Brooklyn Museum expands its collections with more than 300 acquisitions

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Brooklyn Museum expands its collections with more than 300 acquisitions
Corner of Laura Wheeler Waring’s Studio, Cheyney, PA (circa 1940), by Laura Wheeler Waring, Gift of Charlynn and Warren Goins.

BROOKLYN, NY.- Highlights include works by 2023 MacArthur Fellows María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Dyani White Hawk, contemporary work by Rashid Johnson, historical calligraphic pieces by Korean scholars, decorative arts from the Wedgwood x Sheila Bridges collaboration, and other exciting additions that strengthen the Museum’s Asian, African, and feminist collections.

The Brooklyn Museum has made more than 300 noteworthy acquisitions this year, adding to our historic collections representing 5,500 years of human creative excellence. Notably, the American holdings have continued to broaden to represent the diversity of the United States, creating more space for Black and Asian American artists such as Laura Wheeler Waring, Grafton Tyler Brown, and Hisako Hibi. These additions will be unveiled in the Museum’s reinstalled American Art galleries, slated to open in late 2024.

Furthermore, the Museum has strengthened its Contemporary Art collection by representing Native American artists such as Dyani White Hawk and Dwayne Wilcox, and other notable contemporary artists such as Rashid Johnson and María Magdalena Campos-Pons. Together these works deepen the Museum’s commitment to representing generations of emerging and established artists in a wide range of disciplines.

Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, Brooklyn Museum, says, “We are grateful for the generous support of our benefactors, who help us build a collection that sparks awe and wonder, bridges our humanity, and illuminates important historical stories. It is a privilege to welcome these remarkable and meaningful contributions to our collection and to share them with our visitors.”

American Art

Corner of Laura Wheeler Waring’s Studio, Cheyney, PA (circa 1940), by Laura Wheeler Waring, Gift of Charlynn and Warren Goins.

For the past two decades, collectors Charlynn and Warren Goins have shared their exceptional collection of works by early Black artists with the Brooklyn Museum, building the foundations for one of the strongest collections in the world. This watercolor by Laura Wheeler Waring is among the eight new works they have gifted. It provides an intimate look at the artist’s home studio, likely on the campus of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (the country’s oldest HBCU), where Waring developed and taught in the visual art and music departments from 1907 to 1946. Waring is best known for her portraits of Black luminaries; this painting, however, is a rare look at the artist’s own active working space. The image provides personal details, such as the dresser with one drawer slightly open and a charming pink umbrella propped against the wall, as well as indications of Waring’s professional activities, represented by the easel and portrait resting on the floor.

Winter Scene (n.d.) and Chrysanthemums (1888), by Charles Ethan Porter, Gift of Charlynn and Warren Goins.

Charlynn and Warren Goins’s gift includes two works by Charles Ethan Porter, best known for his still life paintings. Both are spectacular displays of the artist’s handling of color and texture. Chrysanthemums (not pictured) is characteristic of Porter’s engagement with Impressionism after traveling to Paris in the 1880s, demonstrated by thick dabs of paint and a play of light and colors that adds depth and vibrancy to the blooms. Winter Scene, shown above, exemplifies his Impressionist-inspired landscapes and contributes to a greater understanding of Black artists who sought artistic training abroad. These two paintings join Porter’s Still Life with Fruit Basket (1878), previously donated by the Goinses, in the Museum’s holdings of his works.

Golden Gate, Yellowstone (1889), by Grafton Tyler Brown, Gift of Charlynn and Warren Goins.

This work enhances the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned collection of American landscapes, specifically those painted by Black artists. An excellent example of Grafton Tyler Brown’s paintings of the American West, it joins the artist’s Grand Canyon, Yellowstone in the Museum’s collection. Brown produced twenty-eight lithographs of his Yellowstone compositions, offering paint-to-order views across the great river canyon and western geyser belt. Golden Gate and Grand Canyon are two such vantages, and the pair offers a fuller picture of the artist’s work in this region and his commercial practice.

Satoshi Studying (1945–54), by Hisako Hibi, Gift of Ibuki Hibi Lee

The Museum is also proud to have added numerous works by early Asian American artists to the American Art collection. For example, Satoshi Studying is among the first acquisitions of work by an Asian American woman artist to enter the Brooklyn Museum’s American Art collection. Born in Fukui, Japan, Hibi immigrated to San Francisco with her family in 1920. In 1942, during World War II, Hibi was imprisoned in an internment camp. Satoshi Studying dates to Hisako Hibi’s time in New York a few years later, depicting the artist’s son reading at his desk above a bustling street. Hibi’s focus on such quiet vignettes may be meditations on the moments of peace and freedom found after the hardships of the internment camps. Yet her Expressionist choices—such as depicting windowless buildings, oversize vehicles, and distorted perspectives—betray feelings of unfamiliarity and unease as her family adjusted to a new and foreboding city.

