Sunday, November 10, 2019

TEFAF - New York - 2019



The European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF) was established in Maastricht, the Netherlands in 1988, thanks to the efforts of art dealer, Robert Noortman.  His gallery happened to be in Maastricht, which is a small medieval town historically important for trade as it is located at the junction of two rivers.  Important treaties have been signed here as It is near the border of modern-day Germany, Belgium and France.  It has the advantage for an art fair as being somewhere that is lovely, restful and there is not much else you can.  So, when people make the trip, they do with the thought at least of maybe buying something.  I am told that there are 10,000 visitors to TEFAF Maastricht every day.

New York is not that kind of town so though many may come, an art fair is just one of many cultural choices you might have any day of the week!  We were at TEFAF New York 10 days ago for close to 6 hours on the opening day. We managed to at least pass and look into all 90 stands which is less than half the number of dealers that you find in Maastricht.  Of course, we went back for a shorter time a few days later.  A curator at the Maastricht edition once told me he had been in the fair for 3 days and not seen everything yet!

In this year’s New York fair, the passages before you get to the booths are hung with an exhibition titled, “Artfully Dressed: Women in the Art World”.  The large-scale portraits by photographer Carla van de Puttelaar are of women dealers, curators, artists and patrons of the arts.  The show was sponsored by Bank of America and curated by art dealer, Rachel Kaminsky.  Rachel told us that the project came about when she met the photographer who had asked to photograph her and Rachel realized that she was in a position to introduce her to other powerful women in the art world.  I must say that I knew quite a number of these women, but they were so artfully dressed and posed that I recognized few. Here are two of the images.  The first is of Rachel and the second is of mega collector and philanthropist Agnes Gund with her granddaughter Ellie Traggio.



I am sure there were celebrities among the visitors, but I just saw colleagues and friends.  At functions like these if you have been in the art world over a long period of time you see these folks again and again.  At 75 I am lucky enough to have spent many years in this group.

Our first stop was at the Wildenstein Gallery. My family has dealt with the Wildensteins  for generations as we have always been in similar fields of art.  At this fair they were one of the few dealers to occupy one of the historic rooms not just a stand on the Armory floor.  They showed some wonderful French 18th century paintings of which my favorite was Jean Francois de Troy’s, circa 1714, “Danae Receiving Zeus Disguised as a Shower of Gold”.


Also, from my old world contacts were the Kugel brothers from Paris. They had an incredible object, “The Comte de Charolais Fountain”, which has a distinguished provenance back to the 18th century. It is composed of a Chinese late 17th or early 18th century celadon vase and two porcelain fu dogs mounted as a fountain on a gilt bronze base. It must have been assembled around 1749 by a Paris marchand mercier (dealer who put together the various parts to create precious novelty wares).  It was described in detail in the inventory of the Comte de Charolais (1700-1760).


The founder of the Lillian Nassau Gallery in New York was responsible for the revival of interest in Louis Comfort Tiffany. The gallery continues the tradition, under the aegis of Arlie Sulka and Eric Silver with an example of his work that they had the good fortune to recently acquire. It is a monumental wrought iron fireplace hood ornamented with Japanese sword guards created by Tiffany for a New York mansion on 72nd street.


An object that really got to me was this Spanish terracotta Head of Saint John the Baptist by Jose de Mora (1642 – 1724) which was exhibited by the Mullany Gallery from London.


Many of the booths had creative installations such as this large silvered frame hanging at the front of the booth introducing the English silver wares of  Shrubsole from New York.


One of the most exciting objects in the show was also one of the smallest.  It was a Book of Hours made for Queen Claude of France created circa 1520-23.  The tiny vellum leaves are painted with text, patterns and full scenes.  I hope to devote a complete Missive to it in the near future.  When we spoke to the dealer, Heribert Tenschert from Switzerland I was delighted to learn that the missal came from the Vienna Rothschild Collection that my family handled in the 1940’s and beyond.  The jeweled and enamel gold cover for the missal was found separately but when the binder put the book inside, the fit was so perfect that he said he believed it was made for it.  These miracles happen in the art world, seldom, but they are not unique.


