Home Arts Three U.S. museums use prize funds to acquire works from Expo Chicago

Three U.S. museums use prize funds to acquire works from Expo Chicago

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Curators and directors of three US museums acquired new works by underrepresented artists for free for their collections at Expo Chicago this week, thanks to a program in which a Chicago financial services firm foots the bill for institutions acquire a piece of their choice from an emerging art gallery at the fair.

The Northern Trust Purchase Prize, sponsored by Chicago wealth management firm Northern Trust, was reward at the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in St Petersburg, Florida, and the St Louis Art Museum. Each recipient institution selected a work from the exhibition section of the fair, reserved for galleries in operation for ten years or less. Northern Trust will provide the funds necessary for institutions to purchase works from their permanent collections.

Oh can (2023) by Claudia Peña Salinas, installation view Bureau, New York 2023 Image courtesy of the artist, Dario Lasagni and Embajada, San Juan

The Seattle Art Museum selected Phahamong III (2023) by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng of Martin Art Projects, a gallery based in Cape Town. The St Louis Art Museum acquired the large-scale painting Irawo II (2023) by Nigerian artist Wole Lagunju from the New York gallery Montague Contemporary. Representatives from both museums said Friday (April 14) that their respective collections would benefit from greater representation of contemporary African art.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg has selected a sculpture in mixed media Oh can (2023) by Claudia Peña Salinas, a Puerto Rican artist who attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, via Embajada, a gallery based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “It’s very significant that this acquisition is also happening in Chicago, the city where my family still lives and where I went to school,” Peña Salinas said in a statement.

Phahamong III (2023) by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng Courtesy of Martin Art Projects

This year’s Exhibition section included 41 booths organized by Aimé Iglesias Lukin, Director and Chief Curator of Visual Arts at the Americas Society in New York.

In the early years of Expo Chicago, the award was limited to Chicago-based institutions, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Block Museum of Art, Smart Museum of Art, and DePaul Art Museum. Last year marked the first time the prize was expanded to accept applicants nationwide – 2022 winners included the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

Selva Aparicio, Auto-Da-Fe (leap of faith)2021/23 Courtesy of the artist

Fair organizers also announced Friday the inaugural Barbara Nessim Acquisition Award, whereby a work from the fair is acquired for the DePaul Art Museum’s permanent collection. Auto-da-Fé (act of faith) (2021-23), a sculpture by Spanish artist Selva Aparicio (who earned her BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago), has been donated to the DePaul Art Museum.

“Selva defies categorization,” DePaul Art Museum Associate Curator Ionit Behar said in a statement, “creating works of art from deep within herself, with a deep sensitivity for materials and what ‘they project into the world’.

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