PHILADELPHIA, PENN. — Harry Philbrick, the Edna S. Tuttleman director of the Museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, has announced that the 208-year-old institution will create a new endowment for the purchase of artworks, greatly increasing an aspect of the acquisitions program critical to building PAFA’s museum collection.
The deaccession and sale of one of the museum’s paintings by Edward Hopper, “East Wind over Weehawken,” 1934, will provide funds for the endowment, which will be used both to acquire contemporary artworks and to fill gaps in the collection of historic art.
To support the contemporary aspect of the program, PAFA will also hire a dedicated curator for contemporary art and will expand the collections committee of the Board of Trustees, adding new members with expertise in the field.
“East Wind over Weehawken” will be auctioned in December at Christie’s New York ($22/28 million). PAFA purchased the painting in 1952 from the artist’s dealer, Frank K.M. Rehn. In keeping with PAFA’s collections policy and standard practice in the museum field, all proceeds from the sale will go into the new acquisitions endowment, quintupling the funds generated annually for the purchase of art.
The academy will retain the more important of its two paintings by Hopper, “Apartment Houses,” 1923, which it bought out of its 1923 annual exhibition, making this the first oil painting by Hopper to enter the collection of any museum.
“We are going back to our tradition of actively collecting contemporary art. Just as we purchased ‘Apartment Houses’ when Hopper was still an emerging artist, we will use the proceeds from the endowment to build a broad base of the works of today’s emerging and midcareer artists, and tomorrow’s,” said Philbrick.
David R. Brigham, president and CEO of PAFA, said, “As America’s oldest art museum and school, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has a responsibility both to augment its historic collection and to remain current with new developments in art. This endowment will give us resources to do both, in keeping with the strategic plan that we are now finalizing after a year of input and planning by our faculty, staff and stakeholders.”
The academy first acquired a major artwork through purchase in 1816, when it bought Washington Allston’s painting “The Dead Man Restored to Life by Touching the Bones of the Prophet Elisha,” 1811–13. For the next century and a half, the museum actively continued to build its collection through purchases, buying works by the school’s most celebrated teacher Thomas Eakins as well as artists, including George Bellows, Lee Bontecou, Alexander Calder, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Stuart Davis, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Isamu Noguchi, Horace Pippin, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, Henry O. Tanner and Benjamin West. In many cases these works were purchased after being shown in the museum’s prestigious annual exhibition.
Over the past ten years, the museum has been increasing its commitment to contemporary art, acquiring works by artists who range from the emerging and midcareer (Kehinde Wiley, Njideka Akunyili, Hope Gangloff) to the world-renowned (Bill Viola, Claes Oldenburg).
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is at 128 North Broad Street. For information, 215-972-7600 or www.pafa.org.