Delaware Art Museum Purchases Work by Hank Willis Thomas and Chakaia Booker
New acquisitions represent the Museum’s focus on collecting work by women and artists of color
Wilmington, DE (April 26, 2019) — The Delaware Art Museum is delighted to announce recent purchases of art by women artists and artists of color. This spring, the Museum purchased a series of prints by Hank Willis Thomas, an 1871 oil painting by Robert Duncanson, and a 1940 poster by Robert Pious.
These three recent purchases reflect the Museum’s continued effort to collect more art by women artists and artists of color. In 2018, the Museum purchased 24 works of art, of which one-third were created by women and one-third were created by African American artists. In total, 74 percent of acquisition funds spent in 2018 went toward acquiring works by women artists and artists of color.
“It is particularly exciting to acquire as we plan for the reinstallation of several permanent collection galleries in 2020,” explains Heather Campbell Coyle, Chief Curator and Curator of American Art. “These works will allow us to share a more inclusive and exciting story of art and artists with our community.”
Hank Willis Thomas’ Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot (2018) is the Museum’s first major purchase of 2019. Commissioned by the Museum and on view during the summer of 2018, the work is a series of 13 retroreflective screen prints based on photographs from The News Journal and a booklet in the collection of the Delaware Historical Society. Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot became a catalyst for dialogue during the city-wide reflection on the 1968 occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard.
“Museum visitors overwhelmingly shared their enthusiasm for the project and love of the screen prints,” shares Margaret Winslow, Curator of Contemporary Art. “We are thrilled that this series will remain in the city.” Once installed, these prints will be added to the Museum’s new Social Justice in Art Tour for local students.
In October, 2018, the Delaware Art Museum acquired Chakaia Booker’s One Way (2008) for its contemporary collection. The large-scale sculpture was installed in the Museum’s Copeland Sculpture Garden to align with the mid-October opening of the Juried Craft Exhibition. Made of recycled tires and stainless steel, One Way is the first artwork by an African American artist added to the Museum’s sculpture garden. Chakaia Booker is best known for sculptures made of discarded materials–most often recycled tires. Her art explores race, globalization, feminism, and ecology. The interconnecting circles in One Way depict movement and perpetual cycles, and the sculpture conveys her concerns about diversity, mobility, and hope. This significant addition also supports the Museum’s ability to showcase the diversity in process, materials, and interests occupying contemporary art today. The contemporary collection also welcomed gifts of work by Charles Burwell and Curlee Raven Holton.
As well as adding to the contemporary collections, the Delaware Art Museum continued the strategic expansion of its collection of modern art by African American artists with purchases of work by Loïs Mailou Jones, Hughie Lee-Smith, William Majors, and James A. Porter. These works add strength to a collection that already features paintings and prints by Beauford Delaney, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, and Norman Lewis. Produced between the 1940s and the 1960s, these works provide context for the early career of beloved local painter Edward Loper, Sr., which is well represented in the Wilmington region. Paintings by Loper, Sr., and his son Edward Loper, Jr., launched the Museum’s Distinguished Artists Series this spring.
In addition to these works by artists of color, the Museum has focused on acquiring more art by women. Recent exhibitions on British Pre-Raphaelite artists Marie Spartali Stillman and Barbara Bodichon have benefitted from key purchases in years past. In 2018, the Museum added collections of work by American illustrators Laura Coombs Hills and Rose O’Neill via purchase and gift. O’Neill, who previously had just one work of art in the Museum’s collection, was a successful book and magazine illustrator, best known as the inventor of the Kewpies, cupid-like characters who started life in a 1909 cartoon in the Ladies’ Home Journal and soon launched into popular culture as dolls, books, and other licensed merchandise. The Kewpie enterprise, which only began to wane toward the end of the 1930s, made O’Neill an independently wealthy woman. Illustration was an important career path for women and this is central to the story of the Delaware Art Museum.
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