The New Art: A Controversial Collection Fifty Years Later

In 1968, the Oklahoma Art Center, OKCMOA’s predecessor, purchased the 150-piece permanent collection of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, the first art museum in the nation’s capital dedicated to the collection of contemporary art. That decision proved deeply consequential for the Oklahoma City arts community, first as it led the Art Center to divide into two separate art museums that weren’t reunited until 1989, and today as it ensures that this city maintains major collections of Abstract Expressionism, Post Painterly Abstraction, Color Field Painting, and Pop Art. The New Art: A Controversial Collection Fifty Years Later honors this extraordinary collection on this milestone anniversary, presenting longstanding Museum highlights by Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Diebenkorn, Grace Hartigan, Sam Gilliam, and Robert Indiana, among many others, beside more rarely shown examples from Morris Louis, Juan Gris, David Smith, and Kenzo Okada. In this collection of twentieth century masterpieces, visitors will discover the history of one of the nation’s most important modern art institutions, and will be reintroduced to the “new art” that has lost none of its power to challenge, enlighten, and confound fifty years later.


Gene Davis (American, 1920–1985). Cool Staccato, 1964. Acrylic on canvas. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Museum purchase, Washington Gallery of Modern ArtCollection, 1968.134. ©Estate of Gene Davis