Sam Gilliam’s 1969 painting, “Light Depth” will be added to the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. | Courtesy Corcoran Collection
THE REMAINING ART from the Corcoran Gallery of Art has been distributed. More than 10,750 works were given away. Nearly all of it went to 22 institutions in Washington, D.C. The Corcoran Board of Trustees described the action as one of the largest distributions of free art in U.S. history.
The bulk of the holdings (nearly 9,000 works) were offered to the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. Howard University, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and several Smithsonian museums, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), National Museum of African Art, and Anacostia Community Museum, were also among the recipients.
The collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in its entirety was composed of 19,493 artworks. In 2014, the museum was shuttered, which set into motion a rigorous process to distribute its holdings. An initial slate of 8,631 works were accessioned by the National Gallery of Art in the wake of the Corcoran’s closure.
A wide variety of mediums are represented in the most recent dispersement—paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, textiles, and photographs. Works by countless artists are included. A small selection are African American, Sam Gilliam and photographers Gordon Parks and Addison Scurlock, among them.
The distribution announcement included a statement from Washington-based Gilliam, whose work was in the Corcoran collection and will be transferred to the Hirshhorn Museum, NMAAHC, Anacostia Museum.
“As a proud member of the Washington Color School, I have a long history of creating and exhibiting my art in this town, and strong emotional ties to the city and its many cultural institutions. I am deeply gratified that the Corcoran’s extensive art collection, from the Color School and so many other talented artists, will remain here in DC,” said Gilliam.
“I have a long history of creating and exhibiting my art in this town, and strong emotional ties to the city and its many cultural institutions. I am deeply gratified that the Corcoran’s extensive art collection, from the Color School and so many other talented artists, will remain here in D.C.”
— Artist Sam Gilliam
Photographed by Addison Scurlock in 1950, “Members of the International Student House Give Farewell Party to Simeon George-Coker, Washington, D.C.” is going to the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum. | Courtesy Corcoran Collection
Sixteen items are going to Howard, including works by Kojo Griffin, Renee Stout, Sylvia Snowden, Lois Mailou Jones, James Lesesne Wells, and Lila Oliver Asher. A former professor at Howard, who is white, Asher taught figure painting to Snowden and David Driskell, among many others.
NMAAHC is accepting approximately 120 works, the majority are by photographers such as Parks, Eli Reed, Clarence Williams and Roy DeCarava. Three paintings by Gilliam and a print by Charles White (“Blue IV”) are also going to the Smithsonian’s African American museum.
About 100 works, primarily by artists associated with Washington, will be added to the Anacostia museum’s collection. Gilliam, Scurlock, Wells, Charles Sebree, and Sharon Farmer, the first African American and first female to serve as director of the White House Photography office (1993-2001), are among those represented. Brian Lanker‘s photograph of Septima Clark, which graces the cover of “Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women who Changed America” is also included in the museum’s distribution.
Additional works of note from the Corcoran’s final distribution include:
- National Gallery of Art | Frank Stewart, “Romare Bearden,” 1980 (gelatin silver print).
- National Museum of Women in the Arts | Nina Chanel Abney, “Behind Every Good Man,” 2010 (acrylic on canvas).
- D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities | James Lesesne Wells, “Atlantic City,” 1968 (oil on canvas).
- D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities | Richard Dempsey, “Lands End,” 1959 (oil on canvas).
- The Phillips Collection | Richard Dempsey, “Jamaica I” and “Jamaica II,” no date provided (drawings).
Recipients are expected to take possession of their designated artworks in the coming months. They are required to cover costs for packing and transporting the art, along with insurance. The institutions have also committed keeping the works in Washington, making them available for display and scholarship.
“We are extremely pleased to distribute the Corcoran collection to so many worthy institutions across the city,” Corcoran Board of Trustees Chairman Harry Hopper said in the statement. “The Corcoran legacy is threefold: The school, which continues operation as part of The George Washington University, educating future generations of artists; the building, which is getting the much-needed repairs and renovation to preserve it for the future; and the Corcoran art collection, which remains in Washington to be exhibited across the city for generations to come.” CT
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“Pont Louis Philippe, Paris,” a 1958 painting by Lois Mailou Jones has been distributed to Howard University. | Courtesy Corcoran Collection
“Water Edge,” a 1993 photograph by Gordon Parks will be distributed to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). | Courtesy Corcoran Collection
“Love Petals,” a 1993 photograph by Gordon Parks is going to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). | Courtesy Corcoran Collection