Carnegie Museum Continues Tradition of Building Its Collection Through the International

Dec 17, 2013

When Andrew Carnegie decided Pittsburgh needed an art museum he did not have any artwork to put in it, so he devised a plan to build a collection using a regularly occurring art exhibition.

“The genesis for the (Carnegie) International, when it was built in 1896 by Andrew Carnegie, was to bring new art to Pittsburgh and to find ‘the old masters of tomorrow’ and collect them for the museum,” said 2013 Carnegie International Co-Curator Tina Kukielski.

Works that were purchased out of that first international, and every one there after, are still in the collection. Carnegie made that move in part to save money.

“We do acknowledge that when we include artists in the exhibition, inevitably their works experience a bit of a spike,” Kukielski said. “So we want to take advantage of getting the work at a more reasonable price.”

This week, the Carnegie Museum of art announced which works would be included in it’s first round of acquisitions from the 2013 international.  The long list includes works from Sadie Benning, Phyllida Barlow, Pedro Reyes and Zoe Strauss.  A full list of artists and their works has been posted.

A second round of purchases will be announced in 2014  By the time that round is complete, works from 28 of the 35 artists in the 2013 international will have been added to the collection.

Kukielski would not disclose how much has been or will be spent on the acquisitions but the list of purchases is longer than in years past. She said that was made possible in part because Dan Byers, 2013 co-curator, he saved money by holding back on general art purchase over the last few years in his role as the museum’s curator of contemporary art.

Kukielski said that means they are in the process of creating a great sampling of the international.  “There’s the possibility that someone even 50 years in the future, as they look back to tell the story of the 2013 Carnegie International … they might be able to install their own kind of mini survey exhibition of this time around.”

The curators see the acquisitions as the shows legacy. 

While deciding on which of the pieces from which artists they should purchase, Kukielski and the two other curators had to weigh several factors.  Of course they wanted to acquire works that represented the show, but they also had to think about how those pieces would work with the rest of the collection and how they could be stored.

For example, Kukielski said they would have loved to purchase the Phyllida Barlow on display outside of the museum’s front entrance but its size was prohibitive.  Instead they went with one of Barlow’s much mall sculpture currently on display inside the building.