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Hirshhorn Museum Acquires Major Works from Noted Collector Giuseppe Panza

Joseph Kosuth’s Box, Cube, Empty, Clear, Glass—a Description, 1965, from the Hirshhorn’s Collection, The Panza Collection, photo by A. Zambianchi-Simply.it, Milan.

Thursday, October 18, 2007 Media only: Gabriel Riera (202) 633-4765; rierag@si.edu

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has acquired 39 works of art from the collection of Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, who has amassed one of the world’s great collections of American contemporary art. Sixteen major artists are represented in the group of mostly conceptual and California “Light and Space” works created primarily in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Artists represented in this acquisition include Robert Barry, On Kawara, Joseph Kosuth, Bruce Nauman and Doug Wheeler, to name a few. These acquisitions substantially bridge the gap in the Hirshhorn’s collection of conceptual art while also rounding out holdings by specific artists and, in several cases, providing an overview of an artist’s career. In nine instances, these are the first works of a particular artist to be acquired by the museum. Many of the selections have been made with the intention of creating room-sized installations of works that best showcase each artist.

Deputy director and chief curator Kerry Brougher worked closely with the collector to choose the individual works. Brougher’s association with Panza dates back to the mid-1980s when he worked on an exhibition of his collection at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for the Hirshhorn,” said Brougher. “With this one acquisition we have established a notable core group of conceptual and “Light and Space” works that we can continue to develop with further additions by a range of international artists.” 


Among the acquisition highlights are two major installations by Hanne Darboven, each comprising more than 130 framed drawings, and a large-scale environmental light work by Wheeler. These are the first works by Darboven and Wheeler to be acquired by the Hirshhorn.

The first On Kawara works to enter the museum’s collection include three date paintings created in a single week in October 1971, offering a view of both Kawara’s process and a particular historical moment.

Three pieces by Robert Irwin dating between 1963 and 1970—a painted aluminum disc, an acrylic column, and a dot painting—provide, along with the Hirshhorn’s acrylic disc, an overview of a critical point in Irwin’s early career. Similarly, five early works by Kosuth, including the white neon “Self-Defined” and the five-part “Box, Cube, Empty, Clear, Glass-A Description” complement the two pieces by Kosuth already in the museum’s collection, while LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing No. 3” brings the number of Sol LeWitt works owned by the Hirshhorn to eight. “Art Make-Up: No. 1 White, No. 2 Pink, No. 3 Green, No. 4 Black,” an important early work by Nauman and the first film by the artist to enter the collection, will be installed for the first time as four loop projections at the Hirshhorn.

The Collector

Panza’s approach to collecting has been similar to Joseph Hirshhorn’s in that they both focus on specific artists and collect them in depth. Panza has at times further refined his strategy by concentrating on a body of work from the best period of an artist’s output. With this purchase, the Hirshhorn joins a select group of museums to which Panza has sold or donated portions of his collection, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Panza prefers to work closely with an institution, helping it to select substantial bodies of work from his collection that create coherent groupings rather than selling individual pieces.

“I am extremely pleased to work with the Hirshhorn in this manner. It’s important to me to maintain the integrity of the collection,” Panza said. “Now, as part of the Hirshhorn’s renowned permanent collection, these works will be enjoyed by visitors from all over the world in one of most prominent museums in the United States.” The works will be on view at the Hirshhorn in fall 2008. 

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian’s museum of international modern and contemporary art, encompasses some 11,500 paintings, sculptures, mixed media installations and works on paper. The Hirshhorn maintains an active exhibition program and offers an array of free public programs that explore the art of our time. The museum, located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. 

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