San Francisco

Clyfford Still

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Though his work shares indisputably in the glory that attaches to first-generation Abstract Expressionism, Clyfford Still himself has preferred to hug the provincial periphery, a Blakean moralist for whom the marketplace is, it seems, soiled by the old-fashioned stench of human corruption: “. . . the public domain,” he once wrote in a piece for this magazine, “is, and has always been, not a well to drink from, but a cesspool of insidious and poisonous matter.”

For Still the art world is an “arrogant farce,” and his own adversarial strategy has been to withhold quantities of his major paintings from the market, instead discovering public institutions—the Albright-Knox Gallery in 1964 and now the SFMoMA—willing, and able, to receive large gifts of his works. Acceptance of the artist’s impressive donations is, however, an important step, raising complicated issues of museum policy and not

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