Last week, during the McNay Art Museum’s annual fundraising luncheon, the museum announced it has received a $250,000 grant for the acquisition of artworks by women artists of color.
The grant, from the John R. and Greli N. Less Charitable Trust, honors the legacy of the trust’s namesake, Greli N. Less, who died in 2019 at the age of 93. Born in Austria, Ms. Less immigrated to the United States after World War II and later settled in San Antonio. The John R. and Greli N. Less Charitable Trust has funded other significant cultural projects in the city, including a science and nature space at the Witte Museum and a butterfly habitat at the San Antonio Zoo.
In a press release, Matthew McLendon, the recently appointed Director and CEO of the McNay, remarked, “We are grateful for the tremendous support of the Less Charitable Trust to celebrate women across the spectrum of creative arts… With this generous support, the Museum’s collection can more deeply engage with our community through the works of artists who have historically been underrepresented in the art world.”
While the lack of representation of women artists in museums has been highlighted for decades, a 2019 study on the diversity of artists in U.S. museums underscores that women of color make up less than 1% of artists in prominent museum collections. Over the last few years, other museums across Texas have been evaluating their collections and creating initiatives to support the acquisitions of works by artists who have been historically marginalized.
In 2021, an anonymous donor funded the Blanton Art Museum’s acquisitions of works by Black American artists, and earlier this year the museum acquired more than 5,000 works by Latino artists from the Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia Collection. In 2021, Ruby City announced the acquisition of 23 works by 11 BIPOC artists, including Deboarh Roberts, Sonia Boyce, and Carrie Mae Weems.
Mr. McLendon told Glasstire that the McNay is in the process of assessing its more than 22,000-piece collection to better understand its holdings in relation to artists’ race, ethnicity, and gender, among other relevant statistics. The results of this analysis will guide the museum as it makes decisions about building the collection.