Collectors Acquire New Works for Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD)

At the 2011 Collectors’ Selection Dinner on Wednesday, May 11, MCASD’s International Collectors and Contemporary Collectors voted to purchase new works for the Museum’s collection: two examples of Ai Weiwei’s famous Marble Chair (2010); an exuberant draped canvas by Sam Gilliam, Dance Me, Dance You 2 #1 (2009); and a rare polished resin sphere by Helen Pashgian, Untitled (1968/69).

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla

The internationally recognized Chinese artist Ai Weiwei works in a variety of media from sculpture and installation, to photography and performance. His works revisit and translate well-known Chinese forms to comment on the country’s rich history and complicated present. In Marble Chair, he carves a familiar yoke-back chair out of a single block of marble. This startling translation and memorializing of a piece of furniture raises questions of history, memory, and modernization. Marble Chair suggests that the rush of progress takes its toll not only on the people, but also on the culture that becomes lost among the change. The empty chair evokes the absent figure, an effect made more disturbing due to the artist’s recent incarceration by the Chinese government.

Ai Weiwei was detained by Chinese authorities April 3 at the Beijing airport. MCASD has voiced its dissent alongside members of the international art community, and is staging a silent protest on Thursday, May 19 at its downtown location. The artist’s continuing incarceration made this year’s acquisition particularly poignant. Members of the International Collectors were among the last groups to visit Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio during a collecting trip in November 2010.

Light plays a crucial role in Helen Pashgian’s art. Pashgian was an early pioneer in the use of industrial resin to create light-responsive works in the 1960s. She currently works and resides in Pasadena, California where she creates free-standing luminous columns with sheets of acrylic. This rare early work clearly demonstrates her mastery of color and light. Untitled (1968/69), a highly polished orb, evokes a mysteriously captivating quality of transparent, layered color that lures and entrances the viewer. The piece demands attention from all angles by manipulating the light of the room to play with the experience of the entire space.

In the mid-1960s, African-American artist Sam Gilliam challenged the traditional format of painting by taking his canvases off the wall and off their stretchers. The resulting works, suspended in the air, emphasized process and they turned paintings into colorful sculptures. Today Gilliam continues his investigation of poured colored, stained canvas, and draped and floating forms. In Dance Me, Dance You 2, #1, brilliantly stained fabric billows into a skirted form that conveys musicality and movement.

Each year, MCASD’s curatorial staff organizes an exhibition of works to be considered for acquisition by the Collectors, and these works are then selected by ballot at the Annual Selection Dinner. The 2011 Collectors’ Dinner featured a three-course meal designed especially for the groups by Tapenade Chef Jean-Michel Diot. Décor and floral arrangements were provided by Tricia Reina at The Floral Department.

About the Collectors

For the past 26 years, MCASD’s premier membership groups—the Contemporary Collectors and the International Collectors—have provided significant funds for the acquisition of new works for the Museum’s collection through their annual dues.

International Collectors is co-chaired by Olivia and Dr. Peter C. Farrell and Joan and Irwin Jacobs. Contemporary Collectors is co-chaired by Nancy and Matt Browar and Drs. Stacy and Paul Jacobs.

Thanks to the Collectors’ support, MCASD has added 87 works to its collection—works that were collectively purchased for approximately $3 million and that today are valued at over $12.6 million. Some of these acquisitions are now on view at MCASD Downtown as part of the exhibition Prospect 2011, on view through July 10, 2011.

The support of the International and Contemporary Collectors has allowed MCASD’s curators to discover new artists, enrich the MCASD collection, and build an engaged and informed community of collectors in San Diego.

In addition to the Annual Selection Dinner, International and Contemporary Collector Members receive VIP access to all Museum exhibitions, art tours, lectures, literary, film, education, and performing art programs. For more information, please contact Jeanna Yoo at [email protected] or 858 454 3541 x179.


Founded in 1941, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the preeminent contemporary visual arts institution in San Diego County. The Museum’s collection includes more than 4,000 works of art created since 1950. In addition to presenting exhibitions by international contemporary artists, the Museum serves thousands of children and adults annually at its varied education programs, and offers a rich program of film, performance, and lectures. MCASD is a private, nonprofit organization, with 501c3 tax-exempt status; it is supported by generous contributions and grants from MCASD Members and other individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies. Dr. Hugh M. Davies is The David C. Copley Director and CEO at MCASD.

Institutional support for MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the James Irvine Foundation.

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