November 10, 2017

Williams College Museum of Art Adds Works by Prominent African-American Artists to its Collection

WILLIAMSTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS—The Williams College Museum of Art announced Monday that it has added works by Robert Selden Duncanson, James Van Der Zee, Sam Gilliam, and Maren Hassinger to its collection through the Otis Family Acquisition Trust. The trust was established through a monetary gift from Williams College alumnus Clarence Otis and his wife, Jacqui Bradley, a Williams College parent. The Otis Family Acquisition Trust will be used exclusively for building WCMA’s collection of works by African-American artists.

“While at Williams, I took full advantage of its commitment to the visual arts. My studio art and art history classes and time exploring the college’s museum of art are among my most treasured experiences and fuel what has been a lifelong passion,” Clarence Otis said. “Jacqui and I have been particularly avid collectors of works by African-Americans and by other artists of the African diaspora. We applaud the college’s focus on this too-often overlooked body of work as it continues to deepen and expand its visual arts programming. And we’re delighted to help.”

The works range from Selden Duncanson’s mid-nineteenth-century Hudson River School oil paintings to Hassinger’s multimedia sculptures that emerged from the feminist movement of the 1970s. Selden Duncanson’s 1864 painting Title Unknown [Meeting by the River] is currently on view in WCMA’s exhibition The Anxiety of Influence. Gilliam’s 1972 painting Situation VI–Pisces 4 and Hassinger’s Walking, a participatory installation from 1978, will be incorporated into the museum’s Spring 2018 program.

“This truly game-changing gift by Clarence Otis and Jacqui Bradley has made it possible for us to significantly augment the museum’s holdings in this critical area, one to which WCMA has had a longstanding commitment, both in our collecting priorities and exhibitions and programs,” said WCMA interim director Lisa Dorin. “We are deeply grateful that our goals in highlighting and supporting work by black artists so closely aligned with those of the Otis family. These four major acquisitions by true innovators in American art can now join works by Kara Walker, Carrie Mae-Weems, Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson, Lorraine O’Grady, Mel Edwards, Barkley Henricks, and others to be studied, contemplated, and enjoyed by students, faculty, and the public in a sustained way.”

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