Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Few Days on the Road

I was convinced to join a group from the Spanish Colonial Society and Museum in Santa Fe to come on their junket to Dallas, Texas.  Actually, it did not need too much convincing since I had wanted to see the Caillebotte exhibition at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Dallas's more hospitable neighbor but more about that another day. 

These trips are often over scheduled and this one was no exception.  Within a few minutes of arriving at the hotel we were asked to be in one of the hotel's meeting rooms for a lecture.  Happily, this was a rather interesting one, on "Colonial Art in Texas" by Dr. Kelly Donahue Wallace, Professor at the University of North Texas.  Another of her titles was Director of on-line programming, a relatively new term in academe. In the images she showed I found interesting all the influences from continental Europe including France and mostly The Netherlands. 

After a brief break we went to see a lovely couple in their vitrine-like home.  You could see most of the rooms through the large glass windows.  They were extremely eclectic collectors and clearly bought what they liked wherever they went.  The French 18th century style furniture they chose to live with was of particular interest to me. The one essential for these trips is the van or bus and we were, mercifully, a small enough group for a van.

The next morning we were at the Meadows Museum of Art when the doors opened.  The Meadows is on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU).  Our son was there studying at the Meadows School for the Arts majoring in Theatre 15 years ago. In those days the museum was actually housed in the school but we hardly saw anyone ever there and certainly not the students unless they were in a class!  Today it is quite a vibrant institution with its own building.  We had a docent take us around their special exhibition, "Treasures of the House of Alba".  I don't know about you but when I see an art exhibition I like to learn something of the art and not just the history of the family.  I want to be wowed by their collection and see how it fit into the family story not just about the people themselves.  What I found of most interest in the show was the family’s fifteenth century bible, an  illustrated manuscript of 513 folios.  A Rabbi was commissioned for the first translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew into Spanish.  CLICK HERE to see illustrations from the facsimile edition with the story of the bible.    This image of the Meadows museum has the lyrical undulating sculpture by Santiago Calatrava of 2002.

We spent the afternoon at the Dallas Museum of Art ostensibly to see their collection of Spanish Colonial art which all fit into one small gallery.  Our docent was a very nice fellow but luckily the curator from the Spanish Colonial Art Museum, Robin Gavin, was with us to help him out...  The museum is a cold cavernous place, which shows how much space there is in Texas!  Happily we could roam around their collections on our own where we could discover some wonderful paintings.  Then on to the next cocktail party where the lady who greeted us had a proper art collection with works of art everywhere.  She and her husband had clearly collected passionately being into Native American and Pre-Columbian ceramics and American Modernist paintings and works on paper.  Next stop a good restaurant.  I should mention that our hostesses both evenings fed us well with drinks and a multitude of fancy hors d'oeuvres.

The next morning it was back into our van to drive the 45-minute trip to Fort Worth where we went to visit the incomparable Kimbell Art Museum founded in 1966 and opened in their wonderful Louis Kahn building in 1972.   Curator, Nancy Edwards gave us a tour of the highlights of the collection.  It was so good to see old friends again, both in person and on the wall.  I think that I will visit some of those in more detail in the next weeks. They have a hearty cafeteria menu especially as compared to the box of lettuce that we were handed at the Dallas museum.  There was no choice there.  At the Kimbell you just tell them what size plate you want, small medium or large and fill it up!  Then to the new wing of the Kimbell by starchitect Renzo Piano where the wonderful Caillebotte exhibition was being held.  Since the show had just opened it was too crowded to have a docent; we settled for the audio guide.  Also more on this at a later date.   Here our eager group waits for the Kimbell Museum’s doors to open.

The final art stop on our brief trip was another high point, the Amon Carter Museum. It was the dream of Amon G. Carter, Sr. who died in 1955.  The museum, also in a building by a famous architect, Philip Johnson, opened in 1961.  It was then what Ruth Carter Stevenson, daughter of the founder, once told us that, at the beginning, it was called the “Yippee Yi Yay” museum.  In other words it was not taken seriously.  “Mistake, big mistake”.  The original collection of Western Art has been extended to cover all American art.  There is a great interest in photography with a fabulous collection best known for its holdings of Elliot Porter.  Here we had a docent of a certain age who was so full of vim and vigor, I kept thinking what she must have been like as a young woman. In any case, she was the perfect anecdote for a group that was probably pretty close to museumed out!

