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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Acquires 34 Works by Outsider Artists and a Basquiat Sells for $45.3M at Phillips

Plus Christies and Sotheby’s wrapped up their New York spring sales, museums and foundations snapped up works deaccessioned by the Berkshire Museum, and more.

Purvis Young, "Untitled book page" (1983), found book with drawings glued to cover and interior, ballpoint pen, marker, paint on paper, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams fund and partial gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation (photo by Dan Jurgens; © Estate of Purvis Young / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York)
Purvis Young, “Untitled book page” (1983), found book with drawings glued to cover and interior, ballpoint pen, marker, paint on paper, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams fund and partial gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation (photo by Dan Jurgens; © Estate of Purvis Young / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Transactions is a weekly collection of sales, acquisitions, and other deals. Subscribe to receive these posts as part of the weekly Art Movements newsletter.

Jesse Aaron, "Untitled" (early 1970s), wood, popsicle stick, doll’s eyes, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund and partial gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation (photo by Ron Lee / The Silver Factory; © Estate of Jesse Aaron)
Jesse Aaron, “Untitled” (early 1970s), wood, popsicle stick, doll’s eyes, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund and partial gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation (photo by Ron Lee / The Silver Factory; © Estate of Jesse Aaron)

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) acquired 34 works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation (SGDF), including works by Purvis Young, Thornton Dial, Jesse Aaron, and the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers. The acquisition, part gift and part purchase, is the latest in the SGDF’s initiative to deepen the collections of works by African American artists from the South at major museums, and follows previous acquisitions by the Metropolitan Museum, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and others. “These artworks will help to tell a story that for too long has been overlooked by museums and art historians,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said in a statement. A special exhibition featuring the newly acquired works will open at the VMFA on June 8.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Flexible" (1984), which sold for $45.3 million at Phillips (image courtesy Phillips)
Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Flexible” (1984), which sold for $45.3 million at Phillips (image courtesy Phillips)

A 1984 work by Jean-Michel Basquiat that he painted on a found section of a white picket fence was the top lot in Phillips‘s evening sale of 20th century and contemporary art on May 17. The Basquiat, “Flexible,” brought in $45.3 million toward the sale’s total haul of $131.6 million, which also set new auction records for Robert Motherwell, Pat Steir, and Cory Arcangel.

The Calder Foundation bought “Double Arc and Sphere,” an Alexander Calder sculpture from 1932 that was one of the works controversially deaccessioned by the Berkshire Museum, for $1 million at a Sotheby’s evening sale last week.

Francis Bacon, "Study for Portrait" (1977), oil and dry-transfer lettering on canvas; sold for $49.8 million at Sotheby's (image courtesy Sotheby's)
Francis Bacon, “Study for Portrait” (1977), oil and dry-transfer lettering on canvas; sold for $49.8 million at Sotheby’s (image courtesy Sotheby’s)

Christie’s evening sale of contemporary art on May 17 brought in a total of $397.1 million, with Francis Bacon‘s 1977 painting “Study for Portrait” leading the way at $49.8 million. The sale brought the grand total for Christie’s spring auctions in New York to a whopping $1.79 billion.

The city of Jacksonville, Florida, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville will split the proceeds from the sale of a monumental work by Joan Mitchell. “Iva” (1973), a 21-foot-wide triptych that was donated to the city in 1997, fetched $2.7 million ($3.25 with buyer’s premium) at a Christie’s morning sale on May 18; factoring in a 4% bonus, the city and museum will each get $1.4 million.

Frederic Edwin Church, "Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada" (1875) (courtesy the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia)
Frederic Edwin Church, “Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada” (1875) (courtesy the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia)

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts acquired Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church’s “Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada” (1875) from Sotheby’s for an undisclosed price (its pre-sale estimate was $5–7 million). The painting was one of the works recently deaccessioned by the Berkshire Museum.

The filmmaker, writer, and producer George Stevens, Jr. donated papers and films documenting his career to the Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive.

The Clark Art Institute acquired Guillaume Guillon Lethière‘s painting “Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death” (1788), as well as one of the artist’s preparatory sketches for the work and a 1794 engraving based on it by Pierre Charles Coqueret.

Guillaume Guillon Lethière, "Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death" (1788), oil on canvas, 23.375 x 39 in (courtesy the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts)
Guillaume Guillon Lethière, “Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death” (1788), oil on canvas, 23.375 x 39 in (courtesy the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts)
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