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Contemporary Art

Loosely defined as the art of today or the art of our lifetime, the term “contemporary art” is usually used more specifically to describe artworks created since the 1980s or 1990s. For collection purposes, the Frye Art Museum currently delineates the scope as 1990 to the present.

In the more general sense, the Frye has collected and exhibited contemporary—or contemporaneous—art since its opening in 1952. This commitment to the art and culture of the present was catalyzed by Museum founders Charles and Emma Frye, who amassed a collection of paintings made within their own lifetimes and often purchased works directly from living artists. Over the last seven decades, directors of the Museum have each brought their own interests and interpretations to bear on the Frye’s engagement with contemporary art and thereby shaped a distinctive collection.

Prior to the tenure of Elsa “Midge” Bowman (Director, 2004–09), and often counter to dominant trends in art of the time, the Frye’s leadership focused exclusively on exhibiting and collecting representational art, citing Charles and Emma Frye’s preferences for figurative and landscape painting. Under Bowman’s direction, the exhibitions program at the Frye expanded into areas like video art and performance that questioned and upended the definition of representational art. In 2008, the Museum’s mission was revised to embrace art in its myriad forms. The Frye’s contemporary art collection has grown significantly since that time, reflecting the diversity of the institution’s engagement with local, national, and international artists working today.

by Artist
Seated Figure

Raoul F. Middleman
Charcoal and conté crayon on paper

Flying Female #4

Michael Bergt
Colored pencil and gouache on paper


Lisa Zwerling
Oil on linen

Lilith and Woman

Lilian Broca
Graphite and spackle on panel

Giglio Sunday

Doug Safranek
Egg tempera on panel

Horse I

Joe Andoe

The Wait

Carol Mothner
Egg tempera on panel

Great Notions

Byron Bratt
Mezzotint and acrylic wash

Stereoscopic Viewer

Byron Bratt
Mezzotint and acrylic wash

IRT #7

Steven Assael
Oil on canvas

Bear Icon

Leslie Morgan
Oil and copper leaf on linen

Clayoquot Dugouts

Jean-Claude Michel
Watercolor on paper
ca. 1994

Halibut Cove

Ted Rand
Watercolor on paper

Four Workers

John McIver
Acrylic on paper

Ogle's Samovar

Take Hama
Oil on cotton
ca. 1992

Windy Day

Peter Sculthorpe
Watercolor on paper