Back in Dallas we had our good-bye party at a restaurant called Mesa.  It had been recommended by our son and the daughter of one of the others in our group.  What a great recommendation it was!  Some of the best Mexican food I have ever had, not to mention the Margaritas!  Caught in this photo the Museum Director, David Setford (right) and Joel Goldfrank whose daughter suggested Mesa.

I always say I enjoy travel in retrospect since it is always exhausting and this trip was as well. We certainly got a lot in and lots of good memories with what turned out to be a most enjoyable group of fellow travelers.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Andrea del Sarto

Drawings are an acquired taste.  They rarely hit you over the head and say, “you cannot ignore me”.

Like all areas of art there are nuances: some people relate to rough sketches where there is more outline than substance; others just to finished drawings where you can put just one up on the wall and the viewer will see exactly what the artist was getting at.

If you ride on the New York subway system you will sometimes see someone with their sketch pad out drawing the riders opposite them.  Because of the intimacy of the subway these draughtsman seem more furtive than a painter working with easel in the middle of a park or on a mountainside.  If you think about it drawing is more intimate and personal.  If the draughtsman is good he or she can reach right down to the soul of a sitter much quicker than an oil painting can.

If you want to study one of the great draughtsmen of the Renaissance rush over to The Frick Collection in New York before January 10.  There you will find an exhibition, “Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action” co-organized by The Frick and the J. Paul Getty Museum.  About 50 drawings (close to 1/3 of his known corpus) and 3 paintings borrowed from many collections among them the Getty, the British Museum, the Louvre and the Uffizi as well as the National Gallery are displayed.

Del Sarto, (1486-1530), was born and died in Florence, though he was baptized Andrea d’Agno, he was known as del Sarto after the profession of his father, a tailor.  His fame, however was soon to be eclipsed by his better known contemporaries, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

In the exhibition you can follow step by step the stages of drawing by a master to its ultimate conclusion in a finished painting.  My wife and I do not agree on how to view the exhibition.  It is being shown in the Frick’s lower level exhibition galleries and the grand oval room in the center of the museum.  If you go around as the Frick suggests you will go downstairs first and view the sketches, then work your way upstairs to the finished drawings and paintings that relate to them.  I believe, that at least if you are a novice, it is best to first see the finished products, the paintings,  and then see how they were put together from the drawings.

Without knowing the model it is difficult to see how well the artist has done, but working backwards from the painting to the study one can relate the two images.  One of the best examples is the “Study of the head of an Old Woman” circa 1529 from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford   The drawing surely done from life has so much more gravitas, life experience if you will, than St. Elizabeth has in the finished painting’s figure in “The Medici Holy Family” of the same year from the Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Plantina, Florence.


Another example is the painting of St. John the Baptist from the Palazzo Pitti and the head of the boy from the National Gallery, Woodner Collection in Washington D.C.  While the painting is unquestionably striking the drawing is so much more delicate and beautiful.


As Holland Carter referred to it in the New York Times, “the real workshop business” can be found downstairs.  This is where you find the unfinished drawings on their own.  They seem disconnected until one per chance finds the painting or paintings that they relate to… del Sarto was not above using the same sketch for more than one painting.   More difficult is to match up individual body parts with specific paintings such as the “Studies of Arms, Legs, Hands and Drapery” from the Galleria degl Uffizi in Florence.

Del Sarto is particularly well known for his work in red chalk and the lyrical robe from the J. Paul Getty Museum is a fine example.

Like most other people I am a sucker for children (even though I sometime overdose on Face Book ) and I just cannot resist showing the Metropolitan Museum’s red chalk drawing, “Studies of a Head and Hand” of 1510.

A much smaller exhibition “Andrea del Sarto’s Borgherini Family” is showing at the Metropolitan Museum.  Cooperation between museums in the same town seems to becoming more frequent which is a good thing for a change.

