Through a representative selection, the exhibition examines recurring themes in Hirshhorn’s collection, including the friendships she and her husband, Joseph, maintained with prominent artists as well as her eclectic collecting practice. Consisting of more than 400 works created by some of the foremost modern European and American artists such as Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Larry Rivers and Josef Albers, among others, The Olga Hirshhorn Collection reflects her diverse interests and tastes as a collector. Throughout the exhibition, pre-Columbian, African and Asian objects attest to Olga’s passion for travel and non-western arts and culture.
An active and passionate collector in her own right, Olga Hirshhorn was born in Connecticut to an immigrant Ukrainian family. She married her high school English teacher at age 18 and shortly thereafter was running her own employment agency. She devoted herself to her three sons and to growing her business to support her family. After a number of years, her life changed. In 1961, Joe Hirshhorn, a Latvian entrepreneur and art collector, called her agency looking to hire a chauffeur. After many phone conversations, Joe invited her to visit his newly purchased mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. They became friends and later married.
Over the years, Joe Hirshhorn acquired a large number of works of art, which in 1974 became the founding collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Together, Joe and Olga Hirshhorn established close friendships with towering figures in the history of modern art. They were close friends with Picasso and his wife Jacqueline, whom they visited in France, spent time with Willem de Kooning in his studio and often visited Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico. Olga Hirshhorn typically bought or received as gifts works of art directly from these and other important artists. She developed close, personal relationships with them, which she maintained through correspondence, frequent visits and the acquisition of works of art. Works by Picasso signed “Pour Olga, Son Ami Picasso” (“For Olga, from her friend Picasso”) and de Kooning’s drawings inscribed “To Olga, Love Bill” show the intimate connection between artist and collector, one that fostered the acquisition of multiple works for Olga Hirshhorn’s collection.
For more than 40 years, Olga Hirshhorn was a supporter of the arts in Southwest Florida; she was a generous contributor to The Baker Museum and was integral in the early stages of the Naples Art Association. Olga Hirshhorn also served on the Artis—Naples museum board committee. The Olga Hirshhorn Collection attests to the museum’s continual expansion of its permanent collection, with significant works of high caliber and diversity.
Significant pieces on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., complement the works on view.