‘We are thrilled that we can call these artists our friends’ — The Melva Bucksbaum Collection

Post-War and Contemporary works from the collection of one of the art world's most significant benefactors — now offered in an online sale 

Melva Bucksbaum developed an affinity for art as a young girl in the 1940s, regularly taking the bus to Washington, D.C., to visit the museums there. ‘I could go downtown with a nickel at eight years old,’ recalled the collector and philanthropist. ‘I just loved being in the National Gallery with all that art.’


Ruby Neri (b. 1970) Untitled, 2011. Oil on panel, 60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm). Estimate $8,000-12,000. Offered in
The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online
Ruby Neri (b. 1970) Untitled, 2011. Oil on panel, 60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm). Estimate $8,000-12,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum: Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

Across many years, Bucksbaum would become one of the art world’s most beloved figures, and a staunch supporter of artists and their work. As a collector, The New York Times  reported, she blended ‘a private passion for art with an invigorating public altruism’. 

Frank Moore (1953-2002)
His Closet, 1990. 30 x 30⅛ x 4⅛ in (76.2 x 76.5 x 10.5 cm). Estimate $12,000-18,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online
Frank Moore (1953-2002) His Closet, 1990. 30 x 30⅛ x 4⅛ in (76.2 x 76.5 x 10.5 cm). Estimate $12,000-18,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum: Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

In 1967 Bucksbaum moved to Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband Martin Bucksbaum. There she became an active supporter of local arts organisations and museums, including the Des Moines Art Center, where then-director James T. Demetrion had made a name for himself as a visionary curator. In Demetrion, Bucksbaum found not only a friend, but an extraordinary mentor.

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)
Untitled, 1975-2001. Gelatin silver print. 10⅜ x 8⅜ in (26.3 x 21.3 cm). This work is from an unknown edition. Estimate $7,000-10,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) Untitled, 1975-2001. Gelatin silver print. 10⅜ x 8⅜ in (26.3 x 21.3 cm). This work is from an unknown edition. Estimate $7,000-10,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum: Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

From 1995, Bucksbaum became closely involved with the Whitney Museum. For some two decades she was one of the Whitney’s most stalwart benefactors and advisors, and was eventually named its vice chairwoman. Her contributions to the museum included dozens of important works by artists such as Dan Flavin, Carroll Dunham, Christo and Roy Lichtenstein.

She also spearheaded the selection of Renzo Piano as architect for the museum’s new downtown Manhattan space, and continued to collect with great insight and passion.

Given to an artist every two years in conjunction with the Whitney Biennial, The Bucksbaum Award — the most financially generous in fine art — now defines that institution’s programming

‘We are thrilled that we can call these artists our friends,’ Bucksbaum wrote, 10 years after founding the Whitney’s Bucksbaum Award. ‘Most of all, we are thrilled that this award has allowed each artist, in some way, to continue to create with even greater commitment to his or her work.’


Various Artists, The MOCA Portfolio, 1999-2000, The complete set of six prints in various media, on various wove papers, each signed in pencil and numbered 5480. Overall 31¾ x 23⅛ in (806 x 587 mm). Estimate $18,000-25,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

Various Artists, The MOCA Portfolio, 1999-2000, The complete set of six prints in various media, on various wove papers, each signed in pencil and numbered 54/80. Overall: 31¾ x 23⅛ in (806 x 587 mm). Estimate $18,000-25,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum: Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

In embracing work from the studios of artists both known and unknown, Bucksbaum became a model for the kind of collecting that pushes against the status quo. Eventually, works by younger and emerging artists joined painting, photography and sculpture by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Richard Serra, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nan Goldin, Agnes Martin, Gregory Crewdson, Kara Walker, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, David Hammons and others.

Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964), POEM ‘WEDNESDAY’, 2012. Overall 8⅞ x 2⅜ x 3⅝ in (22.5 x 6 x 9.2 cm). This work is number two from an edition of six.
Estimate $15,000-20,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964), POEM ‘WEDNESDAY’, 2012. Overall: 8⅞ x 2⅜ x 3⅝ in (22.5 x 6 x 9.2 cm). This work is number two from an edition of six. Estimate $15,000-20,000. Offered in The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum: Post-War and Contemporary Art, Photographs and Prints, online

The works Bucksbaum acquired reflect both an open-mindedness and a great sense of quality. In both her collection and the Bucksbaum Prize, she leaves a legacy of support for the continuing dialogue of art across generations.