TEFAF organized a cultural program of lectures and panels during the fair.  We heard an interesting one on the restoration of Notre Dame after aa fire earlier this year. Panelists stressed the importance of restoring Violet le Duc’s work on the cathedral as it marked the beginning of the modern science of architectural preservation. 

Since I have not been traveling abroad in recent years, TEFAF New York, combined with visits to a few of the incredible museums in this town, gave us the fix we needed from the art of former times!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

3-2-1 Acting Studios


Well, we are in Pasadena California, a few minutes from the Hollywood Hills so what did you expect me to write about, another Museum?  

Seriously, we are visiting our brand new grand child but another birth does not stop the business of Hollywood.  99.9% of actors have a lot of down time between gigs and wish to continue to earn a living and contribute to their community.  So it is with our actor son, Hunter.  Therefore, twice a week he teaches at 3-2-1 Acting Studios and we have joined as spectators  for some of these sessions.


The studio was founded in 2007 by Mae Ross, known in-house as Miss Mae, as a place for kids to get the rudiments of acting.  Of course, I am always wondering where do the students for a children’s acting school come from. Is it the ambitions of loving parents who see their children as stars or do the kids themselves want to be like those who they idealize from stage or screen?

These students  are of all ages and our son works with the teens, age 12 to 18.  By this time one can see how serious they are. Some will just  gain skills through lessons in acting while others are serious about pursuing it as a profession.  After the class we saw, one father was asking Hunter if he would tutor his child for an audition  she was going to have in a few days time.  Of course, any such request within the school had to go through proper channels.

The class starts out with warm ups where they need to quickly come up with an action that someone else has to imitate and then immediately come up with something that the next person has to do.  Another exercise is called Zip Zap Zop where you quickly say one of those words hands pointing to someone else in your circle who must continue without  pause. Then, What Are You Doing?  Lessons for quick thinking on your feet.  You have to take up an action (for instance brushing your teeth) and when asked by the next student “What are you doing” you must reply with something completely different (mowing the lawn) without stopping tooth-brushing. The next person must act out  the verbal cue (mowing) and repeat the process. This forces the student to do one thing and verbalize another.  These are lessons for quick thinking on your feet, as well as improv and relating to your fellow actors.


After these warm-up games  they are given a fundamental  acting principle  to think about. What every student has to remember is— Who? (Who are you, what is your role) What? (What is your motivation) Where? (Literally, where are you located) Why? (Why are you where you are and with what motive) When? (What time period are you working in.)

If a student has an audition coming up they can bring their sides (scripts) and Hunter will help them rehearse and give notes for that piece.  If the student has nothing special to work on they are paired with a partner and given a short script which Hunter  picks out from a pile prepared for his students.  They  are  given 10 minutes to rehearse the piece before returning to perform and  watch each other  in turn.   We watched one impressive student deal with a script that had her being interrogated by an investigator and  confessing to drowning  the class bully.  The scene ended with her turning  to her (invisible) mother to plead “I am #1 now, aren’t you happy for me?”  I quote this line to show the kind of emotion that has to be demonstrated in the piece.


After each pair has done their bit the way they conceived it, Hunter gives them notes on how they might improve their performance and what their motives might be. He then films each vignette, plays it back to them, often with their parents present.


When I asked Hunter whether the children of working actors attended, he said only a few, because the school is not near to where most actors live.  I also wanted to know if any of these kids ever worked in the biz and he said that some actually did.  One acting coach that Hunter interviewed with when he was starting out said that you get one role out of every 100 auditions and that sounds like an accurate description, unless you get a break, which most actors don’t.  Talent, of course, is important but just as important is being in the right place at the right time- and having good basic training in the art form at an early age doesn’t hurt.