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A Major Gift from the Scantland Family Brings Leading Emerging Artists’ Works to the Columbus Museum of Art

Casey Lesser
Jun 15, 2021 6:23PM

Aaron Gilbert, Love Still Good, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

The Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) is poised to become a contemporary art destination for years to come.

This week, the Columbus, Ohio–based museum is announcing a major new gift from the Scantland family: 27 works by 27 prominent emerging and mid-career artists—the beginnings of the museum’s Scantland Collection—and a $2 million endowment that will fund the Scantland Family Executive Deputy Director of Learning, Experience, and Engagement position.

Jadé Fadojutimi, bosom. Blossom. bosom, 2020–2021. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Julie Curtiss, Cool Off, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

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The works of the Scantland Collection were originally acquired by Pete Scantland, who has sat on the CMA board since 2009 and is currently its vice president. The family intends to add works to the CMA collection on a yearly basis for the foreseeable future. This first group of works includes paintings and installations by some of today’s most sought-after artists—including Derek Fordjour, Louis Fratino, Vaughn Spann, Jadé Fadojutimi, and Julie Curtiss—and will go on view at the museum on June 25th in the exhibition “Present Generations: Creating the Scantland Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art,” which will run through May 22, 2022.

The Scantland family’s gift reflects the influential role that private collectors continue to play in public institutions. This ongoing commitment to donate a significant number of works by living artists, within years of the pieces being made, is certainly novel. And within the broader landscape of American museums’ efforts to create greater representation for historically marginalized artists, the Scantland Collection—which foregrounds BIPOC, female-identifying, and LGBTQ+ artists—will undoubtedly invigorate the CMA’s permanent collection, and its programming more broadly.

Vaughn Spann, Greyson, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Louis Fratino, Tom Doing the Dishes, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Scantland, the founder and CEO of the advertising company Orange Barrel Media, has been avidly building a breathless collection of works by “artists of this generation” over the past few years. “So many people give at the end of their collecting career, and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to do it at the beginning,” Scantland told Artsy. “By doing it this way, the museum has access to it during my whole collecting career. And along the way, for some of these artists, this will be their first institutional acquisition, which is a big deal.”

Nannette V. Maciejunes, CMA’s executive director and CEO, noted that private collections have long been the foundation of the museum’s collection of modern painting. “This significant gift will build upon that tradition,” she said in a statement, “allowing the Museum to share new voices and experiences with our visitors.” Tyler Cann, director of exhibitions and Pizzuti Family Curator of Contemporary Art, noted that the donation “brings the museum’s contemporary acquisitions program to another level.”

Jammie Holmes, Carrying Caskets #3, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Scantland suggested that few other museums own such in-depth holdings of works by rising contemporary artists addressing identity, politics, and social issues of this moment. And though this approach is unconventional, there are few other ways that museums can feasibly acquire pieces by such in-demand artists, particularly given that many have skyrocketing primary and secondary markets, despite their young careers.

“The reality is, setting aside the availability of the work, you could never build the collections that museums have once the canon has been written,” Scantland said. “I think it’s a really interesting opportunity: to capture this moment in time, and at the same time, share it with the community.”

Derek Fordjour, STOCKROOM Ezekiel, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Derek Fordjour, STOCKROOM Ezekiel, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

The 27 artists of “Present Generations” include many whose works Scantland has collected in depth, though he also chose pieces that he believes tell the story of contemporary art over the past few years. Cann, who organized the show, echoed that sentiment, noting that artists in the exhibition are “shaping the narrative right now” and that future additions to the Scantland Collection will ensure that the CMA can “give voice to this moment for years to come.”

Some, though not all, of the works were promised to and acquired specifically for the museum. And some pieces, like a dazzling abstract painting by the young New Zealand–born artist Angela Heisch, previously hung in Scantland’s home in Columbus. “I wanted to live with them for some period of time before I lost them forever,” Scantland quipped. “For me, a lot of collecting is being interested in the idea of the work, but eventually you want to have the work seen. So the fact that I was able to bring it to Columbus, and that it doesn’t hang in my house, is even better.” He estimates that the family will donate “another dozen or more works next year.”

Deana Lawson, Assemblage, 2010–Present. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Three notable installations by Lauren Halsey, Deana Lawson, and Fordjour, respectively, are certainly well suited to a public institution. Scantland acquired Lawson’s photo installation Assemblage (2010–present) from the 2020 group show “New Images of Man” at Blum & Poe. Depending on how it’s installed, the work is made up of 400 to 700 drugstore photographs of people ranging from Martin Luther King Jr. to Eddie Murphy to JonBenét Ramsey. “It’s an incredibly moving, compelling portrait of our culture,” Scantland said. As he considered the conservation and installation logistics of the work, it became clear that Assemblage was destined for the museum. “In the way that it moved me, my hope is that it’ll have the same meaning for thousands of people who see it at the museum,” Scantland continued.

The CMA has agreed to show the collection on a regular basis, though Scantland isn’t concerned that the works will be sitting in storage. “I think one of the really interesting opportunities is the dialogue between what we’re doing, and the collections that have come before it,” he said, pointing specifically to a painting by Jerrell Gibbs that was inspired by a Matisse at the museum, and the CMA’s Schiller Collection of Social Realist art from 1940 to 1970 which includes work by artists including Barkley L. Hendricks and Romare Bearden. He noted that the works offer great potential for future exhibitions and can also be shown at the museum’s satellite space the Pizzuti Collection, which is dedicated to contemporary projects; the works can also be loaned out to other institutions.

Angela Heisch, Green Haze in Spring, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Jerrell Gibbs, Lady in Blue Dress, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and the Scantland Collection, Columbus Museum of Art.

Over the course of the “Present Generations” show, the museum will offer complementary educational programming which will involve the featured artists directly. It was important to the family that the endowment gift came at the same time as the artworks in order to establish the connection between the collection and engaging the public. “Every dollar we don’t spend on salaries is a dollar we can spend on programming and other things,” Scantland said, noting that the gift will enable the museum’s Learning department to engage with the community. “What we’re finding is that the more effort we put into creating a bigger tent, and better serving the community, the more interest we have from the community,” he said. Some recent efforts have focused on museum admission, which is free on Sundays, and will be free to Columbus’s public-school students this summer. “We’re continuing to try to take cost as a barrier to accessing the museum out of the picture,” Scantland said.

“One of our goals as a family is really to try to share with the community and support what we believe is one of the most important organizations in our community,” Scantland continued. “I think what’s most exciting is that this is just the beginning.”

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Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Associate Director of Content.