SAN FRANCISCO, CA, October 31, 2001—The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced today the gift of a major Frank Stella painting from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Harry W. Anderson. The work, Zambezi, 1959, is an outstanding example of the artist’s Black Paintings—the series of 23 paintings he produced in 1959–60 that rocketed the young artist to immediate art-world fame. The Andersons—whose collection of modern American art is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest in private hands—have also given SFMOMA 19 major 20th-century artworks over the past three decades, including key works by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Zambezi will go on view in the Museum’s permanent collection galleries on November 9.
Elaine McKeon, chairman of the SFMOMA Board of Trustees, notes, “The Andersons’ commitment to ensuring public access to their collection is simply extraordinary, and we are both pleased and grateful that they have entrusted this important Stella work to SFMOMA. It was our great honor to be able to exhibit many of their masterpieces last year in Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, and we look forward to our continued close relationship.”
Describing how Zambezi complements SFMOMA’s permanent collection, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture Madeleine Grynstejn explains, “This is a rare opportunity for SFMOMA to add a keystone early Stella painting to its holdings. Zambezi is a collection-transforming work that will greatly enhance our strong core of minimalist holdings, which include Stella’s 1964 painting Adelante.” Zambezi is one of the later “diamond-patterned” Black Paintings, which mark a watershed between the then-dominant Abstract Expressionism and emerging Minimalism. Born in 1936 and raised near Boston, Stella became celebrated as one of the most important contemporary artists of his day when his Black Paintings debuted at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959. Since then, Stella has continued to break new artistic ground, with an ever-evolving exploration of geometry, color and form that has blurred the distinction between painting and sculpture. His large-scale works hold an unquestioned position among American masterworks of the 20th century.
Bay Area residents Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson began to collect art seriously soon after they moved to California in the mid-1960s and quickly created one of the first collections of national significance in Northern California. They initially chose to focus on modern sculpture and subsequently developed a carefully considered plan to collect works from the New York School, which includes an important group of works by Stella. For more than 25 years, the Andersons have been important friends and patrons of SFMOMA. In 1972 they gave the Museum two major paintings of contemporary American art: Jasper Johns’s Land’s End, 1963, and Robert Rauschenberg’s combine Collection, 1953–54. This gift was followed in 1974 by the donation of an important Clyfford Still painting and a significant work by California artist David Park in 1976. In 1992 the Andersons gave the Museum a core group of American Pop works by Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana and James Rosenquist, which have been on view in the Museum’s new building since its opening in 1995. Most recently, in 1999, the Andersons gave Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror I, 1977, to SFMOMA. In fall 2000, SFMOMA exhibited over 300 works from the Anderson Collection in the critically acclaimed Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection.