Press Release

Helen Frankenthaler display now open at Tate Modern, including major new gift to the collection

Helen Frankenthaler Vessel 1961

Helen Frankenthaler Vessel 1961. Collection Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York. © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Jordan Tinker, courtesy Helen Frankenthaler Foundation

Tate announced today it has received a gift of a major painting by Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011), one of the leading figures of abstract American art in the 20th century. Vessel 1961, a spectacular example of the artist’s work created during an important early stage of her career, has been generously donated by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in New York and marks the first painting by the artist to enter the museum’s collection. It is now on show at Tate Modern alongside four other paintings on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation as part of a year-long free display of the artist’s work.

Vessel was made using Frankenthaler’s signature ‘soak-stain’ technique, whereby she poured thinned oil paint onto raw canvas placed directly on the studio floor. This allowed her to create pools and lines of paint, which she moved with brushes and other tools to produce washes of colour. ‘There are no rules’, she said. ‘That is how art is born.’

Frankenthaler was a major figure in the history of postwar American painting, associated with the second-generation abstract expressionists. One of the few women artists in the period to gain international recognition during her lifetime, she continued to reimagine her approach to art across a remarkable six-decade career and has had a profound impact on generations of abstract painters.

Gregor Muir, Director of Collection (International Art), Tate said:

“We are delighted to receive this truly generous gift from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, which represents the first painting by this important artist to enter the national collection. Vessel transforms our ability to represent post-war American abstraction, while also reflecting the vital contribution made by women artists, such as Frankenthaler, during a critical moment in art history”.

Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation said:

“The gift of Vessel marks an exciting opportunity to further advance Frankenthaler’s legacy. We hope this work – one of her most significant paintings from the 1960s – coupled with its presentation at Tate in a monographic room of loans from the Foundation’s collection will present myriad opportunities for audiences throughout the UK to discover and revisit Frankenthaler’s work, and continue to inspire new generations of artists across the pond.”

This display is one of several new free displays opening at Tate Modern over the coming month. On 25 November a group display will open entitled A Year in Art: 1973. Based on the research of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational, it will explore the range of responses by artists and activists to the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile. Taking this tumultuous moment in history as its departure point, Tate Modern will show a variety of works that demonstrate how artists around the world came together in solidarity networks to express dissent and bear witness.

Tate’s commitment to photography will be seen in several new displays across the Natalie Bell building. In November, these will include a selection of Soviet photobooks drawn from the outstanding collections acquired by Tate from David King and Martin Parr, as well as a group of photographic portraits by Claudia Andujar, Sheba Chhachhi, Paz Errazuriz and Susan Meiselas. In December, two solo rooms of recently acquired photographs will open: Irving Penn’s Underfoot, engrossing close-up images of New York City’s streets, and a series of works by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide generously donated by Michael and Jane Wilson.

Also in December, the Tanks will showcase several installations that explore a sense of impermanence and the use of ephemeral materials, including work by Miroslaw Balka, Ian Brakewell, Anya Gallaccio, Roelof Louw, Cornelia Parker and Kishio Suga. Other artists featured in new displays across Tate Modern that month will include Bani Abidi, Nairy Baghramian, CAMP, Tacita Dean, Igor Grubic, Tamara Henderson, Silke Otto-Knapp, Marisa Merz, Lala Rukh, Franz Erhard Walther and Yin Xiuzhen.