CLEVELAND, Ohio – The round of acquisitions announced by the Cleveland Museum of Art in the spring of 2021 will encompass cultural diversity as well as geographic and chronological breadth from Renaissance Italy to Chicago in the 1960s.
Highlights include two prints by Barbara Jones-Hogu and one by Wadsworth Jarrell, co-founder of AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Badly Relevant Artists), a Chicago-based collective founded in 1969 that forges a distinctly black style of contemporary art, as well as a print by Amy Sherald, who painted the official portrait of Michelle Obama as First Lady.
Further additions are a drawing by the French impressionist Gustave Caillebotte; a 16th century marble relief sculpture by Aurelio Lombardo; one of eight surviving drawings by Giulio Romano for the preparation of a ceiling fresco in the Palazzo del Te outside Mantua, Italy; and a modular relief painting by Cuban-born Zilia Sánchez, which expands the museum’s holdings of contemporary Latin American art.
The Jarrell screen print “Revolutionary” portrays academic and activist Angela Davis and is based on a Jarrell painting in the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
The purchase comes after the museum acquired “Heritage” in 2016, an important 1973 Jarrell painting showing two black musicians in a vortex of bright colors that resemble tiles in a mosaic. The museum later also dedicated an exhibition at its Focus gallery to Jarrell and his wife, clothing designer and AfriCOBRA co-founder Jae Jarrell, who both live in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland.
Jarrell reported on the birth of the Chicago collective in his most recent memoir, AfriCOBRA: Experimental Art for a School of Thought. The book reproduces “Unite,” one of the Jones Hogu prints acquired by the museum. In its press release, the museum called the print “one of the most famous images by AfriCOBRA and ultimately the most famous work of art by Jones-Hogu”.
Inspired by the Black Power salute given by athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics, the work features a multitude of silhouetted figures holding clenched fists against the backdrop of the word “Unite” spilling out repeated in a kaleidoscopic pattern.
The painting by Sánchez, “Troyanas (de la serie Módulos Infinitos)” or “Troyan (from the Infinite Module series)” consists of three panels that resemble abstract female breasts. Sánchez, born in 1926, was inspired by women warriors.
The title Troyanas, which means Trojan women in Spanish, is intended to evoke the inner strength of the legendary women of Troy “as they mourn the loss of their land,” while standing together to highlight their collective power, the museum says.
Sánchez’s career was the subject of a major 2019 retrospective, Soy Isla, at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC
The museum said its acquisition adds Latin American women and LGBTQ artists to its international art holdings. It will be shown in a new installation of the museum’s contemporary art galleries in April.
In addition to the theme of diversity, the museum acquired four photographs by contemporary artist D’Angelo Lovell Williams in which he, his family, and a lover pose in staged scenes, the “intersection of blackness, weirdness, and family,” in the artist’s words.
The four photos show touches between lovers and generations of family members who deal with human vulnerability and intimacy, the museum said in its press release.
The museum, which does not disclose prices for privately purchased works, paid $ 552,400 at Sotheby’s in New York in January for the Lombard sculpture by Dido during the auction of Hester Diamond, an American art collector, dealer, and interior designer who passed away in 2020 is age 92.
The sculpture, almost 20 inches high, shows the legendary Queen of Carthage abandoned by the Trojan hero Aeneas. But instead of showing the heroine in her usual role as an abandoned lover, she portrays her naked as active and defiant, the museum said, with her body in an expressive turn as she pulls on an ox skin curtain.
The work, carved around 1525, came about at a crucial point in the birth of Mannerist sculpture, the museum said.
“It represents the highest level of sophistication and innovation in an art form seldom found on the market,” said the museum.