With just one day to go until the US presidential election, the British Museum has acquired a million-dollar artwork by American artist Jasper Johns.
The work, Flags I, a 1973 colour screenprint, features Johns’ iconic American flag motif and has been donated to the American Friends of the British Museum (AFBM) by Leslie and Johanna Garfield, who have one of the most comprehensive private collections of 20th-century prints in the world.
“American art, like American politics, has always had an influence far beyond the borders of the USA,” said Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum. “As the country heads to the polls in just a few days’ time, this important acquisition reminds us of the global influence of the United States and how crucial it is for an institution like the British Museum to collect contemporary works from America.”
The US flag, which Johns has used repeatedly since the 1950s, is featured twice in the print, presented as reversed and hanging downwards.
Catherine Daunt, the Hamish Parker curator of modern and contemporary art at the British Museum, said: “This is a hugely important print from Jasper Johns. It is beautiful, complex and technically a great achievement. We now have 16 works by Johns in the collection, all of which are outstanding in their own way, but visually this is undoubtedly the most spectacular.
“Johns’ treatment of the American flag epitomises his approach to art: create an interesting image and then stand back and allow the viewer to decide what it means.”
Johns produced Flags I in an edition of 65, with seven artist’s proofs. Three other impressions of this print have sold at auction in recent years, all for well over $1m.