As we begin a new decade, I take great pride in reflecting upon the work of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, which has grown significantly since first becoming active in 2013.
Originally established by the artist during the 1980s, the Foundation advances Frankenthaler’s legacy and the visual arts more broadly through a range of curatorial, educational, and philanthropic initiatives. As a primary resource on the artist, and a steward of her collection and archive, the Foundation seeks to inspire and support a new generation of practitioners.
Our grants initiatives remain a central part of our program and mission. The Foundation has launched a $5-million, multi-year COVID-19 relief effort to help mitigate the catastrophic impact of the pandemic on artists and art organizations now and in the years to come. Additionally, through our ongoing and expanding Frankenthaler Scholarships, the Foundation has deepened its engagement in graduate-level education, building on our continued support of the visual arts program at Bennington College, Frankenthaler’s alma mater. To date, nine universities, selected for their excellence and geographic diversity, are able to offer annual fellowships to their students, in either the practice of painting through MFA programs or the study of modern art history through doctoral student support.
The Foundation’s extensive holdings of work by Frankenthaler across a variety of mediums—including paintings, works on paper, and prints—has enabled us to serve as collaborator, partner and lender to a number of major exhibitions. Recent exhibitions have included both international as well as national presentations, from the Museo di Palazzo Grimani in Venice and Tate Modern in London, to Princeton University Art Museum and Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York.
We have additionally developed a program to strategically donate works by Frankenthaler from our collection, including a series of prints to university-affiliated museums as part of the Frankenthaler Prints Initiative and Vessel (1961) to Tate—marking the first canvas by the artist to enter a public collection in London. These alliances raise the visibility of Frankenthaler’s work among key audiences, including artists and students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience Frankenthaler’s work firsthand.
Finally, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives, while still being processed, has already served as the basis for significant new research and scholarship. With original papers, printed materials, photographs, and more pertaining to the artist’s life and work, the Archives is essential in the development of the Helen Frankenthaler catalogue raisonné, which is being overseen by Douglas Dreishpoon.
My colleagues and I and our Board of Trustees are energized by the Foundation’s roadmap for the future and look forward to a continued, yet measured, expansion of our program. We invite you to visit our website often for updates, to follow us on social media, and to let us know of your interest in receiving our semi-annual newsletter if it does not already reach you.
Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director