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The Victoria and Albert Museum acquired London Extinction Rebellion designs. Photo: © Chris J Ratcliffe

Acquisitions

Climate protest designs, an authentic Banksy fake and radical collection updates: the year in acquisitions

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Our pick of the gifts and purchases to enter international museum collections in 2019

Top museum acquisitions this year range from the diminutive (Banksy’s cheeky imitation £10 note) to the monumental (Kehinde Wiley’s 27ft-high bronze riposte to Confederate statues). A contemporary sensibility is in evidence, with the Tretyakov and MoMA celebrating major donations of Russian and African art that will radically update their permanent holdings. Perhaps most exciting are the cultural artefacts that go beyond fine art, such as the vast archives of Ebony and Jet magazines, and the designs of climate activists Extinction Rebellion. Here, we look back at some of the most significant acquisitions of 2019.

MoMA hailed a “transformative” gift of 45 works of contemporary African art from the collector Jean Pigozzi that made it a “unique institutional leader” in that field. Among the highlights are intricate maquettes of fantasy buildings assembled from paper and scrap materials by the Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez, such as U.N. (1995) (pictured), which featured in MoMA’s major 2018 exhibition of his work. Another standout is Water Problem (2004), Chéri Samba’s environmentally themed painting of himself seeking new sources of water in space, which the museum installed as part of its reopening collection displays in October. N.K.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired contemporary African works from the collection of Jean Pigozzi. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. CAAC-The Pigozzi Collection. Gift of Jean Pigozzi, 2019. © 2019 Estate Bodys Isek Kingelez / Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection

MoMA hailed a “transformative” gift of 45 works of contemporary African art from the collector Jean Pigozzi that made it a “unique institutional leader” in that field. Among the highlights are intricate maquettes of fantasy buildings assembled from paper and scrap materials by the Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez, such as U.N. (1995) (pictured), which featured in MoMA’s major 2018 exhibition of his work. Another standout is Water Problem (2004), Chéri Samba’s environmentally themed painting of himself seeking new sources of water in space, which the museum installed as part of its reopening collection displays in October.

 The Met announced an “exceptional” bequest of more than 375 works and $80m in funding for further aquisitions from its long-standing patron and former trustee Jayne Wrightsman, who died in April at the age of 99. Highlights include a portrait by Anthony van Dyck, Queen Henrietta Maria (1636) (pictured), and six paintings by Canaletto. A selection of the works is on view at the Met until 16 February.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art received Jayne Wrightsman's bequest. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman in honour of Annette de la Renta, 2019

The Met announced an “exceptional” bequest of more than 375 works and $80m in funding for further aquisitions from its long-standing patron and former trustee Jayne Wrightsman, who died in April at the age of 99. Highlights include a portrait by Anthony van Dyck, Queen Henrietta Maria (1636) (pictured), and six paintings by Canaletto. A selection of the works is on view at the Met until 16 February.

 The British Museum’s department of coins and medals acquired Banksy’s imitation UK £10 banknote bearing the face of the late Princess Diana and the inscription "Banksy of England". It was donated by Pest Control, the anonymous street artist's agent and authentication body. Banksy produced the note in 2004, seven years after the death of the princess, claiming to have printed 100,000 copies to throw from a building. The banknotes now sell on eBay at prices ranging from £2.95 to £1,350, although many are reproductions rather than authentic Banksy fakes.
The British Museum has acquired Banksy’s Di-faced Tenner (2004). © Banksy, courtesy of Pest Control Office

The British Museum’s department of coins and medals acquired Banksy’s imitation UK £10 banknote bearing the face of the late Princess Diana and the inscription "Banksy of England". It was donated by Pest Control, the anonymous street artist's agent and authentication body. Banksy produced the note in 2004, seven years after the death of the princess, claiming to have printed 100,000 copies to throw from a building. The banknotes now sell on eBay at prices ranging from £2.95 to £1,350, although many are reproductions rather than authentic Banksy fakes.

Rembrandt’s Study of the Head and Clasped Hands of a Young Man as Christ in Prayer (around 1650) was acquired by the Louvre Abu Dhabi
Rembrandt’s Study of the Head and Clasped Hands of a Young Man as Christ in Prayer (around 1650) has been acquired by the Louvre Abu Dhabi. © Sotheby’s

Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first museum in the Gulf to acquire a Rembrandt, buying this oil sketch for £9.5m (with fees) in a bidding battle at Sotheby’s in London in December 2018. The small panel, which was in a private collection for decades, is one of a series portraying the same man as Jesus Christ. Two fingerprints along the bottom edge, presumed to be the artist’s, attest to the speed of its making. Louvre Abu Dhabi unveiled the work as part of its Dutch Golden Age exhibition in February.

