Fort Worth’s Museum of Modern Art honors its biggest patron with a show of groundbreaking artists

Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer: This is a list of groundbreaking modern artists, and they represent a riot of different styles and formats: minimalism, abstract expressionism, photography, painting, collage.

Yet they’re all in the same exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, about 80 works by 47 artists. It’s proof that Anne Windfor Marion—with the help of former senior curator Michael Auping—had a wide interest in modern art of all kinds, the money to buy it and an eye for the extraordinary.

Auping returned to Fort Worth to curate the new show, Modern Masters: A Tribute to Anne Windfohr Marion. Standing in the first gallery, he pointed to three large paintings on the walls: Francis Bacon’s first self-portrait (from 1956), Mark Rothko’s The White Ribbon No. 27 (1954), and Willem de Kooning’s Two Women ( 1954). -55).

Combined, he said, in today’s market those three alone would go to auction for about half a billion dollars.

Mark Rothko highest price: $87 million.
Highest price for Francis Bacon: $142 million.
The highest price for Willem de Kooning: $300 million.

Michael Auping, former senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, discusses Willem de Kooning’s Two Women

It’s a testament to how crazy the art market has been over the past decade. But it is also evidence of shrewd judgment and taste. Auping recalled that the museum purchased the Bacon for $5 million twenty years ago, from a $10 million fund that Marion arranged for the museum to build its collection before moving to its new home designed by the recipient of Pritzker Prize, Tadao Ando.

Windfor, who died in 2020 at age 81, inherited four West Texas ranches from her grandfather, the Burnett Ranch, including the legendary 6666 Ranch in King County. Her stepfather is Charles Tandy, founder of the Tandy Corporation. And she started her own oil company, Burnett Oil – eventually becoming a billionaire.

Auping said Marion may have gotten her fascination with art from her mother (“Big Ann”), who collected native Indian blankets and remarkable pottery. Marion also studied art history at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

“A lot of collectors today,” Auping said, “they can talk about quality, but what they really care about is like, ‘Give me something big, give me something loud, something that people are going to talk about right now.'”

In stark contrast, Marion’s tastes may have been broad, Auping said, but “her main goal was quality” and she was not interested in identifying with a particular school or movement. Or what the immediate impact might be.

Museum of Modern Art architect Tadao Ando with Anne Marion and John Marion

Museum of Modern Art architect Tadao Ando with Anne Marion and John Marion

“It sounds like a cliché,” Auping said, “but she also liked art that she could live with. I always think of [her taste] like eclectic elegance.”

Marion participated in the process of creating the new museum building – she approved the choice of architect Tadao Ando, ​​who designed his first major project in America. In addition, several works of art in the Modern’s collection are officially from the Burnett Foundation. Marion was the president and trustee of the foundation, so these gifts were actually from her as well.

When asked how often a patron like Marion comes along, Auping said he thinks once every ten years? Once in twenty? He has been to four museums in his career. She was, he said, a once-in-a-lifetime patron of the arts.

“Modern Masters: A Tribute to Ann Windfohr Marion” continues at the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art through Jan. 8.

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