If you will not be able to get to New York before the show closes, second best, take a look at the Frick Collection website,  where you can see the works of art and even how they were grouped.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The New Cooper Hewitt

In 1895, three granddaughters of Peter Cooper (1791-1883), designer and builder of the first steam locomotive in America, and founder of the Cooper Union school for science and arts, asked the school for space to create a museum for decoration inspired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.  The museum was founded in 1896 and was originally known as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration.

The interests of the museum and the school diverged, and as the school’s finances were stressed, in 1963 the Cooper Union announced the closing of the museum.  Heeding the subsequent outcry the Smithsonian agreed to take over the collections and library in 1967.  In 1972 the Carnegie Corporation donated its mansion on the Upper East Side of New York to house the museum.  It was the first Smithsonian Museum outside of Washington D.C.

We were at the opening in 1976 and remember the former curator of the collections, J. Stewart Johnson, who had just become Curator of Design at The Museum of Modern Art, being there and commenting that this was the first time he had actually viewed the the objects since they had all been packed up during his tenure!

The museum has recently gone through a major renovation taking over a building next door in order to move their offices relieving exhibition space, adding a bigger shop and putting in a freight elevator. We had made a donation of our German Jugendstil pewter collection and some other decorative arts objects a couple of years ago but not had a chance to see them in their new home.  When we went back to New York this time we made an appointment with old friends, Cara McCarty, Curatorial Director, and Sarah Coffin, Curator of 17th and 18th Century Decorative Arts, as well as Head Product Design and Decorative Arts Department.

We were treated to a nice healthy lunch in their new cafeteria, which has also been added during the renovation.  A much needed addition since there are not many simple lunch places in close proximity. It looks out over the garden, which will be open to visitors, but is still under construction.  From there we were taken into the mansion itself, which thankfully had not changed in its beautiful early 20th century style with its dark wood paneled rooms.  In any case the Carnegie Mansion was designated a land marked building in 1974 so its essence had to be preserved.  Ninety-one million dollars was raised for the project and about eighty million was used for the renovation leaving the remainder as an endowment.

We were handed admission badges and what looked like a thick pen.  Mystified we were taken to large glass tables on which we could call up most of the objects in the collection.  We were shown how to drag objects we selected into a personal collection.  What then you may ask?  When you get home you can enter the code printed on your admission ticket and bring all those works of art that you “collected” into your personal collection on your computer.   What is truly incredible is that almost all the 210,000 objects in the collection were digitized and bar coded within 18 months, which must be some kind of record for organization and efficiency!

Another statistic that amazed me was that 92% of the visitors take the pens (which you are meant to return when you leave) and only two have walked away so far.  Even more surprising is the statistic that 34% of those who used the pen have retrieved the material again at home … Yes, big brother is watching!

As you can imagine 210,000 works of art cannot be shown all at once and, as a matter, of fact, only about 600 are on display at any one time.  As a result only two pieces from our donation were on view and, as we had been told, are shown in what was originally one of the mansions guest bathrooms! They are a pair of Kayzersinn Candlesticks, German 1900-1902, and the beautiful French 18th century gilt bronze musical clock stand, which I gave in memory of my father.  I dragged those with my pen into “my collection” and when I got home I was able to retrieve an image and all the documentation.  -

I must admit that when you go through your “collection” at home you may look at a couple of your images and scratch your head and think, why in the world did I want to save that one?   By going on the museum’s website you can search through the collections but it is helpful to have data such as the designer or accession numbers, otherwise you need to figure out rather detailed and therefore complicated search categories.

It’s always nice to come across something familiar even if it did not come out of your own collection.
As we continued on our expert guided tour of the rest of the museum we saw that an entire room had been dedicated to the collection of model staircases donated to the museum by Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw many of which we had seen when the Thaws lived in Santa Fe.

For me it was definitely a new and different experience in museum going, viewing familiar objects and interacting with them in a whole new way.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dealers’ Pop-Up Exhibition

I ended my last Missive recommending that everyone see the pop-up exhibition in New York, at the Academy Mansion at 2 East 63rd Street, which ended this past weekend.  In spite of it having closed, I feel it is worth talking about some more because I would love to see more exhibitions of this caliber. 

