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SFMOMA Acquired These 11 Artworks With Proceeds From Its Rothko Sale

Mark Rothko, Untitled (1960). Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) recently revealed 11 new acquisitions by 10 artists: Rebecca Belmore, Forrest Bess, Frank Bowling, Leonora Carrington, Lygia Clark, Norman Lewis, Barry McGee, Kay Sage, Alma Thomas and Mickalene Thomas. Acquisition of these works was funded by the deaccession and sale of Mark Rothko’s Untitled (1960) earlier this spring (for $50.1 million at Sotheby‘s). These acquisitions are part of an ongoing program funded by the sale of this painting with the goals of broadly diversifying the collection, enhancing modern and contemporary holdings and addressing historical gaps. The proceeds from this sale also will be used to create a new endowment fund for future acquisitions.

This is just the beginning of what we will be able to accomplish with this fund, which allows us to broaden the scope of the stories we are able to tell in our galleries,” said Neal Benezra, Helen and Charles Schwab Director of SFMOMA. “With these works, many of which are the first by these extraordinary artists to enter our holdings, we will be able to recontextualize our permanent collection and the Fisher Collection and expand the art historical narratives we share with our visitors.”

The new acquisitions span six decades and several genres, and in most cases, are SFMOMA’s first works by the respective artists. Included in this group of acquisitions are:


  • Tarpaulin No. 1 (2018) by Rebecca Belmore
  • Seascape with Star (n.d.) by Forrest Bess
  • Elder Sun Benjamin (2018) by Frank Bowling
  • The Kitchen Garden on the Eyot (1946) by Leonora Carrington
  • Estudo para Bicho Pássaro do Espaço (maquette) (1960) and Bicho Pássaro do Espaço (1960) by Lygia Clark
  • Twilight (1956) by Norman Lewis
  • Untitled (ca. 1993) by Barry McGee
  • Midnight Street (1944) by Kay Sage
  • Cumulus (1972) by Alma Thomas
  • Qusuquzah, une très belle négresse 1 (2011) by Mickalene Thomas

The acquisition effort was led by Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture, and Janet Bishop, Thomas Weisel Family Chief Curator and Curator of Painting and Sculpture. Together Garrels and Bishop carefully considered the priorities for the collection and their alignment with SFMOMA’s new strategic plan, which among many goals, aims to diversify the collection, staff and visitorship, and to underscore the museum’s commitment to the art for our time.

“Works by these artists have long been on our wish list. We are thrilled that we can now finally make these acquisitions a reality,” said Garrels. “The acquisition of these works, and many more to come, will enable the museum to better and more fully represent the art for our time and bring a much richer array of artists’ voices into the museum.”

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