Curators at the Museum of Modern Art had spent years searching for a set of vitrines by influential postwar German artist Joseph Beuys, and now they finally have them. The Museum of Modern Art’s committee on painting and sculpture approved a seminal set of vitrines by Beuys and two works by the 30-year-old Scottish painter Lucy McKenzie.
Many of the objects in the vitrines had personal significance to Beuys. A green jug and bowl, for example, relate to a quasi-baptismal anointment of audience members at one of his so-called actions, or performances, in 1971. The leaves in the bowl are from a wreath with which his students crowned him on his 50th birthday.
“These acquisitions cut to the heart of our collecting strategy,” said Glenn D. Lowry, director of the MoMA, explaining that the Beuys works strengthened the museum’s representation of critical artists while other acquisitions “ratchet up holdings in young artists we believe in.”
The work the museum has acquired belonged to Ludwig Rinn, a German collector who sought out Beuys after seeing an exhibition of his work in 1967. The two men were friends until Beuys’s death in 1986.
Maja Oeri, a MoMA trustee from Basel, Switzerland, and her partner, Hans Bodenmann, bought the work as a gift to the museum. (She is the president of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, which collects, conserves and displays contemporary art; he is a businessman.)