N.Y. museum receives world-class works

Donation believed to be largest-ever gift of postwar American art

— The Whitney Museum of American Art received a $200 million donation of world-class works by Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and 20 other acclaimed artists, believed to be the largest gift of postwar American art to any museum.

The donation, which particularly bolsters the Whitney's standing in the fields of abstract impressionism and pop art, accomplished in one stunning swoop what would ordinarily take a museum decades to accumulate.

"I don't know of a parallel," museum director Maxwell Anderson said Saturday. "I just had an e-mail from the director of the Tate Museum (in London) congratulating us on our 'haul.' That's the sentiment around the world."

During a three-year effort, a total of 86 postwar works by 23 artists were assembled by 13 members of the Whitney's board of trustees, led by museum chairman Leonard Lauder. Ten of the trustees donated 15 works from their personal collections; Lauder personally contacted several artists, including Johns, about acquiring their work.

The other paintings, sculptures and prints were found in studios, galleries and auction houses, then purchased as gifts for the museum. Many represent efforts by the artists from the 1950s through the 1970s, when they were creating some of their most acclaimed artwork.

"These are incomparable works by the leaders of a pivotal generation of artists," Anderson said.

The donation included 32 of Johns' works, including a signature 1965 painting of double maps and 17 monotypes from his 1982 Savarin Can series. Seven Warhol pieces, including the celebrity silk screen paintings "Nine Jackies" and "Double Elvis," will join the Whitney collections.

Other artists represented in the donation included Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly and Ed Ruscha.

The entire collection will go on display at the Whitney from Oct. 24 to Jan 26. The museum, founded in 1930, has holdings that include more than 13,000 works by more than 2,000 artists.

The Whitney, known for temporary exhibitions such as its biennial survey of contemporary art, long has been in the shadows of the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection includes about 100,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and drawings.

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