made in the 19th century using bright blue and pink glass beads appliquéd with a leaf motif.
“By acquiring great works of art by those who were forced from their homelands, we will elevate the history and visibility of these vibrant, and living cultures,” Futter said. The museum has been working with the local Lenape (Delaware) community to help teach its visitors about Native American history and experiences.
Beads also play a prominent role in perhaps the biggest acquisition of the year, Liza Lou’s Trailer (2000), a 1949 Spartan Mansion aluminum trailer where every inch of the interior has been completely bedazzled with monochromatic glass beads. (Her best-known work is the similarly maximalist, but far more colorful installation Kitchen, which debuted at New York’s New Museum in 1996.)
“Liza Lou’s Trailer addresses many issues around craft and fine art, labor, and gender,” Futter said, comparing the work to Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, the centerpiece of the museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. “While Trailer is large, it is cinematic, immersive, and thrilling (and dark). It will allow us to connect with other works in the collection, The Dinner Party, Indigenous and African beadwork, as well new media works.”
It’s the Brooklyn Museum’s first work by the artist, who operated an art studio employing local women in Durban, South Africa, where she lived and worked from 2005 to 2020. The institution plans to install the piece somewhere on the ground floor.
The museum did not immediately respond to an inquiry about what proportion of the acquisitions were gifts and what proportion were purchased, or whether any were acquired with funds from its recent round of deaccessioning.
The museum’s commitment to telling the stories of women throughout art history also comes through in a suite of 20 watercolors by Emily Sargent, whose work is also held by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. But as is the case with so many historical women artists, her works have also been wrongfully attributed to her more famous brother, John Singer Sargent.
“This tendency,” Futter said, “makes this acquisition, and the continued study of the younger artist’s style and technique, all the more urgent.” The 20 watercolors include candid scenes of markets in the Mediterranean and stark landscapes in Egypt.
Other first-time additions to the collection include a pair of paintings by the Japanese American painters Bumpei Usui and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. The museum has been working to expand its Asian American art holdings, Futter explained, a goal that became more even more pressing in light of the recent rise in violent crime targeting Asian Americans.
But the museum has also built on existing strengths, snapping up a fourth ancient Egyptian limestone relief sculpture known as a talat. Egyptologists believe these four carvings originally decorated the palace where King Tutankamun grew up, acquired just in time for the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the boy king’s tomb.
“With this talatat,” Futter said, “the museum has the most important group of wall carvings from the Amarna period in North America.”
See more photos of newly acquired works below.
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