Wifredo Lam, The Casting of the Spell, 1947, oil on burlap, 43-1/8" × 36" (109.5 cm × 91.4 cm), Collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


A Brief Guide to Wifredo Lam’s International Institutional Presence

Published Nov 26, 2021

As explicated in Pace Gallery’s ongoing exhibition Wifredo Lam: The Imagination at Work in New York, Wifredo Lam cultivated a highly original and hugely influential visual language over the course of his career. The Cuban artist’s fusion of European modernist styles with Afro-Cuban imagery and iconography left an indelible impression on the history of art, and his work can be found in major art institutions around the world. The guide below highlights some of the international collections featuring Lam’s work, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Lam’s large-scale work The Eternal Presence (An Homage to Alejandro García Caturla) (1944), which is part of the collection of the RISD Museum in Providence and was created by the artist during a stay in Haiti, is on the view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibition through January 30, 2022. Like other compositions created by Lam in the 1940s, this painting features iconography related to the Afro-Cuban religion Santería. The Met’s own collection includes Lam’s works on paper Study for “The Secret” (ca. 1947) and Goddess with Foliage (1942), among other pieces by the artist.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

On view in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection exhibition Out of War is Lam’s 1942 gouache on paper work Satan. The piece reflects the artist’s deep interest in hybridized, chimeric creatures. MoMA’s collection also includes Lam’s 1943 masterpiece The Jungle.

The Guggenheim Museum, New York

Featured in the Guggenheim Museum’s collection are Lam’s canvases Zambezia, Zambezia (1950) and Rumblings of the Earth (1950) as well as his oil on paper Portrait of a Woman (1944). While Rumblings of the Earth is deeply engaged with Pablo Picasso’s monumental painting Guernica (1937), Zambezia, Zambezia depicts a Santería-inspired image of a woman with equine traits known as the femme cheval.

The Pérez ​Art Museum Miami

Lam’s oil and charcoal work The Mane (1945) is part of the Pérez ​Art Museum Miami’s collection. This piece, like Zambezia, Zambezia, depicts a hybridized femme cheval. Here, the artist’s figure is rendered in soft, understated strokes.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is home to a number of key works by Lam. Included in this institution’s collection are Study for “The Jungle” (1942), which is part of a series of works connected to his 1943 masterpiece; Ladder to the Light (1951), a painting featuring dynamic abstractions inspired by Santería deities and beliefs; and the late-career lithograph on paper Untitled, from Pour Jorn (1976).

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

A Rooster for Shango (1947) is in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s collection and figures in its ongoing presentation Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture, 1900 to Now. This painting features Lam’s quintessential Cubist- and Santería-inspired figures in a muted palette.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LACMA’s collection is home to a selection of drawings created by Lam during his stay in Marseille, France during the 1940s as well as late-career etchings depicting futuristic, angular figures. The museum’s holdings also include Lam’s painting Tropic (1947), which features a group of shapeshifting, abstracted figures.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The Casting of the Spell (1947), pictured above and showcased in Pace’s ongoing Lam exhibition, is part of the collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Foregrounding a figure comprised of many different elements, this work exemplifies the union of European avant-garde and Afro-Cuban influences in Lam’s practice.

The Menil Collection, Houston

Lam’s paintings Cardinal Harps (1948–57), Untitled (ca. 1956), and Who is Who (1961) are in the holdings of the Menil Collection. These works reflect the artist’s varied investigations of figuration and abstraction, and they convey the breadth of his painterly abilities.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

Lam’s paintings Papaya Fruit (1944) and Nativity (1947) are in Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. These works focus on themes specific to the religious and environmental ecosystems of the artist’s native country, Cuba.

Tate Liverpool

The artist’s 1950 painting Ibaye is on view in Tate Liverpool’s ongoing presentation Whose Tradition?, which explores histories of cross cultural exchange. This work, part of Tate’s collection, was created by the artist in Cuba and depicts an abstract yet elaborate figure rendered in gray, white, and black tones.

  • Essays — A Brief Guide to Wifredo Lam’s International Institutional Presence, Nov 26, 2021