High Museum makes major acquisition of African-American art

Thornton Dial’s “Birmingham News” is one of the High’s new acquisitions.

The High Museum of Art has received 54 works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, one of the most significant acquisitions by the museum’s folk and self-taught art department since its establishment in 1994.

The combined gift and purchase features paintings, sculptures and works on paper by 33 contemporary African-American artists from the Southern United States, including 13 works by Thornton Dial that span four decades of the artist’s astounding career. The acquisition also features 11 quilts created by the women of Gee’s Bend, Ala. Work by Lonnie Holley and Ronald Lockett, artists whose work the High has been collecting since the 1990s, is joined by sculpture from their Alabama contemporaries Joe Minter and Richard Dial.

Lucy Pettway’s “Birds in the Air” is one of the famed Gee’s Bend Quilts acquired by the High.

In addition to Minter and Richard Dial, artists entering the High’s collection for the first time include Eldren Bailey, one of four Georgia artists represented in the acquisition, Charles Williams, Vernon Burwell and Georgia Speller. A significant group of paintings and sculpture by Joe Light, as well as individual works by artists such as Archie Byron, Mary T. Smith, Royal Robertson and Purvis Young, complement existing holdings by those artists.

“This landmark acquisition is a capstone of years of collaboration with the High Museum of Art, the anchoring institution in the Foundation’s hometown of Atlanta. We are very pleased to add dozens of significant works to the High’s collection of contemporary art and look forward to years of future collaboration through insightful programming, displays and publications,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, president of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

To showcase these new acquisitions, the Museum will increase the physical footprint of the folk and self-taught art galleries by 30 percent as part of a permanent collection reinstallation planned for 2018.