To mark its fifth anniversary, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University was gifted two major works of art, Jackson Pollock’s 1944 Totem Lesson 1 and Willem de Kooning’s c. 1949 Gansevoort Street, by its eponymous supporter Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson. Anderson donated the works in advance of her death on Oct. 22 in anticipation of the launch of a tandem effort to raise $10 million to enhance funding for the museum’s programs and exhibitions, which are free and open to the public.
“By donating two of the most sought-after New York School paintings in private hands to Stanford, Moo Anderson continued to exemplify her strong conviction that art is to be shared and to be lived,” said Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “This act of tremendous generosity helps the university further its reputation as a gathering place to advance scholarship and dialogue about great works of modern American art, and for their enjoyment by the public.”
The new paintings complement more than 130 works of modern and contemporary American art by 87 artists in the museum’s existing permanent collection. Totem Lesson 1 is now the earliest piece in the museum, expanding the chronological range of its collection from the tail end of World War II to the present. The additions join two works by de Kooning—Woman Standing-Pink (1954–55) and Untitled V (1986)—and Pollock’s Lucifer (1947) already contained within it. Taken together, they provide an opportunity for visitors to see examples from both artists across major moments in their careers.
“Pollock’s Totem Lesson 1 provides a look at the artist in transition. It blends the influences of Surrealism with spiritual aspects of native cultures and sits on the line between figuration and abstraction, demonstrating Pollock’s evolution toward drip paintings, as evidenced in Lucifer,” said Anderson Collection Director Jason Linetzky.
“Gansevoort Street joins the museum’s two other de Kooning paintings, allowing viewers the opportunity to experience three steps of his career,” he continued. “These additions create new context for how we understand each artist’s practice—and how they pushed one another as rivals and friends. Both felt they were inventing something new, and these works help us think about what it means to approach something like no one has done it before.”
The newest acquisitions are now on view and are accessible to the public for the first time in years; the most recent exhibition of both pieces in the Bay Area was in January 2001. They hang near Franz Kline’s Figure 8 (1952) and adjacent to Left of Center, a student-curated reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection that explores how geographic location—in this case, the West Coast—can play a role in engendering independent thought, new ideas, and the breaking of tradition.
Those themes not only apply to the Abstract Expressionists, they permeate the DNA of Stanford. What’s more, they reflect the dynamic nature of the collection.
Since its opening in 2014 following a pledge of 121 works from Harry W. “Hunk,” Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson, and Mary Patricia “Putter” Anderson Pence, the museum added 13 new works, welcomed guest artists to its spaces—including a multi-gallery installation of light and electronic pieces by Jim Campbell that opened last month—and is continually developing programming that involves students and scholars in the presentation of art and ideas in ways relevant to today’s issues. Accordingly, it has transformed into an essential resource for campus teaching and learning and as a hub for community engagement.
The Anderson family hopes its ongoing support of the museum will inspire others to invest in it as well. Moo believed that to enjoy art, it must be shared; before she died, she encouraged the community to continue with its plans to gather in celebration of the Anderson Collection and to contribute to the success of its future.
On Oct. 28, Putter and her daughter, Devin Pence (MBA ’19), joined donors and friends in doing so. Totem Lesson 1 and Gansevoort Street were unveiled alongside new endowment and naming opportunities to support the museum’s exhibitions, public programs, directorship, and architectural spaces.
As momentum toward the fundraising target grows, a sense remains that some gifts to the museum are priceless.
“It’s hard to find a better example of a work by either of these artists that’s not already in a museum’s collection. They really aren’t available on the marketplace, and most any museum today would covet them. I’m delighted these pieces are at Stanford, where they will surely move and inspire visitors,” said Alexander Nemerov, the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities and chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “Stanford is a different place already because these two works are here.”