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Art collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, 87, has died in Milan

April 24, 2010 | 12:18 pm

Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, the great Italian collector of contemporary American painting and sculpture whose holdings in work by Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein and other artists of the 1950s and '60s formed the astonishing core of the Museum of Contemporary Art's permanent collection when it was acquired by the young museum in 1984, died Friday night in Milan. He was 87.

Kline hazelton 1957 Panza's first major acquisition was an Abstract Expressionist canvas by Franz Kline, which he bought "mail order" from Kline's New York gallery after seeing a photograph in a business magazine. That work, along with 11 others by Kline, is now in MOCA's collection.

A funeral is scheduled for Tuesday in Varese, Italy, the hill town north of Milan where Panza and his wife, Giovanna, began to collect contemporary art in the 1950s. The 18th century Villa Menafoglio Litta, the family home in Varese, is now a museum, with a display of more than 100 works by contemporary artists, as well as African and Pre-Columbian sculpture.

--Christopher Knight

Follow Times art critic Christopher Knight on Twitter: @KnightLAT

Photo: Franz Kline, "Hazelton," 1957; Credit: Museum of Contemporary Art