What inspires individuals to donate their art collection to a museum or gallery? How do these gifts help public art collections to expand, grow and diversify?
Many public art collections, whatever their scale or focus, are the sum of a number of collections, acquired over decades. These might be tied to the founders of a gallery and their family, be part of an acquisition strategy, or be the result of generous gifts and donations from collectors, artists and patrons. Looking into a museum’s collection history can help us understand more about how it has been shaped by those who have contributed to it.
In this ‘In Conversation’ event, Coralie Malissard and Barnaby Wright will be joined by the artist and collector Linda Karshan to discuss the history, character, and importance of the recent Karshan Gift to The Courtauld Gallery (on display 19 November – 9 Jan 2022). This group of 24 major modern drawings, collected by Linda Karshan and her late husband Howard Karshan represents one of The Courtauld Gallery’s biggest gifts in a generation. This discussion will cover the genesis of the Karshans’ collection, the particularities of their collecting, and the reasons why the couple decided to bequest these works to The Courtauld. Looking not only at the wonderful artworks within this gift, but also their exhibition at The Courtauld on its reopening, and the position these now hold amongst the Courtauld collection as a whole, this discussion will shed light on the practices of collecting that happen around museums and galleries. It will explore the unique relationships that can form between collectors and organisations, and what inspires collectors and their families to make their collections available to the public through gifts and donations.
This event is part of the Open Courtauld programme, organised by The Research Forum.
Linda Karshan – Artist
Born in Minneapolis, the artist and collector Linda Karshan was educated at Skidmore College, New York where she studied drawing and painting under Robert Reed. She subsequently went on to study art history, first at the Sorbonne in Paris and then the Slade School of Art in London. Continuing her studies, Linda Karshan later earned a Masters in psychology which fed into her exploration of the process of drawing. Guided by what she calls her “inner choreography,” Linda Karshan makes spare, monochromatic, abstract prints and drawings that serve as direct reflections of the process of their making. Since 1994, Karshan has increasingly developed a performance-based method for making work which more recently culminated in her Walked Drawings. Her steadfast commitment to drawing is reflected the presence of her work in drawings’ cabinets worldwide. The shared love of drawing between Linda Karshan and her husband Howard Karshan was a bond that endured until Howard’s death in 2017. It is in his memory that Linda has donated 24 Master Drawings to the Courtauld.
Coralie Malissard – Bridget Riley Art Foundation Curatorial Assistant
Coralie Malissard (b.1993, Paris) is a Curator and Art Historian currently working at the Courtauld Gallery as the BRAF Curatorial Assistant. She co-curated Modern Drawings: The Karshan Gift, the Courtauld Gallery’s reopening exhibition, and co-edited the accompanying publication. Aside from this role, she is also curating a contemporary art exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (October 2023). Alongside her freelance projects, Coralie was formerly at the Barbican where she worked for over three years as the Assistant Curator of Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde and edited the accompanying publication. During her time there she contributed to research relating to Basquiat: Boom for Real; The Japanese House; Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art and Noguchi. Coralie read Art History at Cambridge, before undertaking the Curating the Art Museum MA here at The Courtauld, graduating in 2015.
Dr Barnaby Wright – Deputy Head of The Courtauld Gallery and Daniel Katz Curator of 20th Century Art
Barnaby Wright is a specialist in late nineteenth-century and twentieth-century art with a particular interest in modern British art. He studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art (BA, MA, Ph.D., 1996-2004) and began his curatorial career in 2005 as Exhibitions Curator at the Hermitage Rooms in Somerset House, London, where he staged a number of exhibitions in collaboration with The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. He became a curator at The Courtauld Gallery in 2007 and has curated and co-curated a number of exhibitions including: Walter Sickert: The Camden Town Nudes (2007-08); Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites 1952-62 (2009-10); Cezanne’s Card Players (2010-11, second venue The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Mondrian-Nicholson: In Parallel (2012); Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 (2013); Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude (2014-15) and Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys (2017-18). He has also curated a number of contemporary shows at the Courtauld, including: Richard Serra: Drawings for the Courtauld (2013), Jasper Johns: Regrets (2014), and Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat (2015-16). He is a co-curator, with Coralie Malissard, of Modern Drawings: The Karshan Gift (2021-22).
Barnaby teaches on The Courtauld’s MA Curating the Art Museum course and leads the Gallery’s collaboration with the programme.
The Considering Collecting Series
Collections of art and artefacts can be found everywhere, from major museums and galleries to the lobbies and offices of international businesses to people’s homes. Some collections are made by committee, influenced by trends and investments, while others are driven by personal taste and choice. Decisions about who and what to collect can be made strategically, based on gaps in an existing collection or the increasing value of a type of work, or can be more spontaneous and subjective, dependent on an affinity with an artist, medium, or period.
The events in the ‘Considering Collecting’ series explore collecting from different perspectives, lifting the lid on the behind-the-scenes of the art market and the museum sector. The series will cover a broad range of issues including: what motivates people and organisations to collect; the impact of digital technologies on collecting; caring for collections, including documenting, cataloguing, and labelling; how ephemeral artworks can be collected; the historical and contemporary position of women in the world of collecting; and how organisations are working to create more representative art collections.
Supported by Laurence C. Zale Associates, Inc., a visual arts advisory company