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Smithsonian American Art Museum Acquires Major Puryear Sculpture and Print Series

Contact: Laura Baptiste
Media only: (202) 275-1595
American Art's Web site:
Recorded information: (202) 633-8998

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has purchased "Bower" (1980) by Martin Puryear. The museum also recently acquired a deluxe edition of Cane, a special edition of Jean Toomer's Harlem Renaissance book, illustrated by Puryear.

"'Bower' is one of Puryear's acknowledged masterpieces," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director. "It will be a tremendously exciting centerpiece for our new gallery spaces devoted to contemporary art in the museum."

"Bower" epitomizes the lyrical synthesis of form and content for which his sculpture is internationally renowned. The intricate latticework of spruce and pine is a tribute to his technical virtuosity. Puryear represented the United States at the São Paulo Bienal in 1989 and received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship the same year. Time magazine critic Robert Hughes recently named Puryear the country's best living sculptor.

"Acquiring a magnificent sculpture by Puryear has been a goal for some time," said Chief Curator Lynda Roscoe Hartigan. "'Bower' is an eloquent abstraction that combines form, finish and subtle poetic associations, and greatly enhances the museum's sculpture collection."

This museum purchase, from the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York City, was made possible through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment and through proceeds from the museum's deaccessioning fund. Enron Corp. previously owned the work.

The deluxe edition of Cane, issued in 2000 by The Arion Press, is enclosed in a wood slipcase that Puryear designed. A portfolio with an extra suite of seven woodcuts by the artist accompanies the edition. This acquisition is both a gift of Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan and a museum purchase through the Lichtenberg Family Foundation.

These acquisitions are the latest effort by the museum to strengthen its modern and contemporary collections. In 2001, Sean Scully 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 "Sollie 17" (1979–1980) by Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, "Honor Pythagoras, Per I-Per VI" (1964) by Alfred Jensen and "Monekana" (2001) by Deborah Butterfield.

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 main building—the Patent Office—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

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Note to Editors: For images, call (202) 275-1594.