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Acquisitions

Top five museum acquisitions of the month

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Our pick of the latest gifts and purchases to enter international museum collections—from an "erotic" depiction of Adam to a masterpiece by a female French painter

The Met will receive more than 700 rare photographs and albums dating from the 1840s to the 1910s from the collection of William Schaeffer, a New York-based specialist in early photography. Philip Maritz, a museum trustee, and his wife Jennifer made the promised gift to celebrate the Met’s 150th anniversary this year. It includes “extraordinary examples of every format of photography from the birth of the medium to the modern era”, says Jeff Rosenheim, the curator in charge of the department of photographs. Some works are in the show 2020 Vision: Photographs, 1840s-1860s (until 10 May). The museum also bought 70 American Civil War photographs from the Schaeffer collection with support from trustee Joyce Frank Menschel.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will receive an early photography collection, including this 1863 photo from Louisiana, attributed to McPherson and Oliver. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met will receive more than 700 rare photographs and albums dating from the 1840s to the 1910s from the collection of William Schaeffer, a New York-based specialist in early photography. Philip Maritz, a museum trustee, and his wife Jennifer made the promised gift to celebrate the Met’s 150th anniversary this year. It includes “extraordinary examples of every format of photography from the birth of the medium to the modern era”, says Jeff Rosenheim, the curator in charge of the department of photographs. Some works are in the show 2020 Vision: Photographs, 1840s-1860s (until 10 May). The museum also bought 70 American Civil War photographs from the Schaeffer collection with support from trustee Joyce Frank Menschel.

The British Museum has raised the £440,000 needed to buy an 18th-century watercolour by the Indian painter Nainsukh of Guler, which had been blocked from export by the UK government in November 2018. The purchase was supported by the Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund. The miniature, showing a group of musicians playing long horns typical of the hill region of northern India, had belonged to the family of the British artist Winifred Nicholson since she acquired the work in South Asia around 1920. It joins three other Nainsukh paintings donated to the British Museum in the 1940s.
British Museum in London has acquired The Trumpeters (around 1735-40) by Nainsukh of Guler. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The British Museum has raised the £440,000 needed to buy an 18th-century watercolour by the Indian painter Nainsukh of Guler, which had been blocked from export by the UK government in November 2018. The purchase was supported by the Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund. The miniature, showing a group of musicians playing long horns typical of the hill region of northern India, had belonged to the family of the British artist Winifred Nicholson since she acquired the work in South Asia around 1920. It joins three other Nainsukh paintings donated to the British Museum in the 1940s.

The Louvre used its right of pre-emption to secure a “masterpiece of 18th-century French painting” by Marguerite Gérard and Jean-Honoré Fragonard for just over €1m (est €300,000-€400,000) at Sotheby’s auction of the collection of Count and Countess de Ribes in Paris last December. Gérard was among a generation of professional female artists to emerge in pre-revolutionary France, producing genre scenes in the 17th-century Dutch style in collaboration with Fragonard, her brother-in-law and teacher, before launching her own career in the 1790s. The Interesting Student (around 1786), Gérard's first major canvas, pays tribute to their relationship, depicting a young woman holding a print of Fragonard’s The Fountain of Love (1785) in an atelier full of works of art. The cat and dog playing on a velvet stool in the lower-right corner may have been painted by Fragonard.
The Musée du Louvre in Paris has acquired The Interesting Student (around 1786) by Marguerite Gérard and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. © Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

The Louvre used its right of pre-emption to secure a “masterpiece of 18th-century French painting” by Marguerite Gérard and Jean-Honoré Fragonard for just over €1m (est €300,000-€400,000) at Sotheby’s auction of the collection of Count and Countess de Ribes in Paris last December. Gérard was among a generation of professional female artists to emerge in pre-revolutionary France, producing genre scenes in the 17th-century Dutch style in collaboration with Fragonard, her brother-in-law and teacher, before launching her own career in the 1790s. The Interesting Student (around 1786), Gérard's first major canvas, pays tribute to their relationship, depicting a young woman holding a print of Fragonard’s The Fountain of Love (1785) in an atelier full of works of art. The cat and dog playing on a velvet stool in the lower-right corner may have been painted by Fragonard.

Sweden’s Nationalmuseum has bought a nude by the Danish artist Kristian Zahrtmann once considered too erotic for a public collection. The languid depiction of the Biblical figure Adam “can still challenge our conceptions of taste” today, says the museum’s curator of 19th-century art, Carl-Johan Olsson. “It is very obvious that he is a potential object for the viewer’s lust, rather than being part of a moral story.” The purchase, for an undisclosed price through the Copenhagen-based dealer James Bauerle, was supported by the Nationalmuseum Friends’ association. A version of the painting is currently in a touring exhibition in Denmark that revisits the artist from a queer perspective.
The Nationalmuseum in Stockholm has acquired Adam in Paradise (1914) by Kristian Zahrtmann. © Anna Danielsson/Nationalmuseum

Sweden’s Nationalmuseum has bought a nude by the Danish artist Kristian Zahrtmann once considered too erotic for a public collection. The languid depiction of the Biblical figure Adam “can still challenge our conceptions of taste” today, says the museum’s curator of 19th-century art, Carl-Johan Olsson. “It is very obvious that he is a potential object for the viewer’s lust, rather than being part of a moral story.” The purchase, for an undisclosed price through the Copenhagen-based dealer James Bauerle, was supported by the Nationalmuseum Friends’ association. A version of the painting is currently in a touring exhibition in Denmark that revisits the artist from a queer perspective.

The Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum has added two Infinity Mirror Rooms to its collection, among several new acquisitions by the artist Yayoi Kusama. Also purchased, for an undisclosed price, were sculptures including Pumpkin (2016) and Flowers¾Overcoat (1964) as well as an early painting and photographs of the artist. The works will go on view in April, three years after the Hirshhorn’s blockbuster exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, which travelled to five North American cities. The museum’s director, Melissa Chiu, says the acquisitions position the Hirshhorn as a permanent resource for scholars studying Kusama’s “sublime practice”.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC Works by Yayoi Kusama, including the artist's Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field (1965). © Yayoi Kusama; Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner

The Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum has added two Infinity Mirror Rooms to its collection, among several new acquisitions by the artist Yayoi Kusama. Also purchased, for an undisclosed price, were sculptures including Pumpkin (2016) and Flowers¾Overcoat (1964) as well as an early painting and photographs of the artist. The works will go on view in April, three years after the Hirshhorn’s blockbuster exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, which travelled to five North American cities. The museum’s director, Melissa Chiu, says the acquisitions position the Hirshhorn as a permanent resource for scholars studying Kusama’s “sublime practice”.