Acquisitions round-up: Paula Rego abortion etchings acquired by New York’s MoMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Paula Rego abortion etchings

Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art have each acquired a complete series of Paula Rego’s ten abortion etchings from Cristea Roberts Gallery in London. In 1998, Rego began a body of work that articulated her anger over a failed referendum to legalise abortion in her native Portugal. The stark images depict solitary women facing illegal abortions in poses of pain but also determination. Discussing the series in a 2019 interview with The Art Newspaper, Rego recalled how backstreet abortions endangered women’s lives in Portugal and when she was a student in the UK in the 1950s. Her hope that the series would “make people go and vote when the referendum was held a second time” was vindicated in 2007, when Portugal legalised abortion up to ten weeks into a pregnancy.

Beach at Rockaway (around 1910-20) by Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927)

Photo: Randy Dodson; courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Bernard and Barbro Osher Collection of American Art

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Bernard and Barbro Osher have promised 61 works from their collection of American art to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), including paintings by Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and John Singer Sargent and a mobile by Alexander Calder. The works, by 39 artists, range from 1848 to 1960, with a particular emphasis on Impressionist and Realist art from the turn of the century. The Oshers’ donation is “one of the most transformative contributions in the Museums’ history”, according to FAMSF’s director, Thomas P. Campbell. The couple are longstanding patrons of the museums and previously supported the construction of the de Young Museum’s building by Herzog & de Meuron. The de Young will host a special exhibition dedicated to the Osher collection next summer.

Courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Silver salt cellars by Johannes Lutma

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum has purchased four 17th-century silver salt cellars from the heirs of the German Jewish collector Emma Budge, to whom they were recently restituted. The objects are rare surviving examples of the work of the Amsterdam silversmith Johannes Lutma, a contemporary and friend of Rembrandt. One pair had been acquired by the Rijksmuseum in 1960, while the other was held at the Amsterdam Museum. In 2013-14, the museums identified the salt cellars’ provenance as suspect: they had been part of a 1937 forced sale in Berlin of works from the estate of Budge, with the proceeds confiscated by the Nazis. On 12 May, on the recommendation of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, the Dutch state and the city of Amsterdam returned the salt cellars to Budge’s descendants, who sold them to the Rijksmuseum the same day. The museum opened a special display dedicated to the objects and their history on 6 September.

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