Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year’s Resolutions

We have all made New Year’s Resolutions at one time or another and this is a subject that hits the news every year at this time.  So what is a New Year’s Resolution?

Our tradition of resolving to change undesired behavior or accomplish a personal goal is probably directly attributable to ancient religions where people made promises to their gods. I remember a time in my life when every morning on my way to school I would resolve not to go to the nearby Cake Masters Bakery to buy a slice of chocolate layer cake.  I broke that resolution several times a week!  So much for my will power!

What started me thinking about this subject was an article in our local free paper, The Santa Fe Reporter, whose front cover banner said, “2018 Resolutions”.  After last week’s Missive titled “Charities” for Christmas, “Resolutions” seemed perfect for January 1. The Reporter article, however, was mainly asking known personages in Santa Fe and nationally for their predictions and aspirations. I cannot resist repeating the one that might be closest to my way of thinking after this most depressing year: Kenneth Baumann, a teacher in Santa Fe, said  “I’d like to see less fascism, more decentralized institutions.  Less authoritarian impulses, less violent persecution of minorities.”

I did, however, want to look up some of the most popular resolutions on line and found that every article had a different slant.  Being more careful with money or getting out of debt were, of course, near the top of any list. Also, there was losing weight, eating healthier, getting in better shape (ie going to the gym) and drinking  less alcohol, which could all be considered the same resolution. The one that amused me was spending less time on Social Media: it sounds so new how is it already a bad habit you want to get over!  Here is a cartoon you will relate to if you have ever thought, “I must listen to my mother more”.

If people have made resolutions for thousands and thousands of years, why have they found them so difficult to keep?  For one thing even if you continue to work on a resolution for a long period of time eventually you stop and go back to your old ways.  I know that half a century ago I lived in London for 9 months and walked everywhere often 9 miles in a day and lost 45 lbs.  I actually went to a Saville Row tailor to have my clothes taken in because it was cheaper than buying all new suits.  When I was back in New York and still walked and pedaled a lot it was never the same. After some time I gained much of the weight back.  If your patience and stamina don’t pay off sooner or later you say “What’s the use?"

I found this article from Psychology Today titled, “Why People Can’t Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions”. It looks at what researchers and the psychologists have to say.  Articles from various publications are quoted with links as references. It is an interesting method of internet footnoting! The article actually explains my weight problem as my having been discouraged after really trying  but also that resolutions require a “rewiring of the brain” which is not easy to do on your own.  I am attaching a link to the article where you will not only find many reasons why people give up on their resolutions but some suggestions for having a better chance of success.

Monday, December 25, 2017


Charity should be a good subject for Christmas.  If you are on any mailing lists you receive appeals at this time of year from all sorts of worthy causes and, if you happen to have given to any in the past, there will be twice as many at this time of year.

You might be able to classify some of these as, in alphabetical order, Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Hospitals, Protective Services such as Police and Firemen, Social Well Being and probably 20 more.  You may want to give to everyone who asks but you have to limit yourselves according to your means and inclination.  In New York I used to contemplate how much it would cost on a daily basis if I gave a dollar to every beggar I passed that day!

I never used to understand why the Billionaires hired people to help them decide what charities to give to until I semi-retired and had time and some disposable income.  In addition to the merit of the cause there is the issue of where will your gift do the most good. I am assuming for this piece that we are only speaking of legitimate charities and not analyzing individual ones.

Obviously the choice is personal. Everyone has had experience of illnesses and hospitals so health-related causes naturally get wide support. The arts get a much smaller percentage of charitable giving, and since the arts have been our field it is the focus of our giving.

When I moved from New York to New Mexico I found that there were cultural causes I never knew about or understood properly.  Though I certainly knew about the terrible things the Anglos did to the Native Americans over the centuries I did not understand all their needs still today, and also, the need to communicate their culture to the Anglo world.  Out west I have discovered the Native American museums.  The only one I knew before was the Museum of Natural History but without understanding it had little meaning to me. Beyond preserving and displaying their arts the cultural traditions of Native Americans need to be supported in their schools.

We took for granted the countless theaters and concert halls we had to choose from in New York, but in Santa Fe we have only a single performing arts center (the Lensic). Without that venue we would not have a location in which to enjoy visiting musical artists of national stature, or our own dance company or symphony or any live performance, so naturally we support it.

Here donated dollars go farther. I have to make a cost comparison from personal experience.  I have belonged to gyms in New York and Santa Fe and attended them in a number of other places.  To belong or bring a guest is 2 to 3 times more expensive in the big cities than in Santa Fe, which is considered quite expensive for New Mexico because a lot of the inhabitants are retired transplants or have a second home here. It is the same with museums: although individual memberships start around the same figure, higher levels can cost 10 times as much in a large art center .

