The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired 84 works of Indian art that formerly belonged to artist Howard Hodgkin, who died in 2017. The works are set to go on view at the museum in 2024 as part of an exhibition that will also include 38 more pieces from Hodgkin’s collection that are on loan but have not been formally acquired.
Hodgkin’s collection is widely regarded as an important one, with works spanning multiple centuries and various mediums. Portraits of courtly rulers, images of nature, and pages from the early period of the Mughal empire were among the works the Met added to its holdings.
But Hodgkin’s collection has also been the subject of some scrutiny, due to its provenance.
In 2021, the Guardian reported that the Ashmolean in Oxford, England, had declined to acquire the collection. Alexander Sturgis, the museum’s director, said at the time that this was because curators there could only establish a “clear and secure” provenance for around 40 percent of the works in it. Antony Peattie, Hodgkin’s partner, told the publication that the artist had prioritized “quality, not provenance,” when buying these works, and that he had purchased them from international dealers.
That Guardian report also included word that the Met’s trustees were interested in acquiring the collection.
A Met spokesperson declined to comment to ARTnews on the alleged provenance issues, saying in a statement, “The Met is thrilled at both of these developments–to have purchased a number of works from the broader collection, and to be able to present the entire collection to the public in 2024.”
The Guardian said that Hodgkin had intended for his collection to remain together. It now seems, however, that it has technically been split up, since the Met only acquired around two-thirds of it. Still, the loan of the remaining works — still owned by Hodgkins estate — means that the whole Indian art collection can be presented during the 2024 show.
The Met said the works it did acquire will reside with its Asian and Islamic art departments.
Hodgkin was widely known during his lifetime as an abstract painter. He represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1984, and had a Tate Britain retrospective in 2006.
One of his abstract paintings was also added to the collection of the Met, which already owns some prints by the artist, as part of the acquisition of Indian art.
Max Hollein, director of the Met, said in a statement, “Howard Hodgkin‘s collection represents an artist’s eye for great beauty and reflects his passion for an extraordinarily broad range of Indian painting, which he gathered into a stunning group of works. We’re thrilled to display these works within the context of Howard’s entire collection, thanks to the additional loan from his trust.”