The three art dealers who put together the exhibition were Brimo from Paris, Di Castro from Rome and Kugel from Paris.  A greater treasure trove of old European art you could not see anywhere in the world. What is being exhibited is material from ancient Rome to the 19th century.  As much as the term has been abused one can honestly say all was of “Museum Quality”.  Brimo de Larousilhe deals in objects of the medieval and renaissance period,  Galleria Alessandra Di Castro has mainly Italian renaissance art in all media and Galerie J. Kugel  has continental European works of art from the 16th to 19th century often of an unusual nature.

But first of all, what is a pop-up exhibition?  I found the following definition/explanation on line:   “A pop-up exhibition is a temporary art event, less formal than a gallery or museum but more formal than private artistic showing of work. The idea began in 2007 in New York City where space for exhibiting artistic work is very limited.”

While I can agree with some of this, the exhibition at 2 East 63rd Street was anything but informal.  While it has not been unusual that during active art seasons dealers did exhibitions in a foreign venue it is unheard of to be done with this size and quality.  The “Wow Factor” begins with the venue.  The location just off 5th avenue is incredible, the sort of private mansion one reads about owned by billionaires and Arab sheiks.

Recently I read a book by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark, Newell, Jr. called “Empty Mansions” about Huguette Clark who owned grand houses and apartments around the country but did not live in them.  From her own inherited fortune she could keep them up and always have them ready for her imminent arrival, though she never arrived.  Then there are those who buy houses as an investment and so it is with Leonard Blavatnik, who has invested heavily in New York real estate.  In 2001 a company belonging to him purchased the mansion that is the site of the Pop-up exhibition .  It was built by William Ziegler, Jr., heir to the Royal Baking Powder Company fortune.  Ziegler had commissioned the architect Frederick Sterner to design the building in 1919 for himself and his wife, Gladys.  It was on the site of 3 old brownstones.  Today, we are still lamenting the loss of such old buildings … nothing changes!  After divorcing his wife, however, Ziegler sold the building in 1929 to Norman Bailey Woolworth of the family that owned the eponymous stores.  Twenty years later Woolworth donated it to the New York Academy of Sciences, and it has since been known as the Academy Mansion.  In turn they sold it to Blavatnik.  He never planned to move in but has rented it out for parties, weddings and pop-up exhibitions!

Photo Credit: Christopher Gray

I asked Laura Kugel how come they took this space and she responded, “After looking at many places, including galleries, we chose it because it's really a house and gives us a unique opportunity to invite people in our temporary home. It wasn't fitted with professional lighting for works of art so we had to install all of it in the week prior to the opening.”   In the end they had to add some walls as well.   Here is an image of the temporary office that the dealers designed in which to greet clients.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lippman

Walking into the exhibition one was immediately transported to the Old World.   Of course, at the beginning of the last century wealthy Americans were imitating the luxury of the European living style.  Therefore, the building is perfect for making one feel that one was in one of the grand houses of the three dealers involved in the show.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lippman

Beyond the ground floor rooms of the pop-up installation and up a spiral staircase was another floor full of great treasures.  The gallery that looked most like an Old World Kunst Kammer was the one in which members of each gallery posed for a photo.  They are Alessandra Di Castro, Nicolas Kugel, Alexis Kugel, and Marie-Amélie Carlier.   They are standing at a marble Italian renaissance table and behind them you can see wonderful early vermeil pieces.  No objects were identified with a gallery in the installation so no judgments could be made for reasons of dealer prejudice.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lippman

One of the objects that all the dealers were particularly proud to show and is worth singling out is a large Roman 16th century bust of Emperor Caracalla (186-217 AD).

As if this all were not enough, by invitation, one could go to another floor in the Mansion’s small elevator where on display was a tapestry cycle: The Meersburg Hunts of Maximilian tapestries, a set of seven tapestries after cartoons designed by Bernard Van Orley from Brussels, circa 1550-70.

If you missed the show in New York, you will need to travel to Paris and Rome to visit these premier galleries… or maybe they will be coming back to New York next year.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Visit to New York and Discovering Archibald Motley

Everyone wants to know if after half a century plus living in NYC whether I miss it since we decided to emigrate to New Mexico .  When I say definitely not and I wish I had done it earlier some act as if I have insulted them personally even if they never lived in New York.  We did, however, recently make a visit back and my amendment to my comment above is always that the culture there is over the top so when we go we overfill ourselves with the arts.

