Press Release

PAFA Announces Latest Additions to Permanent Collection

PAFA Announces Latest Additions to Permanent Collection

Works by Elizabeth Paxton, Judy Gelles, Joan Semmel, Paul Chan, Robyn O'Neil, William Villalongo, and others join PAFA's vibrant collection of American art

PHILADELPHIA (July 5, 2017) - The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) announces the addition of more than 30 historic, modern, and contemporary works to its permanent collection of American art. The new acquisitions include paintings, sculpture, installation, and works on paper made from 1916 to 2017.

Highlights in the latest group of purchases include Indian Erotic (1973), an unflinchingly bold and sexually charged oil on canvas by groundbreaking feminist painter and 2017 PAFA commencement speaker Joan Semmel; The Thirsty Laborer (2012), a large allegorical work on panel by William Villalongo; and Studies in Suffocation II (2016), a precisely rendered and ominously atmospheric graphite on paper by Robyn O'Neil.

PAFA is also excited to announce the purchase of Pillowsophia (after Ghostface) and accompanying manifesto New No's (both 2017), works that comprised a powerful installation by Paul Chan recently on view in the museum's Morris Gallery.

"Pillowsophia employs the rhetoric of violence and capitalism through unexpected materials, namely fluttering figural forms Chan calls "breathers." While reminiscent of the billowy tube figures at used car lots, Chan's black hooded figure conjures haunting images of marginalized populations and provides poignant commentary on our current political and cultural climate," states PAFA Curator of Contemporary Art Jodi Throckmorton.

Also on the list of new purchases is Sick a-Bed (by 1916) by Boston School artist Elizabeth Vaughn Okie Paxton (1879-1971), who frequently exhibited her work at PAFA between 1910 and 1941. She showed this painting, depicting a Vermeer-like bedroom interior, at PAFA's annual exhibition of 1916.

"This is a gem of a painting, and it's connected to our history of exhibiting and collecting the work of women artists," states Curator of Historic American Art Anna Marley. "It is a master work by an artist who is widely thought to be as gifted a painter as her husband, William McGregor Paxton, though, like many women artists, she did not achieve the financial success and recognition of her more well-known husband."

Growing and diversifying its permanent collection through gifts and purchases is a key focus of PAFA's mission. The purchases are being made through collections endowments and dedicated collections funds.

"The recent additions to our collection champion the work of women and artists of color; artwork created over the past one-hundred years, telling the story of our nation in both personal and political terms. We couldn't be more thrilled," notes new museum director Brooke Davis Anderson.

Among the museum's newly acquired gifts is a collection of six black-and-white archival pigment prints by Judy Gelles. Each of the 20x24 in. prints in the artist's "Family Portrait" series, made between 1978 and 1981, combine text with images of domestic scenes to address cultural assumptions and stereotypes about the roles of women in domestic life.

"Judy Gelles incorporates her multifaceted identity as an artist, a mother, a woman, and a social being into her photographic encounters. Her works reveal a pointedly feminine perspective in the male-dominated medium of photography," Throckmorton notes.

Gelles recently visited PAFA as part of the school's Visiting Artists Program, which brings an outstanding roster of contemporary artists to campus each semester for lectures, critiques, and workshops.

A list of new acquisitions and a selection of images are available.

Last Updated
July 5, 2017 - 10:04 AM

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.