Arts of Korea

Letter (1830), by Gim Jeong-hui, Gift of the Carroll Family Collection

This letter is part of a recent gift of five important pieces of Korean calligraphy. Considered the highest art form in Joseon dynasty Korea, calligraphy had previously not been well represented in the Museum’s significant collection of Korean art. The new works date from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century and are in various formats: album leaves, framed letters, and a folding screen. The author of this letter, Gim Jeong-hui, was one of the great thinkers of his time, known for his calligraphy as well as his scholarship. Addressed to an unnamed friend, the letter speaks of traveling to Pyongyang (now the capital of North Korea), presumably on official government business. It is written in Korean but uses Chinese characters; although Hankul, the Korean writing system, had been in use since 1443, well-educated Koreans preferred Chinese characters until the twentieth century.

Feminist Art

Voyeurs and Beholders of… (2008), by María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Gift of the Contemporary Art Committee with additional support by the William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund

This major multipart Polaroid work inspired the title of María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Behold, the eponymous 2023 MacArthur Fellow’s solo exhibition currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum and traveling to the Nasher Museum of Art in February 2024. In her practice, Campos-Pons considers legacies of enslavement and the ongoing exploitation of Afro-descendant people, and charts personal and global stories of migration in sensorial mixed-media work. In its blend of symbolism and gestural abstraction, Voyeurs and Beholders of… greatly enhances the Museum’s politically inflected and heavily figural Feminist Art collection. Painted in dripping sepia tones, the gaze of the “voyeurs” in the background may be passive, even exploitative, when compared to the colorful and weeping “beholders” in the foreground. Although the work was created in response to the U.S. war in Iraq (2003–11), its trailing title leaves much to the imagination, heightening the tension between witnessing and truly seeing, and the viewer’s role as beholder.

Untitled (Pink and Blue) (2022), by Dyani White Hawk, Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund

Untitled (Pink and Blue) is an emblematic example of 2023 MacArthur Fellow Dyani White Hawk’s approach to abstraction and study of ancestral art forms. In this and other paintings, White Hawk employs a visual language that she developed in graduate school, blending Lakota beadwork and historic forms with European American canvas painting. This approach calls attention to the absence of Indigenous and female perspectives in academic histories of abstraction. Here, the arched shape at the center of the composition—an evolution from earlier depictions focused on the almond-shaped toes of beaded moccasins—appears as a portal. White Hawk’s paintings are deliberate in their beauty and serve as the artist’s healing tribute to family, community, and culture.

Other notable acquisitions in the Contemporary Art collection include Fire Pit “Wisdom Through Music” (2022) by Rashid Johnson (Gift of Ryan E. Lee of Lee Group Holdings and Rahul M. Sabhnani, with additional support by the William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund).

Arts of Africa

Untitled (2017), by Esther Mahlangu, Gift of Larry Warsh

Untitled is a powerful example of the vibrant, geometric paintings of Esther Mahlangu, a significant, self-taught contemporary South African artist. Mahlangu is known for producing artworks that draw upon the house paintings of the amaNdebele people of South Africa, a tradition that originated in the eighteenth century. She was trained in this technique by her mother and grandmother, subsequently becoming the first person to translate it into paintings on canvas, ceramics, cars, and even airplanes. This is the first work by Mahlangu to enter the collection, supporting the Brooklyn Museum’s goal to deepen its holdings of works by contemporary African artists.

Laro city (Village scene) (1968), by Twins Seven Seven, Gift of Donald and Pingree Louchheim

The Brooklyn Museum has acquired three paintings by influential Nigerian painter, sculptor, and musician Twins Seven Seven, including the landscape Laro city (Village scene). Twins Seven Seven (born Omoba Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyelale Osuntoki), one of the most celebrated African artists of his generation, was a leading member of the Oshogbo art movement that arose in the newly independent Nigeria in the early 1960s. He is also the first African artist of the postindependence modernist movement to be represented in the Arts of Africa collection. Twins Seven Seven’s work is influenced by traditional Yoruba mythology and culture, which creates a fantastical universe of humans, animals, plants, and gods to expose a moral commentary. This scene of village life erases all signs of lingering colonialism in 1968 Nigeria and imagines a unity of labor and faith, exemplifying the influence of folklore on modern African artists.

Decorative Arts and Design

Harlem Toile Wallpaper, Digital Hand Colorway (2005), by Sheila Bridges, Gift of Sheila Bridges

Ten pieces from Sheila Bridges’s collaboration with renowned English manufacturer Wedgwood have entered the Museum’s Decorative Arts and Design collection, strengthening its holdings of works by Black designers and supporting more inclusive storytelling in the galleries. Of note is Harlem Toile Wallpaper, Digital Hand Colorway, which Bridges designed to address racism and the absence of Black voices in the genre. The wallpaper pattern looks critically at deeply prejudiced narratives in design history: The French toile de Jouy is an eighteenth-century fabric design that features elite, white figures frolicking joyfully in a pastoral landscape. Here, Bridges lampoons these motifs and shifts the subject matter to critique stereotypes of the Black experience, particularly minstrelsy.

Other notable acquisitions in the Decorative Arts and Design collection include Lovebird Agave Cabinet (2021) by Fernando Laposse (Gift of H. Randolph Lever Fund).

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