Our first day back we visited the warehouse where there is still some of my art and a great deal of paper consisting of catalogs, photographs and archives.  After checking in there and having lunch with our ever loyal friend, ally and former employee, Diana Nixon, we decided it was time to check out the not so new museum in town, The Whitney.

We used the new way to get there, Uber, which was perfect going down with our driver, Mohammed, but we had to cancel when we wanted to leave the museum as we watched on the Uber map our driver Kunga driving around in circles and could not find us.

It is amazing how soon one forgets the vicissitudes of the city!  As we approached the museum we saw a long line at the entrance.  I must say they got people in very quickly and smoothly, however.  Everyone was courteous and helpful.  As usual I had sticker shock when I found the entry fee was $22 but then I grew up in the era of free museums and, after all, we were in the building for the same amount of time as seeing a Shakespeare play.

We are a bit late coming to the party since the Whitney, having moved out of their Marcel Breuer space uptown, opened near the High Line last May.  It is a destination building by Renzo Piano, which, I expected to dislike but I was very pleasantly surprised.  The views from the outside and in are beautiful and the galleries are very thoughtfully installed.  Herewith, one of the modern galleries and a view from one of several balconies in the building.

We started as instructed on the top floor and here we lucked out.  There was an exhibition of the work of Archibald Motley (1891-1981), a Modernist who came to the fore in the 1920’s as part of the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz age.  It drew black writers, artists, musicians, photographers, poets, and scholars to Harlem where culture flourished.  The Exhibition “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” was organized by the Nasher Museum at Duke University and curated by Professor Richard J. Powell.  It was installed and organized at the Whitney by Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing.

The show is divided into sections with the first being biographical and here there are many possible choices I could use to illustrate but, no surprise, the painting that does this best is already front and center.  It is called “Myself at Work” and comes from the collection of Mara Motley, MD and Valerie Gerard Browne as all the images do unless otherwise indicated.

Image Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum

A 1929 work “Blues” is a theme that Motley explored often during his life, in both dance and music. When he got a Guggenheim Fellowship to Paris a short while later he painted nightclub scenes and he also showed music and dancing in the streets. (Image Blues, Credit Line: Image Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)

When further along, I saw “The Boys in the Back Room” circa 1934 from the Estate of Reginald L. Lewis, I immediately thought of Cezanne’s "The Card Players" in the Metropolitan Museum.

I so enjoyed the energetic gesture of the gentleman explaining to his girl friend.  A gesture that has been referred to in French as “Le Doigt d’Expert” the finger of the expert! Here we have two images, “Doigt d’Expert” and a straight on image.

The painting with the most social commentary is the last image in the show titled “The First 100 Years”.  It is a scathing look at race relations in this country.  Its strangely eerie blue sets off the blood red highlights of the Confederate flag, a burning cross and the devil.  There is a lynched black man near the Statue of Liberty.  If you look closely you can see the heads of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, three champions of racial equality.  Since this painting is not at all like the rest of Motley’s work it makes the image all the more powerful.

There seems to be an epidemic of Jazz Age Period Art in New York.  The Neue Galerie has an exhibition, “Berlin Metropolis: 1918-1933”.  The International Center for Photography has a show called, “The Early Years of Rhythm & Blues” and the Cooper-Hewitt is planning an exhibition for the Spring of 2017.

Our last day we saw an exhibition that I wish I had seen on the first so I could have written about it for this week.  It closes at the end of this month but please go see for yourself.  It is a “Pop-Up” exhibition in a New York Mansion at 2 East 63rd Street by 3 art dealers, Brimo from Paris, Di Castro from Rome and Kugel from Paris.  A greater treasure trove of old European art you will not find in this town.  After you have explored the two chockablock floors ask to see the tapestry cycle upstairs.  Here is an image of the dealers in one of the treasure rooms.  I hope to write more about it but unfortunately by then it will have closed.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Vilcek Collection

I have known my wife since she was a student in 1969 and we married 6 years later.  At approximately the same time as that personal landmark, the Metropolitan Museum, in a so-called cost saving move, decided to eliminate its catalog department.  The reason this was a momentous event was that the catalog department recorded the basic information on any work of art that came into the museum and saw that a record photo was taken, not a photo for publication.  One card was kept in that department and another given to the department to which the work of art was destined to go.  Because Penelope was working and researching in several fields this was the place that she spent a great deal of time. 

