Heckscher art museum adds diversity to its collection as it turns 100

The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington has acquired new art pieces to diversify the artists represented in the museum’s collection as it celebrates its belated centennial anniversary.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, between this year and last, museum officials acquired 36 works by 14 different American artists whose work spans multiple media.

Increasing the diversity of the artists represented in the museum’s collection was key, said John E. Coraor, interim director of the museum.

“It was not uncommon for a collection that was put together at the turn of the 20th century to be largely including only white and male artists and that’s not representative of what’s going on right now, even then,” Coraor said. “We’re striving hard to correct that.”

Laylah Ali (American, b. 1968) Untitled, 2004 Gouache

  • 28 of these works are by 7 women artists, including this work by Laylah Ali

  • 4 are by Black artists

  • 5 are by an American artist of Cuban and Ecuadorian descent

  • 9 of the 14 artists are new to the collection

  • 5 of the artists have Long Island ties

 

The collection includes European and American art from the 1500s but the majority of the art dates from the 19th century to the present with special emphasis on art of the New York region.

Coraor said eight of the new works were purchased while 28 were gifted. He said either way the art has to be right for collection.

“It’s filling a gap in some way or shape or form in the collection,” Coraor said.

The Heckscher Museum’s new acquisitions include: Alison Saar’s Reapers, Odili Donald Odita’s Horizon, and Amanda Valdez’s New Me.

The new art spans from the late 1800s to 2021 and includes many different media: painting, sculpture, prints, photography, fabric, and other works on paper, Coraor said.

Coraor said display of the new pieces will vary for each acquisition.

Two works currently on display are Robert Carter’s mixed media Mama Taught Me Piano and Much More, 2007 and Samuel Colman’s Venice, n.d. a pastel on paper.

The museum, dedicated July 10, 1920, is in the midst of celebrating its centennial year. The Heckscher Museum Celebrates 100 exhibition was postponed because of the pandemic.

The Town-owned museum is operated by an independent nonprofit, Heckscher Museum Inc., an educational corporation formed for that purpose.

Funding for the purchases does not come from the town but from investment income from the museum’s endowment and proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned works from the collection, Coroar said.

Robert G. Mull

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