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Smithsonian American Art Museum Acquires Major Contemporary Works

Contact: Smithsonian American Art Museum's Public Affairs Office AmericanArtinfo[at]
Media only: Laura Baptiste (202) 275-1595
American Art's Web site:
Recorded information: (202) 633-8998


The Smithsonian American Art Museum continues a major acquisitions campaign focused on modern and contemporary artists. Sean Scully has selected the museum as the sole U.S. recipient of a gift of a master set of his prints (1982–2001), and the museum purchased "Monekana" (2001) by Deborah Butterfield last fall.

"In recent years one of the museum's top priorities has been to strengthen its modern and contemporary collections," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director. "We are delighted to acquire works by world-renowned artists such as Scully and Butterfield."

Sean Scully, who is placing five master sets of his prints in museums around the world, selected the Smithsonian American Art Museum as the sole museum recipient in the United States. His gift consists of 132 etchings, aquatints, woodcuts and screen prints and two artists' books.

"Sean Scully's gift of a master set of his prints is an honor for the Smithsonian American Art Museum," said Senior Curator Joann Moser. "Scully's prints mirror the concerns in his paintings while exploiting the special characteristics of printmaking techniques to create a body of work that is at once intimate and monumental."

Deborah Butterfield's majestic "Monekana," Hawaiian for Montana, is the largest unique bronze ever created by the artist. Cast from fragments of Hawaiian Ohea wood, the sculpture is a tour-de-force example of Butterfield's ability to capture the texture and color of the original materials in bronze, the medium she has preferred since the early 1990s. According to Butterfield, this monumental work is her most spiritual expression of the horse as a metaphor of human experience.

"'Monekana' is a wonderful addition to our collection," said Senior Curator Virginia Mecklenburg. "Butterfield has rendered a horse of myth and legend, an archetypal animal destined for greatness."

These acquisitions are the latest effort by the museum to strengthen its modern and contemporary collections and to support contemporary art and artists through acquisitions and awards. In spring 2001, the museum purchased "Sollie 17" (1979–1980), a 28-foot-wide mixed media construction by Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, and "Honor Pythagoras, Per I-Per VI" (1964), a monumental painting by Alfred Jensen.

In May 2001, the museum announced Jorge Pardo as the inaugural winner of the Lucelia Artist Award, an annual prize awarded to a leading contemporary American artist. The 2002 winner will be announced in New York City in April.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important American art holdings with approximately 39,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, folk art and contemporary crafts.

While the renovation of the museum's historic home—the Patent Office Building—continues, American Art offers a full program of exhibitions at its Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.). For information about Renwick Gallery activities, call (202) 357-2700. Please visit the museum's award-winning Web site at