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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Beauford Delaney Abstract Finds Permanent Home at the Mint Museum

One of my favorite Beauford Delaney abstracts is Untitled (1959), an oil on canvas that Beauford gave to a private collector in Paris.

(1959) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

In April 2017, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC purchased the painting with funds from The Katherine and Thomas Belk Acquisition Fund. It now hangs in the new re-installation of the museum's modern and contemporary galleries, where it hangs alongside works by Grace Hartigan, Elaine deKooning, Lynne Drexler, and other American artists who explored many avenues of abstraction. It is the first Beauford Delaney work that the museum has acquired.

Mint Museum Modern and Contemporary Galleries
(Untitled is shown at the far right)
Image courtesy of Mint Museum

Jonathan Stuhlman, Senior Curator of American, Modern, and Contemporary Art, graciously granted me an interview about the acquisition. He told me that he selected this piece from 5-6 large scale Beauford Delaney abstracts that he was fortunate enough to have viewed simultaneously.

One of the considerations for the purchase of this particular work was the desire to acquire something unique compared to the other Beauford Delaney paintings that could be seen in the region at the time. Museums in Atlanta, GA; Norfolk, VA; Richmond, VA; Greenville, SC; and Greensboro, NC own works by Beauford and the majority of these are portraits.

Other considerations included the Mint's desire to add to its collection of Post-war abstractions, to continue to collect works by artists from North Carolina and the surrounding region, and to diversify its collection of works by African-American artists. (The Mint Museum has an impressive collection of works by Romare Bearden but not many works by other African-American artists.)

When Stuhlman saw Untitled, his "eyes were opened" to the wide variety of ways that Beauford applied paint to canvas. He was drawn to the "energy and vibrancy" of the brushwork and the colors in this painting and he expressed how he appreciates the "interactivity" among the colors in the work. In describing it, he said:
[Beauford] has a fabulous sense for all different shades of color ... there's strong yellow to this work, but the way it interacts with the rich variety of turquoise blues and the rose colors ... this is a fabulously active and energetic canvas. It's bursting with energy!

Stuhlman included the following statement in the label that is affixed to the wall next to Untitled:

Delaney poured all of himself into his art, a quality that is almost palpable in this dynamic canvas. Writing about Delaney’s paintings in 1962, artist and critic Paul Jenkins could easily have been referring to Untitled: “The structure was there in each painting, but one senses more of a veil than a grid. It was as if he had cut hundreds of flowers and crushed them. Stems and all.”

Untitled was shown at the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition in Paris in 2016. It is one of the works that is "augmented" with the Blippar app. The Mint Museum is considering making the app's content available to visitors so they can view spoken word artist Mike Ladd reciting the poem he was inspired to write when he viewed the work. The museum has obtained a catalog from Resonance of Form for its library and is considering offering it for purchase in its gift shops.

Catalog cover

Soon after it was purchased, Untitled was hung in the museum's atrium for 4-5 months in a space reserved for new acquisitions. In January 2018, it was placed on permanent display in the modern and contemporary galleries and will remain there for the foreseeable future.

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