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The Jewish Museum Debuts “The Gift”

Jasper Johns, "Untitled," 1991, watercolor, pencil, and graphite on paper. The Jewish Museum, New York. Gift of The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation, 2018-39. Credit: Artwork © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Jewish Museum presents The Gift: Works from the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Collection, the first in a series of exhibitions drawn from the Foundation’s donation of artworks to the Jewish Museum.

“The Gift” is installed within Scenes from the Collection, the Jewish Museum’s third-floor collection exhibition. It will be on view from April 11 through November 3.

The Jewish Museum received a major gift from The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation, established in 1996 by Annalee Newman, the artist’s widow. This exhibition focuses on part of that gift which included artworks from the Newmans’ personal collection. These works were gifts to the couple from their artist-friends, and include intimate pieces by Adolph Gottlieb, John Graham, Jasper Johns, Alexander Lieberman, Robert Gray Murray, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Aaron Siskind and Frank Stella. Archival documents on loan from the Barnett Newman Foundation accompany the works on view, and comprise photographs, letters, and sketches shared amongst the artists.

The gift from the Barnett and Annalee Foundation also included funds to endow the Jewish Museum’s first curatorial position dedicated to contemporary art. “The Gift” is organized by Kelly Taxter, the Museum’s Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art.

“The Gift: Works from the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Collection” highlights the many ways that artists support each other. The Newmans lived surrounded by artists, and their friendships and careers were sustained by decades of impassioned conversation and collaboration. For example, Tony Smith regularly organized the hanging of Newman’s exhibitions while Aaron Siskind photographed them. Newman was an inspirational figure. He unwaveringly supported artists of his own and younger generations, was always available for challenging and spirited dialogue, wrote press releases and catalog texts, and served as a mentor. Materials from the Newman archives featured in the exhibition illuminate the many exchanges — both personal and professional — that nourished these relationships.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from the cultural critic Lewis Hyde’s 1983 book, “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.” This exhibition follows Annalee Newman’s belief that her husband’s paintings and the couple’s own collection should be made visible to a wide public, especially to young artists. The Newmans were profoundly motivated by art’s social and spiritual power, by its unique ability to confer gifts of insight, enjoyment and understanding.

The exhibition is organized by Kelly Taxter, The Barnett and Annalee Newman curator of contemporary art, The Jewish Museum; with Shira Backer, Leon Levy assistant curator, The Jewish Museum.

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