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The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection

Irving and Natalie Forman. Photograph by Susana Tejada.

The gift of Irving Forman (1921–2009) and his wife Natalie (1926–2011) of their stellar collection of monochrome works of art—161 paintings and sculpture and nearly 200 works on paper—constitutes a remarkable contribution to the Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It is the single largest gift to be donated at one time to the museum and is particularly noteworthy for its relevance and significance to the museum's collection of abstract art.

The Formans began collecting art in the 1950s and continued to collect for nearly fifty years. Before moving to Santa Fe in 1985, they lived in their native Chicago for thirty-five years and acquired contemporary art on trips to New York. One of the first works that the Formans purchased on such a trip was a small sculpture by Pablo Picasso. However, they soon became interested in non-objective art, and around 1960 were among the first collectors to purchase works by Robert Ryman, the famous Minimalist and Conceptual painter.

In addition to purchasing works of art, the Formans received many works as birthday and thank-you gifts from artists with whom they had cultivated deeply personal relationships. To date, Natalie and Irving Forman have amassed one of the most important collections of monochromatic art—richly nuanced paintings and works on paper that are primarily one color—in the world, including works by Josef Albers, John Beech, Burgoyne Diller, Marcia Hafif, James Howell, Joseph Marioni, John Meyer, Phil Sims, and Peter Tollens, to name just a few.

In a 2003 interview, Natalie Forman stated that the couple's taste for minimal and primarily monochrome works "grew out of the early 1900s Russian philosophy that things can easily exist in their own unique forms." The works in the Forman collection graced the walls of the couple's New Mexico home for many years. Now at the Albright-Knox, the works evoke pause and reflection in viewers, as they have delicate subtleties best appreciated after extended and repeated observation.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery extends its gratitude to the Forman Family for its extraordinary generosity. In addition to their magnanimous gift of works of art, Natalie and Irving Forman also donated to the museum's G. Robert Strauss, Jr. Memorial Library their personal archive, which includes letters of correspondence between the Formans and the artists in their collection. The Natalie and Irving Forman Papers reveal the couple’s acute sense for acquiring the art of their time, as well as the close relationships they built over the years with many of the artists in their collection.

Related Exhibitions

The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection

Friday, May 6–Sunday, July 3, 2005

Works on Paper: The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection
Friday, August 15–Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Long Curve:
150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Friday, November 4, 2011­–Sunday, March 4, 2012