The American Folk Art Museum is celebrating its 60th anniversary with the acquisition of 40 works by artists including Horace Pippin, Bill Traylor, and Sister Gertrude Morgan, thanks to a gift from trustee Laura Parsons and her husband, Richard Parsons, the former CEO of AOL Time Warner.
“The paintings and sculpture included in the gift are transformational additions to the museum’s collection and enhance our commitment to presenting an inclusive, nuanced, and meaningful story of folk and self-taught art across time and place,” said Jason Busch, the museum’s director and CEO, in a statement.
The museum plans to include selections from the gift in its upcoming exhibition “Multitudes,” which opens on January 22, 2022. The donation also includes works by Ulysses Davis, Elijah Pierce, Mary Frances Whitfield, Clementine Hunter, Hugh Mulzac, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Bill Traylor, Joe Light, and Felipe Benito Archuleta.
The Parsons have been collecting art since 1997, when they went on a vacation to the Bahamas.
“I visited the only museum nearby and saw works by Amos Ferguson,” Laura Parsons told Artnet News. “I asked the guard if he had contact information for the artist and he provided me with Amos Ferguson’s home address. The artist sold me two works, both of which are part of the gift to the museum.”
The Bahamanian house painter—who died in 2009 at age 89—had begun working as an artist in his 40s, after his nephew recounted a dream in which Jesus claimed Ferguson was wasting his painting talent. After selling his work locally, he soon came to the attention of a New York collector and got a solo show at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford in 1985.
Two years after that first purchase, Laura Parsons joined the Folk Art Museum’s board, and the couple have been among its biggest supporters ever since.
“For us, it is museum in this country that represents everyone in this country. It has the most diversity of artists of any museum, and to me, this is our cultural heritage, so that’s why we support it,” she said.
About 70 percent of the works remaining in the Parsons collection is considered Outsider art; the rest by African American artists.
See more works from the gift below.