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Seattle Art Museum receives gift of 19 'exceptional' artworks, $10.5 million in funds

Examples of the artworks are seen in this photo provided by the Seattle Art Museum.
Examples of the artworks are seen in this photo provided by the Seattle Art Museum.
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SEATTLE – The Seattle Art Museum has received a landmark gift of 19 exceptional artworks and $10.5 million in dedicated funds from the Friday Foundation, which celebrates the legacy of Seattle collectors Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis.

“This is a transformative moment for the Seattle Art Museum, and we are very grateful to the Friday Foundation,” says Amada Cruz, the museum's CEO. “This gift to SAM, to Seattle, and to the Pacific Northwest, reflects Richard’s and Jane’s lifelong passion and support for the arts."

The 19 works will go on display to the public in fall 2021. Also on view will be portraits of the collectors, Jane Lang (1976) by Andy Warhol and Richard Lang (1978) by Alice Neel, which were previously gifted to the museum, as well as photomurals showing the artworks’ original contexts in the Lang home.

In little more than a decade, Lang and Davis assembled one of the most significant private collections of abstract expressionist paintings and sculptures, augmented by two towering artists of post-war Europe.

The 19 works joining SAM’s collection are leading examples by 13 influential American and two European artists of the post-war period. The collection includes 16 paintings, one drawing, and two sculptures, spanning the years between 1945 and 1976. The collection is particularly strong in works by defining members of New York’s abstract expressionist circle, made at pivotal moments in their careers.

Some examples of artworks in the collection:

  • The first paintings by Francis Bacon (Portrait of Man with Glasses I, 1963 and Study for a Portrait, 1967); Adolph Gottlieb (Crimson Spinning #2, 1959); Lee Krasner (Night Watch, 1960); Clyfford Still (PH-338 (1949-No. 2), 1949); and Ad Reinhardt (Painting, 1950)
  • The first artwork by Alberto Giacometti, the highly significant sculpture Femme de Venise II (1956)
  • The first major painting by Joan Mitchell (The Sink, 1956)
  • The first iconic Elegy composition of Robert Motherwell (Irish Elegy, 1965)
  • Cubi XXV (1965), by David Smith from the celebrated Cubi series
  • A seminal Color Field painting by Helen Frankenthaler (Dawn Shapes, 1967)
  • A rare, early Mark Rothko painting (Untitled, 1945) and a pivotal, late composition (Untitled, 1963)
  • The Painter (1976) by Philip Guston, an epic self-portrait from his late figurative work
“This gift of all-star works will transform SAM’s collection of post-war artists from a beautiful collection of soloists into a symphony,” says Catharina Manchanda, Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art. “In addition, the soaring paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, and Joan Mitchell will allow us to put the achievements of female artists of this generation front and center, while the paintings of Francis Bacon and the iconic sculpture by Alberto Giacometti are nothing short of game changers for SAM.”

The gift of $10.5 million includes funds to support SAM’s post-war and contemporary art conservation programs, purchase technical equipment for art conservation, and fund costs related to maintaining, presenting, and documenting the Lang Collection.

Previously announced were gifts of $2 million to SAM’s Closure Relief Fund and $2 million to endow the Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Acquisition Fund for Global Contemporary Art.

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Included in today’s gift announcement is $200,000 to inaugurate this acquisition fund so the museum can begin acquiring artworks without waiting for endowment distributions. Altogether, the Friday Foundation has donated a total of $14.5 million to SAM over the last year.

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