Guests at the Mead’s Gallery Gala on Feb. 23 had a decision to make.
They heard proposals by students in the museum’s noncredit course “Collecting 101: Acquiring Art for the Mead” on four contemporary prints for possible acquisition. Only one print could be accessioned. The audience—mostly fellow students—made the final selection.
They chose Sweeping Beauty by American artist Alison Saar (b. 1956). The Mead is acquiring the work with support from the Trinkett Clark Memorial Student Acquisition Fund.
Saar’s work was presented by Amherst College senior Alexandra James, a film and media studies major who pointed out the work’s important connections to areas of contemporary art and education.
“Collecting 101” is a hands-on arts education experience. Students in the class get a two-day intensive course in printmaking and museum contemporary art acquisition policies led by Mila Waldman, study room manager and print specialist at the Mead. They spend two more days visiting artist studios or galleries to look at works in person.
This year’s class visited a gallery in Boston and several more in New York City, considering over two dozen works by eight artists. By the end of the course, they had winnowed the field down to four prints, and the finalists were presented at the evening gala.
Saar has exhibited internationally and is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Her works are found in the collections of many major museums.
The print is based on Saar’s sculpture Sweeping Beauty, which is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “It is a play on the traditional African fly mask, which symbolizes royalty, and the thankless duties of the matriarch,” Saar said.
Sweeping Beauty will be on view at the Mead later this year.