- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2007

Olga Hirshhorn kept a lower collecting profile than her late husband, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden founder Joseph H. Hirshhorn, but the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s “Olga Hirshhorn Collects: Selections From the Permanent Collection” shows her taste was also fine.

She opted to give her collection to the Corcoran due to her long association with the Corcoran College of Art + Design and friendship with David Levy, the gallery’s former director.

The two met initially when Mr. Hirshhorn moved to Greenwich, Conn., in 1961 and called Services Unlimited — run by the then Olga Cunningham — for a chauffeur. She came from a Ukrainian blue-collar family. He started poor in Brooklyn and become a multimillionaire in the mining and oil business.

The phone call started a romance, and they married in 1964.

“In the beginning, we hobnobbed with artists and gallery people,” she says. “Then, I wanted to collect smaller works on my own.”

At first, Mr. Hirshhorn objected, saying, “Don’t I give you enough?” she recalls, “but, I convinced him that I wanted to choose some things on my own,” Mrs. Hirshhorn, 86, says.

“I went straight out and bought Josef Albers’ ‘Study for Homage to the Square: Early Years’ (1964), a wonderful juxtaposing of lemon- and deeper-yellow rectangles,” she recalls, adding that she’s pleased it’s one of the first images in the Corcoran exhibit (along with three other Albers works).

From the 650-plus pieces given by Mrs. Hirshhorn, Jonathan Binstock, exhibit curator and Corcoran curator of contemporary art, chose 67 works, including many by Alexander Calder, Mr. Albers, Willem de Kooning and Larry Rivers.

Mr. Binstock focused on works by Mr. Albers and his wife Anni Albers — he features the latter’s unusual “Sunny” (1965), a “pictorial weaving” in the smallish entry gallery at the back of the ground floor.

Near the exit, there is a diminutive gallery featuring Mr. de Kooning’s drawings.

The De Koonings are truly amazing and among his best graphite works. The four — all named “Untitled” — show his ability to delineate figures through inked washes. One is a portrait of Mrs. Hirshhorn.

The curator groups many of Mrs. Hirshhorn’s favorites in the longish gallery connecting the smaller ones. He clumps women’s portraits by Alex Katz, Edward Hopper, Max Weber and Mr. Rivers (his “Olga” is one of the exhibit’s standouts); places geometrized works by Richard Anuszkiewicz, Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella together; and groups fanciful Calders that include “Butterfly” (1966), “13 Leaves” (1967), “Jungle (Animals)” (1970), and “Mr. and Mrs. J.H.H.” (1966), a hilarious “portrait” of the Hirshhorns as blacks whooping it up.

Appropriately, Mr. Binstock places Mr. Rivers’ enormous graphite-and-colored pencil “Study for the Definitive Portrait of Joe and Olga Hirshhorn” (1981) for the finished portrait in the Hirshhorn Museum, on the opposite wall.

Visitors should realize that this show is just the tip of the iceberg and that there will be many more “Olga Hirshhorn Collects” in the future.

WHAT: “Olga Hirshhorn Collects: Selections From the Permanent Collection”

WHERE: Corcoran Gallery of Art, New York Avenue at 17th Street Northwest

WHEN: Until Friday, the Corcoran will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. only on the weekends. From March 17, the hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and closed Tuesdays.

PHONE: 202/639-1700

ONLINE: www.Corcoran.org


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