Cost cutting always means people lose their jobs and in this case it included an art historian by the name of Marica Vilcek, who headed the department.  She was married to Dr. Jan Vilcek, a doctor and scientist whom she had met in Czechoslovakia, before they both immigrated to the United States.   Dr. Vilcek became a lead scientist in the invention of the powerful anti-inflammatory used in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Chrohn’s Disease, an inflammation of the bowel, Remicade.  With royalties from that drug Dr. Vilcek, a Professor of Microbiology at NYU School of Medicine, was able to make a major donation to the School for the study of biomedical research and education.  He and his wife also established The Vilcek Foundation devoted to increasing public awareness of the contribution of immigrants to professional, academic and artistic life in the United States.  The Foundation has given many grants to arts institutions, as well, and even to the Metropolitan Museum, which I find the ultimate in generosity.

Over a little more than a decade the Vilceks have built a first class collection of American Modernist Art, which will eventually be left to their Foundation.  A number of the works came from the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe and the Vilceks worked with the then head of the Modern Art Department there, Catherine Whitney.  Having developed a close relationship with them, when Catherine later became curator at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she encouraged them to do an exhibition from their collection.   The result is called, “From New York to New Mexico: Masterworks of American Modernism from the Vilcek Foundation Collection”.  It was also previously shown at the Phoenix Art Museum before ending its run here at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  Every travelling show leaves installation and the possibility of adding images and interpretation to the exhibiting institution and Cody Hartley, Director of Curatorial Affairs at Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, has done that masterfully here.

So, when we went to the opening of the show, 40 years had past and Penelope again came face to face with Marica Vilcek and they recognized each other immediately!  We were invited thanks to a group of the Friends of American Art at the Metropolitan Museum who had come to see the exhibition and to whom we had given a tour of a couple of the other museums that afternoon. 

I have always struggled with the word “Modernism” but here it refers to a style started specifically in the United States to express the new energy of the 20th century.  The online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, however, says, “Modernism in the arts, is a radical break with the past and concurrent search for new forms of expressionism.  Modernism fostered a period of experimentation in the arts from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, particularly in the years following World War I”.

When I visit someone’s home I am always first attracted to their art and then to their books.  Both tell a lot about one’s hosts.  It is always interesting to see how someone collects.  There are those who are only interested in the best of the best, others who are trying to decorate their walls and those who buy because of the seller.  Someone once told me the only reason they bought in a specific field was because the dealer was their best friend!   We cannot know what attracts us to a certain field but we can look at a collection and see clear relationships.

The Vilceks came out regularly to the American Southwest and it is not surprising that Southwestern subject matter and landscape would attract them.  But of course, both of them having grown up in Czechoslovakia, they have interests in older art as well, and this has had an equal influence on their eye.  One of the paintings in their collection, which I found fascinating, is Marsden Hartley’s (1877-1943), “Mont Saint-Victoire” circa 1927.  Here you have a reminiscence of Paul Cezanne’s (1839-1906) beloved and oft painted “Mont Saint-Victoire” imbued with Southwest colors.  A similar case in the next generation is a favorite subject of Georgia O’Keeffe’s (1887-1906), Pendernal Mountain and the red hills at Ghost Ranch.

There are the Southwest still life subjects too, for instance the Marsden Hartley’s picture of Indian Pottery circa 1912 or the Mexican ceramic figure painted by Max Weber (1881-1961) It is titled Mexican Statuette but it is actually a ceramic figure from Cochiti Pueblo.  Georgia O’Keeffe would have seen many katsina dolls.  Though there is no evidence that she formally collected them, she did, however paint them, if rarely.

A piece of sculpture that owes a lot to the artists of France in the early part of the 20th century is Max Weber’s Figure in Rotation modeled in 1917 (this edition dates circa 1948).  I particularly relate to the John Storrs (1885-1956) sculpture “Study in Pure Form” that is similar to one in the Metropolitan Museum. Storrs evokes the skyscrapers of Manhattan which until recently was home to me.