Support is much more appreciated locally. The same amount of donation to an organization in a major center that would only be recognized by a formal letter of receipt from the development office, here is recognized not only with the formal letter but often a hand written note from a trustee, and, in one case, from the founder of the organization, or even a luncheon invitation!

As I was finishing this up I saw that my subject of Charity accounted for a section in the December 18th issue of the magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, The main thrust is  practical advice on giving to charities, but there is also a part about diving in and enjoying the process.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pockets of Representation

"The Strange Life of Objects” is the title of a book written by Maurice Rheims (1910-2003), a French novelist and auctioneer who administered the estate of Pablo Picasso. The book traces what happens to a work of art after its creation. The tastes of collectors, changes in fashion, and fluctuations of value have a great bearing on the fate of a work at any given moment.  The subject has been written about often and I was thinking of the collections that are in museums where you would not expect them.

We all know that you can find great collections and a wide variety of art in the large museums in this country such as Metropolitan in New York, The Cleveland Art Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum, but I am interested here in the more obscure treasure collections you can find around the United States.

One of the greatest gifts of art ever given in this country comprised over 3,000 works of European art with the emphasis on Italian Renaissance paintings given by the Kress Brothers through their foundation The largest single portion went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington but the rest was dispersed to locations where the Kress family had 5 and 10cent stores that were the source of their wealth. You can find the list of scores of regional and academic art museums throughout the United States that have received Kress donations HERE.

I remember getting a phone call from a client asking for me to intervene with the estate of another client of ours Eugenia Woodward Hitt.  She was the daughter of an important Birmingham family and she had left her wonderful collection of French 18th century decorative arts to the Birmingham Museum of Art.  The client wanted me to find out if Birmingham would give up the drapes in the apartment because the first mentioned client wanted to buy the apartment and thought the drapes were perfect.  I must tell you I saw the apartment several times and it was not the drapes that stood out in my memory!   The level of the collection was exemplified by a gilt bronze clock, which did not go to Birmingham but rather to the Chateau de Versailles.   Here is a commode (chest of drawers) in Birmingham by Jacques Dubois from the Hitt Collection.

Who would expect to find one of the finest collections of the German porcelain from the Royal Factory of Meissen in Jacksonville, Florida?  But there it is, in The Cummer Museum and Gardens, thanks to a gift from Constance I. and Ralph H. Wark to the museum in 1965.  Another important collection of German Porcelain can be found at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee given by Warda Stevens Stout.

In Cincinnati who would expect to find a world-renowned collection of Limoges Renaissance Enamels?  Well, one is housed in The Taft Museum of Art in the Baum-Longworth-Sinton-Taft House, a National Historic Landmark built around 1820.  They don’t tout it on the museum website, but take my word for it and, If you are in the neighborhood go see it.  When I asked they sent me three images: two by very famous artists Pierre Reymond and  Léonard Limosin  but I chose to illustrate the  complete tryptich with Calvary, Saint James, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about 1484–97, by an anonymous master artist known as Monvaerni Master.

Remember, “Go West Young Man Go West” most often attributed to newspaper editor Horace Greeley (1811-1872)? Art too has gone West.   I have given examples on the east coast and the center of the States but one venerable West Coast example, the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Gardens in San Marino, near Los Angeles is an absolute gem. It was  founded in 1919 by railroad pioneer Henry E. Huntington  who combined an enthusiasm for paintings with a love of botany and  rare books and manuscripts.  It is worth it just to walk around the grounds but the collection of European and American paintings is superb as well.    To name a work of art you have surely heard of, Thomas Gainsborough’s (1727-1788), “Blue Boy” that caused such public outcry when it left Britain in 1922, can be found there.

By now everyone has heard of the Getty Center built by the architect Richard Meier to house the European art collected by J. Paul Getty.  His classical antiquities, however, remain in the Malibu location that was his original museum. The installation of ancient masterpieces in Getty’s recreation of a Roman villa is well worth the visit.

I remember when I was young the Los Angeles County Museum was considered a joke but today it is a fabulous museum thanks to its curators and a growing number of major donors.
LACMA has become such an active collecting institution on many fronts that you find new acquisitions on every visit to the galleries. European Art curator Patrice Marandel retired this year after 24 years that were marked by his purchases of outstanding paintings funded by the Ahmanson Foundation. One of those acquisitions is a “Musical Party by Valentine de Bologna.

