New exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of transformative OKCMOA acquisition
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New exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of transformative OKCMOA acquisition
David Park, Double Portrait, 1959. Oil on canvas, 44 x 50 inches. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Museum purchase, Washington Gallery of Modern Art Collection, 1968.172. Photo: Bryan Cook.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.- In 1968, the Oklahoma Art Center (the predecessor to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art) purchased the 154-piece collection of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, transforming Oklahoma City’s collection of contemporary art. Opening Saturday, Feb. 17 on OKCMOA’s first floor, “The New Art: A Milestone Collection Fifty Years Later,” will feature 52 works from this collection, including paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings.

“The acquisition of this collection by the Oklahoma Art Center was both visionary and courageous,” said President and CEO E. Michael Whittington. “At the time, many of the artists represented here were at the beginning of their careers. Since then, these artists and their work have become the definitive examples of early Contemporary American art. This exhibition celebrates these important works of art and the significant legacy of arts leaders in Oklahoma City during the late 1960s.”

“The Washington Gallery of Modern art transformed the Washington, D.C. art scene and brought focus and interest to D.C. as a leader in contemporary art,” added Director of Curatorial Affairs Dr. Michael J. Anderson. “We are lucky to have these incredible artworks here in Oklahoma City permanently. Not only has this helped establish the city as a leading collector of abstract expressionism, post painterly abstraction, color field painting, minimalism, and pop art but it has helped spur additional gifts, including 125 works from the Paul and Esther Reed Trust by Washington Color School artist Paul Reed.”

Open from 1961 to 1968, the Washington Gallery of Modern Art brought recognition to D.C.’s contemporary art scene. Among the many groundbreaking shows, the Gallery’s exhibition of the “Washington Color Painters” featuring works by Washington-based artists defined the most important movement of the nation’s capital: Washington Color School. When the Washington Gallery of Modern Art closed in 1968, due to increasing competition among Washington museums to exhibit contemporary art, the Oklahoma Art Center made the bold decision to purchase this historically significant collection.

Exhibition highlights include works by Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Diebenkorn, Grace Hartigan, Sam Gilliam, Robert Indiana and Paul Reed, along with rarely shown works by Morris Louis, Ruth Vollmer, Lee Bontecou and John Latham.

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