Lastly, we must not forget that the Vilceks live in New York City so the painting by George Copeland Ault (1891-1948) “View from Brooklyn” 1927 which looks at the famous city skyline must have special meaning to them as well. I love how Ault captures the two boroughs so well in a single relatively small painting.

Only about a third of their collection (60 works of art) is in the show so all I have said is based on a sampling.  The exhibition will be up at the O’Keeffe until January 10, 2016 and I have hardly broken the surface of all that could be said about it.  I hope to go back and revisit it soon both in person and here in print.

All paintings mentioned are from the Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection and are promised gifts to the The Vilcek Foundation.  I want to thank the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for supplying the images.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Life of a Blogger

I have put this blog off for a few years now but as “Missives from the Art World” completes its sixth year of publication, it seems as good a time as any!  The thought first came to me waiting for a train in Heidelberg, Germany, a beautiful university town, which was one of the places that my father studied.  I made a few short notes then but decided that two years was too short a time for that blog to be written.

It all started because my associate, Vince Hickman, said to me that people enjoyed my stories, so it was a way of staying in touch even if the gallery no longer existed and I was, already in transition to Santa Fe.

My wife also writes, but she is a scholar who finds a subject and delves deeply into it.  She will often work with original documents for which she must go to the library.  She can spend months on a single article while I am knocking these pieces out on a weekly basis, so they are naturally not as thorough.  But then we are not trying to achieve the same goals.  Penelope is trying to teach while I am looking merely to entertain and hopefully make my reader think or even gain a new world-view.

 Blogging began in the electronic age and became the phenomenon it has become with the Internet.  It is more personal and independent than any previous form of publication.  No matter its faults and there are many one can still get a lot more information on the internet on a lot more subjects than from any single encyclopedia of old.  When people talk to me about the errors on the Internet I point out that one can find errors in many books if one does not pick up the “right” one!

Looking back now I see that my weekly blog was an incredible discipline for structure but,
my problems in writing and subject matter have changed in the last years.  As I have cut way down on my European travel, my trips have become more U.S. oriented and less frequent so I sit at my computer almost every week thinking what is worth writing about.  Sometimes it is pretty late in the week until I have an idea. 

I have lots of help because after I write, my wife edits, which at times is stressful for both of us!  Then my text is sent off with images that I have received, taken or found and put in Dropbox for my Blog Guru, Vince Hickman in New Jersey.  He figures out how to insert the images, and sometimes edits them in Photoshop or splices the videos and publishes the blog at midnight Sunday, Eastern Standard Time.  Then early on Monday he corrects any mistakes I or someone else finds.

BTW, I have had a few friends point out mistakes that I have made on a regular basis. Thank goodness most of those corrections are of a grammatical nature.  I am extremely pleased with those who point out errors because, first of all it shows that someone has read the Missive, and second because what is posted on the Internet will not disappear.  If I write about a Rothschild for instance, Google or some other search engine will pick that up, so years from now someone might stumble on my piece and it will have been corrected.

Almost every week I think, why am I doing this?  I have continued even through a number of surgeries and so far I have done 52 a year every year. and every week I wonder whether I will, or want to, continue!  I realize, however, that I derive pleasure from getting new ideas and researching those simple subjects that turn out not to be so simple.  Learning more is always stimulating, if also frustrating at times.

There is another reason that I continue, there are people who seem to appreciate it and that makes it worth doing.   I was sitting in a lecture in New York last year when a curator from the Getty Museum tapped me on the shoulder and said,  “I read your blog and particularly enjoy it when you write about the old days.”  That is not only an ego booster but makes me realize maybe I should tell some of my old stories.  Then I will see someone who I have not seen in years and they tell me they have been following my blog.  I had a museum director, once, say hello and start to tell me all the places I had been recently.  I said, “how did you know that” … you know the answer.  Not long ago I was asked whether I was interested in joining a very important board in Santa Fe and discussed it with 2 good friends, an art person and a lawyer in town.  I said it would take so much time to do the work properly for this board that I would have to make a choice between the board and the blog.  Since they had both encouraged me to join the board I was totally surprised when they both said, “Do the blog”.

What will I write about next week???