We are honored to be a recipient of an award from the federal grant program Save America’s Treasures to conserve the museum’s remarkable collection of paintings by German-born artist Hans Hofmann, one of the most significant figures in the development of Abstract Expressionism and a beloved teacher as well as painter. The $93,825 grant will support essential conservation work on forty-eight paintings. Thanks to this funding, conservation is already underway to resolve threats ranging from accumulated dust and debris to paint loss and instability, discoloration, and abrasions. The conservation project will take place over two years, in collaboration with conservators at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The current exhibition, Hans Hofmann: Nature into Action will remain on view through July 3. We are planning future exhibitions of the Hofmann collection to be presented after completion of the conservation project in 2013.
A gift from the artist to UC Berkeley—Hofmann taught here when he arrived from Germany in 1930—these works represent the world’s most extensive collection of his paintings and are familiar to many BAM/PFA visitors through the permanent, revolving exhibitions in the museum’s dedicated Hofmann gallery. As the steward of this extraordinary resource, BAM/PFA is committed to ensuring the collection’s care and survival, to furthering scholarship on Hofmann’s work, and to making the paintings accessible for future generations.
After a 1999 survey, a number of paintings were treated in preparation for a national tour of our Hofmann collection (the exhibition traveled to the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in Texas, the Des Moines Art Center, the Akron Art Museum, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art between 2002 and 2004). Over the past twenty years, BAM/PFA’s ongoing care and treatment of the paintings has been in partnership with the SFMOMA conservation lab, and has been supported in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the J. Paul Getty Trust; and the Renate, Hans, and Maria Hofmann Trust. As we look forward to our new building and to the possibility of future national and international tours, we will now be able to further stabilize those works in need and carefully plan for long-term care and handling as we receive increasing loan requests from around the world.
Among the first works to go to the SFMOMA conservation lab is Sanctum Sanctorum (1962). This painting shows all the exuberance, confidence, and striking scale of Hofmann’s late signature works, in which the artist employed contrasts of color and arrangements of shapes as expanding and contracting forces to make the viewer experience space and color. Hofmann stated, “In nature light creates color. In painting color creates light.”