You have heard the expression “coals to Newcastle”. It can be applied  to art as people love the art made in their part of the world.  So if you are looking for Northwest Coast Native American Art go to the art museums of Portland , Oregon or Seattle, Washington or cross the border and head for the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.

Much of this treasure hunting can be done on you computer where you can seek out what is viewable where.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

When Modern was Contemporary

When the presence of their new-born son (me) made it impossible for my family to continue art business from the one bedroom apartment they had occupied since they arrived in this country they took a small gallery space at 32 East 57th Street. It grew to a full floor of the building and then a second floor as well.  A late- comer to the building was Arnold Glimcher’s Pace Gallery which eventually took over most of the building.  So it became known as the Pace building though I would regularly tease Arnie that it should really be known as the Rosenberg & Stiebel building. I must admit that is not as catchy sounding!

Pace often left crates in the downstairs hallway waiting to be picked up and I started to notice the name Roy Neuberger on a number of them and was always curious - with an inheritance from his parents who died when he was 12 Roy Neuberger (1903-2010) spent years leading a bohemian life in Paris.  He came back to the States, became a financier and co-founder of the investment firm of Neuberger Berman.

In Paris he became well acquainted with the Louvre and brought a love of art back to the States with him.  In 1939 he bought his first painting and became friendly with Nelson Rockefeller.  In 1967, as Governor of New York, Rockefeller  established the New York State University system. He convinced Neuberger to give what eventually numbered 500 works to a new museum designed by Philip Johnson on the on the NY State University campus in Purchase, NY. It was named the Neuberger Museum.

The travelling exhibition “When Modern was Contemporary”, currently at the Albuquerque Art Museum, presents selections from the Neuberger collection.  The title “When Modern was Contemporary” is brilliant because contemporary ceases to be contemporary quite quickly. Today we refer to much of the art of the 20th century as Modern,  though Neuberger bought what was contemporary.

In a vitrine at the center of the first section of the show is Roy Neuberger’s “Black Book” in which he recorded his acquisitions.   In my family gallery my father kept a black book almost identical to this with one inventory item per page but it was handwritten.  My father called the sheets “laufzettel”, which translates literally as walking or running slips, on which he put the inventory number, object title, information about the piece including those clients interested.  Unfortunately, when the computer came in and my father had died we went to digital information without paper records.

Neuberger was interested in documenting the artists of his time as well as supporting them.  It did not matter if the artist was of a racial minority as long as the art seemed important to him.  One of my favorite artists is Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000).   In the first section of the show is a guache by him, “In the Evening Evangelists Preach and Sing on Street Corners”, 1943.  Lawrence is best known for his “Migration” series (1940-41), which the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C and Museum of Modern Art in New York agreed to divide when it was on view at the Downtown Gallery in New York.  Lawrence was the first African American to be represented by a major gallery.  Other black artists are also represented in the Neuberger exhibition including Romare Bearden.

Tucked high in a corner of the Albuquerque installation is an Alexander Calder (1898-1976) mobile titled “The Red Ear”, 1957.  Calder also made large stabiles but is known as the inventor of the mobile.  This is the only one that Neuberger bought.  I wondered why such an important piece wasn’t front and center but then I noticed the lighting creating shadows on the wall which actually give the piece far more prominence than if it had just been hanging in the middle.

Will Barnet (1911-2012), lived to a ripe old age but his portraits always seem youthful.  Here is “Child Reading-Yellow”, of 1967.  The subject of family informed a great deal of this artist’s mature work.  Maybe the reason I identify so with this image of a girl reading in bed is because my daughter could always be found with a book in her hand be it in bed, in an armchair, or even in the bath.  As I have written before today she owns and runs a bookstore!

As evidence of Neuberger’s ecumenical approach to collecting is the painting by the Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) representing “A Woman Spinning”, 1943.  Tamayo was well travelled and learned from the Cubists, but also used pre-Columbian and Mexican forms. Yet his work is truly his own and recognizable without too much difficulty.  He became one of the most universally recognizable Mexican artists of the 20th century.

My final illustration out of the many I could have chosen is a late picture by another major figure of the 20th century Marsden Hartley (1877-1943).  “Fisherman’s Last Supper”, Nova Scotia, 1940.    Hartley traveled to Nova Scotia in 1935 and stayed with a family called Mason.  They took him in and made a very pleasant home for him.  He became particularly close to their two sons who tragically died in a boating accident the following year.  Overcome by grief, Hartley not only painted “Fisherman’s Last Supper” but wrote a poem with the same title.  Neuberger bought the painting shortly after Hartley’s death and in in his own words, “When I brought it home I felt that I now had an American masterpiece.”

