Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer: it’s a list of revolutionary modern artists, and they represent a tumult of different styles and formats: minimalism, abstract expressionism, photography, painting, collage.
Yet they are all in the same exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, some 80 works by 47 artists. It is proof that Anne Windfohr Marion – with the help of former senior curator Michael Auping – had a considerable interest in modern art of all kinds, the money to buy it and an eye for the exceptional.
Auping returned to Fort Worth to mount the new show, “Modern Masters: A Tribute to Anne Windfohr Marion”. Standing in the first gallery, he pointed to three major paintings on the walls: Francis Bacon’s first self-portrait (from 1956), “White Band, No. 27” by Mark Rothko (1954), and “Two Women” by Willem de Kooning ( 1954). -55).
Collectively, he said, in today’s market, only those three would go up for auction for somewhere near half a billion dollars.
This speaks to the madness of the art market over the past decade. But it is also proof of good judgment and good taste. Auping recalled that the museum bought the Bacon for $5 million twenty years ago – from a $10 million fund that Marion had arranged so the museum could build up its collection before moving to its new home, designed by Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando.
Windfohr, who died in 2020 at 81, inherited four West Texas ranches from her grandfather – the Burnett Ranches, including the legendary 6666 Ranch in King County. Her stepfather was Charles Tandy, founder of the Tandy Corporation. And she formed her own oil company, Burnett Oil – eventually becoming a billionaire.
Auping said Marion may well have gotten her fascination with art from her mother (“Big Anne”), who collected native Indian blankets and notable ceramics. 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 really interests them is, ‘Give me something big, give me something punchy, something that people are going to talk about right away. ” “
By contrast, Marion’s tastes may have been wide-ranging, Auping said, but “her main focus was quality” and she didn’t care to identify with any particular school or movement. Or what the immediate impact might be.
“It sounds like a cliché,” Auping said, “but she also loved the art she could live with. I always think of [her taste] like an eclectic elegance.”
Marion was involved in the process of creating the new museum building — she approved the selection of architect Tadao Ando, who was designing his first major project in America. Additionally, several works of art in Modern’s collection are officially from the Burnett Foundation. Marion was president and administrator of the foundation, so these donations also came from her.
When asked how often a patron like Marion comes, Auping said he thought, once every ten years? No. Once in twenty? During his career, he visited four museums. She was, he said, a one-of-a-kind artistic patron.
“Modern Masters: A Tribute to Ann Windfohr Marion” is presented at Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art until January 8.