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Phoenix Art Museum to diversify contemporary art collection
Derek Fordjour, The Futility of Achievement, 2020. Acrylic, charcoal, cardboard, oil pastel, foil, and glitter on newspaper mounted on canvas. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Dawn and David Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York.



PHOENIX, AZ.- Phoenix Art Museum announced the expansion of the Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative to support the diversification of its contemporary art collection through the acquisition of works by artists contributing to discourses on race, gender, and other social concerns that are relevant to the Phoenix community and society at large. These efforts will entail collecting works by a range of artists working today, including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and women artists, among others. This reimagining of the Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative supports the Museum’s previously stated goals of examining and diversifying its permanent collection. The Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative was originally established in 2017 through the support of Valley philanthropists Dawn and David Lenhardt to deepen the Museum’s commitment to contemporary art through various programs, including the Lenhardt Lectures, the Lenhardt Emerging Artist Acquisition Fund, and the Dawn and David Lenhardt Gallery. Going forward, funds from the Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative will also be allocated so that the Museum may specifically focus on acquiring works of art that contribute to the diversification of its contemporary art collection.

“We are deeply grateful to Dawn and David Lenhardt for spearheading and generously funding an initiative that is so crucial to the mission of Phoenix Art Museum,” said Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “The Lenhardt family has made it possible for the Museum to focus our efforts on addressing the historic underrepresentation of various communities in the institution’s collection by acquiring works that better reflect the diverse community we serve today. It is our hope that others who support Phoenix Art Museum and have the means to do so will join the Museum and the Lenhardts in fulfilling this vision of a more inclusive collection.”




The Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative was established in 2017 with the goal of providing continuous funding for contemporary art acquisitions by emerging artists and public programs that would raise the Museum’s profile on a national scale. Without an annual budget for new acquisitions, the Museum has, historically, relied upon such gifts from its donor community and its support groups to procure funding for acquisitions of new artworks. Through thisinitial gift, the Museum was able to acquire a number of significant works by artists emerging on the national scene, including Shara Hughes and Arcmanoro Niles. Annual Lenhardt Lectures further strengthened the Museum’s contemporary art program by presenting and exposing the Phoenix community to internationally renowned artists such as Jim Hodges, Daniel Joseph Martinez, and, most recently, Teresita Fernández and Amalia Mesa-Bains. Now, the expansion of the Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative will also highlight artists whose diverse narratives are meaningful to the Phoenix community and beyond.

“We saw an opportunity to expand our initiative in a way that could support the Museum’s efforts to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said David Lenhardt, who also serves as the Vice Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Not only will this initiative grow the contemporary art collection—it will also enrich the collection and related programming with diverse perspectives and experiences that reflect our current moment. Through these acquisitions as well as annual lectures that bring these artists to the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix Art Museum will contribute to an urgent dialogue that better reflects the multicultural reality of our nation.”

In commitment to this broadened focus, the Museum has acquired The Futility of Achievement (2020) by New York-based artist Derek Fordjour with funds provided by the Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative. The large-scale painting was recently featured in the exhibition SELF MUST DIE at Petzel Gallery in New York City, which contrasted the inevitability of actual death with the aspirational death of the artist’s ego. Fordjour, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to parents of Ghanaian heritage, earned his BA at Morehouse College, his MA in Art Education at Harvard University, and an MFA in Painting at Hunter College. He has exhibited at notable institutions around the world and received commissions for various public projects, including a permanent installation for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City at 145th Street Subway Station and The Whitney Museum’s Billboard Project. Fordjour’s work appears in several national collections, including The Studio Museum of Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Dallas Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, LACMA, and now, Phoenix Art Museum. The Futility of Achievement (2020) will be on view at Phoenix Art Museum beginning spring 2021, and Fordjour will be the featured speaker in the Lenhardt Lecture this fall.

“The Lenhardt Contemporary Art Initiative is critical for the development and evolution of contemporary art at Phoenix Art Museum,” said Gilbert Vicario, the institution’s Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and the Selig Family Chief Curator, who oversees the Museum’s contemporary art programs. “While it allows the Museum to continue refining our national reputation through the development of a collection program that features some of the most compelling artists working today, the initiative also assists with the Museum’s commitment to greater representation and diversity within our collection. This opportunity truly would not have been possible without the vision and passion of the Lenhardt family, who see it not only as their privilege to support these efforts but their responsibility.”










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