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The Collection of Joseph Herman Hirshhorn

Joseph Herman Hirshhorn (1899 - 1981), industrial magnate and passionate art collector, left a remarkable cultural legacy through a unique art collection followed by a generous donation to the Smithsonian to found the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.


Born in Latvia in 1899, Joseph Herman Hirshhorn emigrated to the United States at the age of 6. At the age of eighteen, Hirshhorn acquired his first works of art: two engravings by 16th-century German artist Albrecht Dürer, purchased for $75 each. This acquisition marked the beginning of a lifelong passion for art, with an ongoing and sustained collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings mainly by European and American artists, dating from the late 19th century to the modern era.

Just as he demonstrated remarkable rigor and acuity in diversifying his investments, Mr. Hirshhorn was similarly exacting in his choice of works of art. "It's my money and my taste", he once said of his art acquisitions, before continuing, "This approach has guided my whole life, both in business and in my passion for art".



The encounter with Hiquily’s work


An enlightened collector and patron of the arts, Hirshhorn discovered Hiquily's work at his first solo exhibition at Contemporaries Gallery in New York in 1959.

Seduced by the way the sculptor defied traditional conventions and exploited new materials, Hirshhorn acquired three sculptures: L'indifférent (1959), Fougasserie II (1959) and Zoomorphe (1959).


Left :

L’indifférent, 1959

Iron

65 x 33 x 21 cm

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC,

Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966

Right

Fougasserie II, 1959

Iron

76 x 26 x 35 cm

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC,

Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966


He later acquired the sculpture Le Boucanier from Galerie Claude Bernard in September 1963.

Le Boucanier , 1963

Brass mobile

178,5 x 101 x 77,5 cm

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC,

Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966



The Modern Sculpture exhibition (1962) at the Guggenheim Museum


At the heart of Hirshhorn's love of art was a particular affection for modern sculpture. The quality and breadth of Hirshhorn's collection was largely unknown to the general public until October 1962, when the Guggenheim Museum in New York presented 444 sculptures from his collection in the exhibition Modern Sculpture. Among the artists exhibited were Honoré Daumier, Constantin Brancusi, Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth and Philippe Hiquily, among others.

The exhibition was hailed as a triumph, propelling Hirshhorn into the ranks of the most eminent collectors of his time.


Poster for the Modern Sculpture exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum

Catalog of the exhibition : here


The Legacy and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden


In 1966, Joseph Herman Hirshhorn donated his collection to the Smithsonian, creating with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden one of the country's most important cultural institutions.

When the museum opened on October 4, 1974, it had a collection of over 12,000 works of art, which Hirshhorn had assembled over more than 40 years.

His vision was to create a space where the public could discover and appreciate the diversity and richness of modern and contemporary art, including the avant-garde sculpture that had captured his imagination. Now a museum, the collection continues to fascinate and inspire museum visitors from all over the world.

As part of Hirshhorn's legacy, Hiquily's sculptures have found a special place in one of the most prestigious collections of its time.

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