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Oakland Museum of California Announces Major Bequest of Internationally Known Sculptor, Innovator, and Community Leader Bruce Beasley’s West Oakland Studio Complex and Art Work

Press photos available for download here.

(OAKLAND, CA)—Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) has announced that the Museum and internationally regarded sculptor and long-time West Oakland resident and community activist Bruce Beasley have entered into an agreement for his extensive West Oakland studio complex to be bequeathed to OMCA as the future Bruce Beasley Sculpture Center together with Beasley’s collection of his own work and related archival materials.

The future Sculpture Center, an extremely unusual bequest from a living artist to a museum, will focus on the importance of sculpture as an art form and will represent Beasley’s legacy, inspiring other artists and engaging the public. The future Sculpture Center, which will offer a rare window into the life and working processes of an important American sculptor, is a testament to Beasley’s life-long interest in refined form, innovation, and civic involvement. The site, which Beasley has developed over the course of 50 years, features multiple working studio spaces and both indoor galleries and outdoor gardens of Beasley’s work. The complex extends on both sides of the street of its West Oakland neighborhood where it has evolved over half a century.

The studio complex will come to the Oakland Museum of California with an endowment to support operations and programming for the future Sculpture Center. In all, the gift is valued at approximately $20 million, making it the largest single private gift in the 45-year-old Museum’s history. In the coming years, the Museum and Beasley plan to open the future Sculpture Center to the public at least once a year for tours, beginning in 2015. Details of more extensive programming will be announced in the future as the bequest takes effect upon the artist’s passing. For more information about OMCA and the future Bruce Beasley Sculpture Center, visit

“We are extremely grateful to Bruce for this gift that will benefit the entire community for generations to come,” said Lori Fogarty, Director and CEO of the Oakland Museum of California. “Bruce’s vision has been to create a Sculpture Center—unique in the world—that fosters sculpture as an art form and provides opportunities for sculptors to advance their craft.”

Sculpture is by nature a challenge, since both working and exhibition spaces are more limited for large-scale, three-dimensional work than for painting, photography, works on paper, or craft. As such, the Museum will plan a varied program for the future Sculpture Center that would include exhibitions of Bruce’s work and as well as the work of other artists, artist residencies, public programming, and opportunities for scholarship, writing, and research. Programming will focus on the sculptural field broadly and highlight some of the areas where Beasley has had a distinctive impact, such as in the connection between art and technology, art and engineering, and art, community, and activism.

Beasley, his legacy, and the Oakland Museum of California are a perfect fit for the future Sculpture Center project. Beasley’s half century of dedication to art, the history and development of the community and to science and technology are ideal complements to OMCA’s focus on the stories of California as told through its collections in California art, history and natural sciences and its role as a catalyst in community development and growth for 45 years. Bruce Beasley has been a resident and active community member in West Oakland for 50 years. He was a true trailblazer in community activism, particularly working to bring services to West Oakland such as sidewalks, streetlights and a public park. He remains active in local causes and community involvement today.

The Oakland Museum of California envisions the future Bruce Beasley Sculpture Center as an active community hub in West Oakland as well as a regional, national, and even international resource in sculpture that honors and continues Beasley’s vision for and commitment to the local area. With West Oakland’s very rich creative community—particularly in forms aligned with Bruce’s sculpture in industrial arts and fabrication with organizations such as The Crucible and American Steel Studios— the future Sculpture Center will continue to be a key part of this community as well as a resource for the neighborhood as a whole.

About the gift and future center, Beasley says, “Part of the magic of sculpture is that it is physical; it is real and occupies the same environment that we do. But the facts of that reality also mean that it is the most difficult and demanding of all the visual arts to both create and exhibit. It needs the most studio space, uses the most expensive tools and techniques. It is the hardest on the bodies of its practitioners and is the most difficult and therefore the least likely to be exhibited. As I contemplated how fortunate I was to be able to spend my life making sculpture, I realized that the real heroes of the sculpture world were those who continue working without financial and critical success. I wanted to do something that would contribute to the expression of other sculptors, and that is what led to the idea of turning my studios and gardens into a center for sculpture when my career is over. A place to give a voice to work that might not otherwise be seen. But, over all, a place that stood for the fundamental value of sculpture itself.”

Johanna Hutchinson, Director of the International Sculpture Center in Hamilton, NJ, said, “From the very first moment I met Bruce many years ago, I felt the strength of his passion, vision, generosity, and commitment to his belief in sculpture and the important role it plays in society: Bruce is an example of an artist that has dedicated his life to sculpture. The formation of the future Bruce Beasley Sculpture Center is the ultimate philanthropic gift to the sculpture community and to the artists of the future. It represents more than just a gift to the Oakland Museum of California and the Bay Area, it is a legacy to the future of the field, something that has always been at forefront of Bruce’s life and work. The future Sculpture Center will be an asset that will attract artists on an international level bringing new ideas and collaborations from around the world and giving sculptors and those interested in sculpture a place to share, work, grow, and study.”

