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Making a collection

Email|Print| Text size + By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / December 9, 2007

The Institute of Contemporary Art didn't just open a building last year. It embarked on a new mission - to build a permanent collection.

But how can a modern museum, with limited resources, acquire works in the super-hot (i.e., super-expensive) contemporary art market? The ICA came up with a collecting plan. It only acquires art shown at the museum, and relies on the generosity of local collectors.

So far, so successful: Since the first 11 works it announced last year, the ICA has continued adding, and now has 42 pieces, by 23 artists, in the collection.

"They're off to a very good start," says Smithsonian Under Secretary for Art Ned Rifkin, who visited the ICA earlier this year. He is especially praising of the museum's decision to collect what it shows: "It's a wonderful thing to do - do an exhibition and realize how powerful or influential a work can be."

Here are five recent additions, along with comments from ICA chief curator Nicholas Baume:

Tara Donovan:

Untitled (Pins) (2003)

The New York-born sculptor created the cube by pouring countless pins into a mold. It is a promised gift from longtime ICA supporter and local collector Barbara Lee. "[Donovan] builds on the work of American sculpture, postwar, but again, adds to it a very inventive and distinctive personal voice that enables her to transform material that might appear to be very ordinary into objects that are quite magical," says Baume.

Louise Bourgeois:

Cell (Hands and Mirror) (1995);

Arched Figure No. 1 (1997)

Both objects, also gifts promised by Lee, are on display in the current "Bourgeois in Boston" show. "Arched Figure No. 1" is made of pantyhose stretched over wire; "Cell" features a pair of interlocked, marble hands seen from a variety of angles through the use of mirrors. "They're thrilling," says Baume, "because they are indisputably museum-quality pieces by one of America's most important living artists."

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