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The Collection of Alex E. Booth Jr.

Perhaps no individual has done more to lead the Huntington Museum of Art in the development of a contemporary art collection than longtime Board of Trustees member Alex E. Booth, Jr. (1925-2017).

START | September 9, 2023

END | December 3, 2023

Image credit: Franz Kline (American, 1910-1962), “Untitled,” ca. 1961. Oil and collage on cardboard. Gift of Alex E. Booth, Jr.; 1970.11. Photo by John Spurlock.


Alex E. Booth, Jr. joined the Board in the early 1960s and immediately began to steer the Museum toward contemporary art, first with a significant gift to help fund the purchase of an Alexander Calder mobile in 1964. He quickly followed this donation with the provision of funds to acquire a drawing by Georges Braque, as well as a gift of historic works by John Singer Sargent and Samuel F. B. Morse. His appointment as Building Committee chairman during the 1960s seemed to galvanize his resolve that the Museum’s holdings reflect the modernist spirit in 20th-century art.

His work with architect Walter Gropius during the design and construction of the Museum’s 1970 addition served as a strong inspiration, and he worked diligently to see that the new space would include work by contemporary artists. When the Museum sought to match acquisition funds that were available through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, he supplied the financial resources that allowed for purchases of work by contemporary sculptors Seymour Lipton, Leonard Baskin, Harry Bertoia, and others. He also provided funds to acquire paintings by two giants of mid-century American art: Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline. He later enriched the collection with an assortment of gifts that included an expressive George Bellows drawing, a painting by the American impressionist Edward Henry Potthast, and historic sculpture from Asia, ancient Rome, and the Americas that reflected his world travels.

A more recent gift, from 2004, was a pastel drawing that depicted Huntington’s Ritter Park. It was done by the artist Wolf Kahn while he was a workshop leader in the Museum’s Walter Gropius Master Artist Program in 1994. The Gropius program, which has brought contemporary artists to teach classes and exhibit their work at HMA for more than 25 years, was funded by a generous bequest from Alex Booth’s mother, Roxanna Y. Booth. The program acknowledged the inspiration that was provided by Gropius during his time in Huntington and his desire that art be taught, as well as exhibited, in the Museum. The Gropius program spurred an initiative to acquire representative works by visiting artists, again reflecting the desire of Alex Booth to see the Huntington Museum of Art embrace contemporary art.

This exhibit is presented with support from the City of Huntington Mayor’s Council for the Arts.

This exhibit is presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.
Header: Emil Carlsen (American, b. Denmark, 1853-1932), Detail of The Heavens Are Telling, ca. 1918. Oil on canvas. Gift of Ruth Woods Dayton, 1967.1.47. Photo by John Spurlock. This artwork is featured in The Daywood Collection: Paintings & Sculptures exhibit through February, 11, 2024.