Singer, actor and civil rights activist Lena Horne, pictured with her Siamese kitten, Anna, in this undated photograph
The singer, actor and civil rights activist Lena Horne, pictured with her Siamese kitten, Anna, in this undated photograph. Courtesy of Isaac Sutton/Ebony Collection

The J. Paul Getty Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation together bought the archive of the Chicago-based publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines for $30m in a bankruptcy auction in July. With more than four million photographs and 10,000 hours of video, the archive chronicles African-American life over eight decades, portraying entertainers, athletes and politicians, as well as pivotal historical moments. The foundations have said they will donate portions to institutions including the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute.

Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery received more than 100 works of contemporary Russian art from the collectors Vladimir Smirnov and Konstantin Sorokin. The gift includes pieces by Alexandra Paperno, Olga Chernysheva, Aslan Gaisumov and the duo MishMash. Smirnov and Sorokin also gave the Tretyakov an unspecified sum for new acquisitions and an archive “reflecting many important events in Russian art of the last 15 years”, according to the museum. Its director, Zelfira Tregulova, described the donation as a “landmark event” since the Tretyakov previously owned very few works made after 2000. An exhibition of the gifts will open at the New Tretyakov Gallery next April.
Aslan Gaisumov's In Memory of A.P. (2014), from the series Untitled (War), is one of the contemporary Russian works acquired by the State Tretyakov Gallery. Photo: GTG Sergeev AV

Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery received more than 100 works of contemporary Russian art from the collectors Vladimir Smirnov and Konstantin Sorokin. The gift includes pieces by Alexandra Paperno, Olga Chernysheva, Aslan Gaisumov and the duo MishMash. Smirnov and Sorokin also gave the Tretyakov an unspecified sum for new acquisitions and an archive “reflecting many important events in Russian art of the last 15 years”, according to the museum. Its director, Zelfira Tregulova, described the donation as a “landmark event” since the Tretyakov previously owned very few works made after 2000. An exhibition of the gifts will open at the New Tretyakov Gallery next April.

French art The Musée d’Orsay received 106 works of late 19th- and early 20th-century French art from Marlene Hays, which she collected with her late husband Spencer. The gift followed the Texan couple’s donation in 2016 of 187 mainly post-Impressionist works. The second gift comprised 40 paintings by artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Édouard Vuillard, 47 drawings and 19 sculptures. V.S.B.
The Musée d’Orsay has acquired works of late 19th- and early 20th-century French art. Pictured: Maurice Denis's Noli me Tangere, or Moulin de Pâques au ruisseau bleu (around 1892). © Patrice Schmidt, EPMO

The Musée d’Orsay received 106 works of late 19th- and early 20th-century French art from Marlene Hays, which she collected with her late husband Spencer. The gift followed the Texan couple’s donation in 2016 of 187 mainly post-Impressionist works. The second gift comprised 40 paintings by artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Édouard Vuillard, 47 drawings and 19 sculptures.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) acquired the monumental bronze sculpture Rumors of War, Wiley's response to the Confederate statues common to southern US states. The 27ft-high work depicts a young African-American man in urban streetwear astride a horse on a stone pedestal. On view in Times Square in New York until 1 December, the statue will be installed permanently at the entrance to the VMFA on Richmond's Arthur Ashe Boulevard on 10 December. The museum purchased the work through Sean Kelly Gallery for an undisclosed sum.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond has acquired Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War (2019). Photo: Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) acquired the monumental bronze sculpture Rumors of War, Wiley's response to the Confederate statues common to southern US states. The 27ft-high work depicts a young African-American man in urban streetwear astride a horse on a stone pedestal. Recently on view in Times Square in New York, the statue was installed permanently at the entrance to the VMFA on Richmond's Arthur Ashe Boulevard on 10 December. The museum purchased the work through Sean Kelly Gallery for an undisclosed sum.

This 16ft-wide canvas from Lee Krasner’s Umber Paintings series, made while she mourned the loss of her mother and her husband, Jackson Pollock, set an auction record for the artist of $11.7m (with fees) at Sotheby’s New York in May. It is the first work by Krasner to enter the private museum's collection.
The Glenstone has acquired Lee Krasner’s The Eye is the First Circle (1960). © Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society; courtesy of Sotheby’s

This 16ft-wide canvas from Lee Krasner’s Umber Paintings series, made while she mourned the loss of her mother and her husband, Jackson Pollock, set an auction record for the artist of $11.7m (with fees) at Sotheby’s New York in May. It is the first work by Krasner to enter the private museum's collection.

The Victoria and Albert Museum acquired London Extinction Rebellion designs
The Victoria and Albert Museum acquired London Extinction Rebellion designs. Photo: © Chris J Ratcliffe

The V&A acquired digital graphics and printed protest materials produced by the climate change activists Extinction Rebellion. V&A curator Corinna Gardner said their “clear design principles have ensured their acts of rebellion are immediately recognisable”.