Insurance Helps Santa Fe Museums with Art Acquisitions

December 29, 2005

New Mexico’s Museum of Fine Arts has acquired a 1923 Stuart Davis painting, while the private Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has announced it has acquired another O’Keeffe painting and works by eight other artists.

The Museum of Fine Arts received $700,000 earlier this year as an insurance settlement in the 2003 theft of an O’Keeffe, “Special No. 21 (Palo Duro Canyon).” It spent about $200,000 of that to buy Davis’ “New Mexican Peak,” said state Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman.

It will go on display in the coming year, he said.

“In Spanish we say, ‘No hay mal que por bien no venga.’ Loosely translated, it means that any bad thing has its roots in something positive,” he said. “Our loss of the O’Keeffe resulted in our ability to purchase other paintings that will greatly enhance the collection of our art museum.”

He said using the insurance money to buy the Davis painting does not mean the state has given up on trying to recover the O’Keeffe, which was removed from a gallery wall in December 2003.

The insurance settlement with Lloyd’s of London says that if the painting is found, “we are guaranteed the opportunity to reacquire it by returning the settlement amount to the insurance company,” Ashman said.

The Legislature approved a museum collections fund that lets the museum buy works of art using the insurance funds. Before that, such an insurance settlement would have gone into the state’s general fund, Ashman said.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has received another Davis painting as a gift from an anonymous donor. His 1923 “Electric Bulb, New Mexico,” will go on display Feb. 10, said a museum spokeswoman, Jennifer Marshall.

The museum acquired works by George Wesley Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, John Marin and John Sloan from the same donor, she said.

In addition, the O’Keeffe museum acquired O’Keeffe’s “Ghost Ranch Landscape,” done about 1936, for its permanent collection. The painting was given to the museum by Jerome M. Westheimer of Ardmore, Okla., Marshall said.

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