Preview
Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past (2019) by Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh. Courtesy of the artists and Sharjah Art Foundation

Acquisitions

Top five museum acquisitions of the month

, , and

Our pick of the latest gifts and purchases to enter international museum collections—from a pot by an African-American slave to the earliest depiction of Highland dress

The Glasgow Museums has bought what it says is the earliest major full-length portrait of a sitter in Highland dress. From around 1683, it depicts the teenage aristocrat Mungo Murray wearing a belted plaid, which pre-dates kilts and clan tartans. The painting belonged to the financier Allan Murray and his wife Carol, and was purchased for £500,000 from the dealer Patrick Bourne, with a £250,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The work is now on view at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where it had been on loan from the Murrays. It will be the focus of talks and workshops exploring Scottish identity, toxic masculinity and tartan myths, according to Glasgow Museums. Another version of the painting has been in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery collection in Edinburgh since 1925. H.M.
The Glasgow Museums has acquired A Highland Chieftain: Portrait of Lord Mungo Murray (around 1683) by John Michael Wright. Courtesy of Glasgow Museums

The Glasgow Museums has bought what it says is the earliest major full-length portrait of a sitter in Highland dress. From around 1683, it depicts the teenage aristocrat Mungo Murray wearing a belted plaid, which pre-dates kilts and clan tartans. The painting belonged to the financier Allan Murray and his wife Carol, and was purchased for £500,000 from the dealer Patrick Bourne, with a £250,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The work is now on view at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where it had been on loan from the Murrays. It will be the focus of talks and workshops exploring Scottish identity, toxic masculinity and tartan myths, according to Glasgow Museums. Another version of the painting has been in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery collection in Edinburgh since 1925. H.M.

The Getty museum was granted an export licence for a major painting by Joseph Wright of Derby after a bid to keep it in the UK failed. Last October, the UK government placed a temporary export bar on Two Boys with a Bladder, valued at £3.5m plus VAT of £700,000, but no offers to buy it were made. Part of a series of candlelight paintings by the artist, it depicts a pig’s bladder, a popular toy in the 18th century. The Los Angeles museum purchased the work from the London-based gallery Lowell Libson and Jonny Yarker at the Tefaf fair in Maastricht last March.
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, has acquired Two Boys with a Bladder (1769-70) by Joseph Wright of Derby. Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Trust

The Getty museum was granted an export licence for a major painting by Joseph Wright of Derby after a bid to keep it in the UK failed. Last October, the UK government placed a temporary export bar on Two Boys with a Bladder, valued at £3.5m plus VAT of £700,000, but no offers to buy it were made. Part of a series of candlelight paintings by the artist, it depicts a pig’s bladder, a popular toy in the 18th century. The Los Angeles museum purchased the work from the London-based gallery Lowell Libson and Jonny Yarker at the Tefaf fair in Maastricht last March.

So taken was Vincent Van Gogh with Edgar Degas’s pastel nudes at a 1886 Paris exhibition that he made several nude studies inspired by the French artist’s work the following year. In recognition of this influence, the Van Gogh Museum has acquired what it calls the first “top ranking” Degas in its collection. The pastel, which will be on permanent display, was purchased at Sotheby’s in New York last November for $6.6m with fees. The acquisition was supported by the BankGiro Loterij, the Mondriaan Fund, the Triton Collection Foundation and the museum’s patrons group, The Yellow House.
The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, has acquired Woman Bathing (around 1886) by Edgar Degas. Courtesy of Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

So taken was Vincent Van Gogh with Edgar Degas’s pastel nudes at a 1886 Paris exhibition that he made several nude studies inspired by the French artist’s work the following year. In recognition of this influence, the Van Gogh Museum has acquired what it calls the first “top ranking” Degas in its collection. The pastel, which will be on permanent display, was purchased at Sotheby’s in New York last November for $6.6m with fees. The acquisition was supported by the BankGiro Loterij, the Mondriaan Fund, the Triton Collection Foundation and the museum’s patrons group, The Yellow House.

The enslaved African-American potter David Drake produced and inscribed this stoneware jar in 1858, when it was illegal in the US for slaves to read or write. The 22.5in-high glazed vessel bears a four-line poem stating its purpose as a food container as well as the artist’s signature, a “bold act of creativity and declaration of authorship on Drake’s part”, says Adrienne Spinozzi, the Met's assistant research curator of decorative arts in the American Wing. The Met bought the work—one of around 40 “poem vessels” attributed to Drake—for an undisclosed price from the collection of Arthur and Esther Goldberg.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, has acquired an inscribed stoneware vessel by David Drake. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The enslaved African-American potter David Drake produced and inscribed this stoneware jar in 1858, when it was illegal in the US for slaves to read or write. The 22.5in-high glazed vessel bears a four-line poem stating its purpose as a food container as well as the artist’s signature, a “bold act of creativity and declaration of authorship on Drake’s part”, says Adrienne Spinozzi, the Met's assistant research curator of decorative arts in the American Wing. The Met bought the work—one of around 40 “poem vessels” attributed to Drake—for an undisclosed price from the collection of Arthur and Esther Goldberg.

The Sharjah Art Foundation has acquired a site-specific installation by the Nigeria-born artists Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh for an undisclosed price. The multimedia work was commissioned for the 14th Sharjah Biennial in 2019, where it won the Sharjah Biennial Prize. Installed in the courtyard of the heritage house Bait Al Aboudi, the work features craters filled with seawater and a recording of an Emirati “rain song” performed by children from Sharjah. It is the foundation’s second permanent site-specific installation and part of a series of public art projects planned across the emirate. 
The Sharjah Art Foundation has acquired Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past (2019) by Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh. Courtesy of the artists and Sharjah Art Foundation

The Sharjah Art Foundation has acquired a site-specific installation by the Nigeria-born artists Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh for an undisclosed price. The multimedia work was commissioned for the 14th Sharjah Biennial in 2019, where it won the Sharjah Biennial Prize. Installed in the courtyard of the heritage house Bait Al Aboudi, the work features craters filled with seawater and a recording of an Emirati “rain song” performed by children from Sharjah. It is the foundation’s second permanent site-specific installation and part of a series of public art projects planned across the emirate.