Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Acquire 62 Works by African American Artists Including Purvis Young, Thornton Dial
Highlights include nine pieces by Thornton Dial.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has announced that its collection will now include 62 works by contemporary African American artists from the Southern United States. The works hail from the William S. Arnett Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in Atlanta.
Part gift and part purchase, the acquisition features artwork by 22 artists, including Thornton Dial, Ralph Griffin, Bessie Harvey, Lonnie Holley, Joe Light, Ronald Lockett, Joe Minter, Jessie T. Pettway, Mary T. Smith, Mose Tolliver, Annie Mae Young, and Purvis Young.
Highlights include nine pieces by Dial, the late self-taught artist who achieved widespread critical acclaim in his seventies and eighties, who died last year at the age of 87. Dial’s auction record is $40,000 for Hard Labor (1998), according to the artnet Price Database, achieved in January 2016 at Christie’s first major auction of self-taught art.
Annie Mae Young, one of the legendary quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, also gets prime placement. It has been years in the making, considering that the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco previously exhibited “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” in collaboration with the Soul’s Grown Deep Foundation in 2006. The collection also includes works by the late self-taught artist Purvis Young, whose Miami-based studio received numerous visits during his career, including one by the Rubells in 1999, which resulted in the purchase of up to 3,000 works from his collection.
All 62 newly-acquired paintings, sculptures, drawings, and quilts will be displayed in “Revelations: Art from the African American South,” opening June 3, 2017 in the museum’s American art galleries, with the hopes that it will appeal to both scholars and the public.
Though Souls Grown Deep was only founded in 2010, art historian William S. Arnett began the impressive collection three decades earlier. The work reflects the legacy of the history of African Americans, from slavery to the Civil Rights movement. Though these artists, who often had little formal training, have also been understood as Outsider artists, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation aims to prevent the marginalization of their work, and to garner recognition for their rightful place in art history.
“As an advocate for these artists and their enduring legacies,” said Souls Grown Deep Foundation president Maxwell L. Anderson in a statement, “our partnerships with major American museums are critical to ensuring that their contributions are woven into the greater narrative of art in America.”
Citing the quality of the institution’s collection of American art, which surveys 350 years, museum director and CEO Max Hollein noted in a statement that “we feel a special responsibility to take the lead in expanding the representation of artists who reflect the historical diversity of American culture. This groundbreaking acquisition of contemporary art adds an integral—and exceptional—chapter to our signature collection of American art.”
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