About Beasley and the future Sculpture Center, Lawrence R. Rinder, Director of Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, commented, “Bruce Beasley is that rare type of person, an artist-citizen. Not content to create innovative and beautiful works of art, Bruce’s practice is inextricable from his vision for a healthier, happier society. In a sense, his sculptures are abstract representations of this ideal. His extraordinarily generous donation to the Oakland Museum of California and to the people of the Bay Area is a natural extension of his proclivity to envision new possibilities and to undertake dramatic, awe-inspiring transformations. With this gift, he may well transform the arts community of the Bay Area.”

“The creation of the future Bruce Beasley Sculpture Center is representative of the scale of Beasley’s commitment to sculpt and shape the West Oakland community into a more relevant and livable space,” said civil rights leader and publisher of the Post News Group Paul Cobb. “When he joined our community his artwork, also became the fight to transform West Oakland. Beasley was instrumental in making West Oakland no longer neglected, abandoned and in the dark. He reshaped our place with his community involvement and, with us, fought the powers at be to make sure that our community became a better place to live. The Bruce Beasley Sculpture Center will honor and encourage others to be change makers as well and will inspire others to utilize his pattern of courage for the art of living.”

“Bruce is a West Oakland resident whose sculptural works embody the creative spirit of Oakland,” said Lynette Gibson McElhaney, City Councilmember for District Three. “Bruce’s contribution of his West Oakland studio and gardens to be a future outpost of the Oakland Museum of California is a generous and forward-looking gift to the City of Oakland.”

For more than 50 years Bruce Beasley has maintained a singular focus on the pursuit of pure, essential form. He burst into the art world at the height of the Abstract Sculpture movement in 1962 with the sale of his first sculpture to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 1963 was also a banner year during which the Guggenheim acquired Prometheus II, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art added Daedalus to its permanent collection and Beasley won the Paris Biennale Purchase Prize for his sculpture Icarus.

On the heels of his initial success, Beasley constructed his studio in West Oakland. Over time, the compound grew to encompass several acres of land, multiple fabrication studios, a home for his family, and is the site of the future Bruce Beasley Sculpture Center of the Oakland Museum of California. As the arc of his career expanded, so too did the scope of his facilities and his appetite for innovation, both artistically and technologically. Beasley analyzes form with scientific precision, yet his approach to sculpture is imbued with the passion he feels for his craft. Though thousands of Beasley studies exist, only a fraction of them have been realized into sculptures. These works transcend cultural, linguistic, and spatial boundaries and without compromise, uphold the aesthetic principles Beasley champions.

In 1968 Bruce was awarded the first Art in Public Places commission within the State of California. The seminal work created was Apolymon; a monumental cast acrylic sculpture that exhibited a confluence of form, material, and technology. The groundbreaking fabrication process Beasley invented to craft Apolymon and other significant sculptures also lent themselves to important scientific breakthroughs. Beasley was able to cast monumental bathyspheres which were used in deep-sea explorations by a myriad of scientists. To date the bathysphere continues to be used by scientists in gathering important deep-sea data.

Between 1977 and 1994 Beasley turned his focus to increasingly monumental works in aluminum, stainless steel, and bronze. During this period, Beasley participated in 17 solo and 56 group exhibitions, and produced significant commissions for institutions in both the U.S. and abroad. A few highlights include The California Sculpture Show, Monumenta 19th Sculpture Biennale and commissions for the San Francisco International Airport, the Miami International Airport, Stanford University, the State of Alaska, and Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. This period of significant artistic exploration was fueled through Beasley’s interest in digital technology that enabled him to design ever more complex sculpture. Synchronicity of vision and technology fueled the imagination and possibilities of Beasley’s work, stretching the arm of his aesthetic vocabularies while still paying homage to their modern roots.

During the most recent two decades Beasley was featured in 29 solo exhibitions, 39 group exhibitions, and realized commissions for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Shanghai World Expo, the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, the City of Oakland, the City of Monterrey, Mexico; and the Universities of Miami and Oregon. He is currently engaged in monumental commissions for the City of Fremont, and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

Through unwavering, disciplined consideration, Beasley developed a body of work that pushes the extents of what the human mind can visualize, never accepting limits on his sculptural explorations; “no” simply ceases to exist within the bounds of Beasley’s artistic, technological and scientific endeavors. The arc of his lifelong pursuit of sculpture has yielded a rich exploration of form. Though defined as “modern,” Beasley’s sculpture straddles the time/space/aesthetic continuum embodying sensibilities of classical, innovative, and timeless importance. Sculpture is what Beasley does; purely and passionately, he has explored the thread of his internal vision from every angle. With a pragmatic, linear approach he has never wavered or slowed from the art form that inspires him.  It is the essence of his being, his joy, and his engagement with life and the world around him.  

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCA’s groundbreaking exhibits tell the many stories that comprise California with many voices, often drawing on first-person accounts by people who have shaped California’s cultural heritage. Visitors are invited to actively participate in the Museum as they learn about the natural, artistic, and social forces that affect the state and investigate their own role in both its history and its future. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage.

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