A permanent collection is a purposeful grouping of unique objects that form the core of the activities for the institution. Generally the institution, often a museum, will have a policy and specific requirements to follow in order to add a new item to the collection. This ensures that items in a particular category and of a certain quality are accessioned (formally brought in) to the collection. Each item is given an identifying number, relating to the year and the sequence in which it was added. Ideally, works are professionally handled, documented, and stored in a climate-controlled environment.
The Athenaeum is not a museum per se, rather it serves as a membership library and cultural art center. Beginning in 1990, under the leadership of Joan & Irwin Jacobs Executive Director Erika Torri, the Athenaeum began to collect artwork which led to the creation of a permanent collection. Decades later, we possess almost 350 pieces of 2- and 3-dimensional works of fine art, including paintings, prints, photographs, and sculpture. Two works of art are added annually through a commission. In 1994, we began the ongoing tradition of the limited edition artists’ prints as a gift to members giving at the Patron level and above. In 2002 we added the commission of the music program cover. All of the artists in the collection have exhibited at the Athenaeum. Indeed, often the Athenaeum has been the starting point for emerging artists, who later gained regional, national, or international acclaim. Approximately 4 to 8 new works are accessioned into the collection annually. They are professionally documented, handled, and stored in a climate-controlled environment. Many of the works in the permanent collection are displayed throughout the Athenaeum building and occasionally we receive requests to loan a work for an exhibition at another institution.
The images below represent a selection from the permanent collection, many of which can be seen in our Permanent Collection Catalogue. The publication presents forty artists who have had a solo exhibition in the Joseph Clayes III Gallery at the Athenaeum since 1990, and have a piece in the Permanent Collection. It highlights many San Diego artists who have been instrumental in defining the local art scene.