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Drawn to Greatness

“Drawn to Greatness” is an exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum of a selection of the Clare Eddy and Eugene Victor Thaw Collection of drawings.

I have known Gene Thaw and his late wife Clare for close to half a century.  I met Gene because a friend of mine, who I had gone to camp with, was working for him at the time. My father asked me to find out about this young dealer (Gene) who had a reputation as an up and comer.  My father’s cousin, Jakob Rosenberg, the Harvard professor and renowned art historian had mentioned how promising Gene was even though he did not attend Harvard but went to my alma mater, Columbia University for graduate school.

Gene was one of the very few art dealers in New York who I would consider brilliant.  He had an incredible discerning eye and advised some of the major collectors of the second half of the 20th century.  He did have one problem though.  He could not stop collecting.  As has been often said collecting is a disease.  The first chapter of the sumptuous catalog that goes along with the Morgan exhibition has a quote from Gene.  “I can’t create the objects I crave to look at, so I collect them”.  Since I am writing about a drawings show you might assume that he just collected drawings, but far from it.  He started out with a collection of 18th century French faience from Moustiers. He also put together collections of Nomadic art of the eastern Eurasian Steppes, which I believe went to the Metropolitan Museum and a collection of historic staircase models, which went to the Cooper Hewitt Museum and a great collection of Native American Art which is installed in his own wing of the Fennimore Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

People decide on what they will acquire for their collections for a variety of reasons.  I am drawn to what grabs my short attention span, and particularly when it is a work of art that  makes me smile.  Of course, Gene had to be taken with the work but then he insisted it be the best possible available by the artist, and better than any similar work in a museum. This kind of collecting is ideal if works are ultimately given to a museum, and Gene’s collections have gone to the best.

The Thaw exhibition is the largest the Morgan has ever done with 150 works of art.  Those were selected by Gene, in conjunction, and after lengthy discussion with Jennifer Tonkovich, the Morgan’s Eugene & Clare Thaw Curator.  The Thaws have given a total of 400 drawings to the Morgan over the years, all of very high quality and interest.  I always pick a favorite, here I can’t.  There are so many that I think are wonderful.  Those I am illustrating all come from the 16th to 19th centuries but the Thaws also gave images by Ellsworth Kelly, Jackson Pollock, Picasso and many other established modern masters.  All the images are compliments of the Morgan Library and Museum with the exception of the Monet drawing, which comes from the Rosenberg & Stiebel files. 

The most recent in date of my image choices is Two Lawyers done in 1862 by Honoré Daumier
 (1808–1879).  Daumier is known for his political satire and cartoons making fun of the professions,-- including art dealers.

Of a similar period is Claude Monet’s
 Figure of a Woman, 1865.  It is the figure of Camille, a favorite model who became his wife.  You will find this figure together with the artist Bazille in a painting by Monet in the National Gallery in Washington as well as many others.  I have a special connection to this drawing in that I had it on consignment from a friend and sold it to Gene.

An artist that I rarely care for but is important with a capital “I”, is J. M. W. Turner
. This watercolor The Pass of St. Gotthard, near Faido, 1843 is certainly impressive.  I wrote about Turner’s series of Ports of Europe when there was an exhibition about them at the Frick earlier this year.

Next up is an artist who is not a household name, Etienne-Louis Boullée
and his drawing of the Interior of a Library, ca. 1780–85.  I have loved this drawing since I first saw it in an auction sale in Paris over 20 years ago.  It totally absorbs you into the incredible space.  You might have guessed that Boullée was an architect who wanted to be a painter but his father insisted he do architecture.

My earliest pick in date is Two Lovers by Albrecht Altdorfer
(ca. 1480–1538).  He is one of a small number of my very favorite artists possibly because at an early age I saw his Alexander Schlacht  (The Battle of Alexander at Issus) in Munich.  His other dream-like works always transport me to fantasy land!

I thought I would ask Jennifer Tonkovich which her favorite drawing was. and Naturally she had several but there was one we totally agreed on that was very high on my list as well, Antoine Watteau’s
 (1684–1721) Young Woman Wearing a Chemise ca. 1718. You can see how Watteau led the way into the age of Rococo in 18th century France.

If you are in New York before the exhibition closing date of January 17, 2018 at the Morgan, do go.  You will, however, have a second chance if you can get to The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts where it opens on February 3. 2018. A great addition to the exhibition is the catalog edited by Jennifer Tonkovich.