The Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C., has announced a $5 million gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation in support of efforts to preserve material on art and artists from historically underrepresented groups.
The gift from the foundation will create an endowment that supports efforts to process, digitize, and make available online the works of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and women — groups that typically are underrepresented in U.S. museum collections. Materials in the archives' collections that will be prioritized for processing and digitization include the scrapbook of Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828‒1901), one of the few nineteenth-century African-American painters to win national recognition; the papers of Jeff Donaldson (1932‒2004), one of the co-founders of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA); the papers of renowned African-American painter, printmaker, and teacher Charles W. White (1918‒1979); the records of the Cinque Gallery, which was founded in 1969 by artists Romare Bearden (1911–1988), Ernest Crichlow (1914–2005), and Norman Lewis (1909–1979) to exhibit the work of African-American artists; the Tomás Ybarra-Frausto research material on Chicano art; and the papers of ceramic artist and educator Toshiko Takaezu (1922‒2011).
The endowment gift follows an announcement in June that the Archives of American Art will help digitize the Lichtenstein Foundation's archives, including Lichtenstein's voluminous studio working records, which the foundation will then gift to the archives in stages. The gift also helps match a challenge grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art, bringing the archives' endowment for digitization to more than $11 million.
"This extraordinary gift reinforces our work to add to our existing collections on underrepresented artists and enables us to share an ever more inclusive story of American art globally," said Archives of American Art director Kate Haw. "The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation's wonderful generosity will lead to further research in underrecognized areas of our field, future exhibitions, and publications, connecting people everywhere with the stories of a wider range of artists."
"We are delighted to support the Archives of American Art and the processing and digitization of materials related to these important artists," said Dorothy Lichtenstein, the late pop artist's widow and the foundation's president. "We applaud institutions like the Archives that open their virtual doors wide and invite the world in. Having this diversity of treasures available online will allow students, scholars, and art lovers to explore and expand on the remarkable network of connections and associations across the vibrant arc of American art history."
(Edward Mitchell Bannister, watercolor study from scrapbook, ca. 1890. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)