Sunday, December 25, 2016

Review: A Bloggers List

I am closing in on my 8th year of writing Missives from the Art World.  That is a total of close to 400 Missives.  I understand there are bloggers who make money at this … any suggestions? Maybe that is why most blogs only last 3 years.

My Missives stretch over a very wide gamut of material revolving around my interests and travels over half a century.  We have discussed experiences in some of the great art centers in England, France, Germany, The Netherlands and this country, New York, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, etc.  including great art exhibitions and art fairs.  Coming from the European Old Master world to that of past and current Native America has represented culture shock for me, which I have, I believe, explored in detail through experiences we have had with the Native American artists and friends we have met.  I have even written on lighter fair such as parties we have been invited to and given.


Waddesdon Manor (link to blog post)

A Chocolate Party (link to blog post)

It is near the end of the year and I am tired.  This blog has continued without interruption through all kinds of crises including a number of my operations as well as one recently for my wife.  Happily, the only time they were life threatening was when we were in the hands of the capable surgeons we have found in this part of the world …  even though they are expected to all be in New York!!!

David Bradley (link to blog post)

I have been asked often how and why I do it every single week.   I guess on some level I enjoy it.  I learn as I write and I can explore different areas and ideas.  I am also lazy and scared of stopping, not sure if I will pick up the pen … I mean open the computer again!

Link to blog post

The director of a major American museum and one that I consider a personal friend has recently suggested that I repeat some of my blogs so I can take some time off.  At first I thought that was anathema.   Then it began to sound more and more appealing.  In any case, the concept that I could repeat a Missive and not write for a week is kind of liberating.

Thomas P.F. Hoving, “In the Presence of Kings”
(link to blog post)

Therefore, I am going to turn the tables and appeal for my readers’ help and at the same time find out who is paying attention!  Would you review some (all is a lot) of my missives and let me know which you think were the most interesting, illuminating or just fun.  Who knows you may see them again!

Ms. Frick’s della Robbia (link to blog post)

To the right on the first page of this blog is a list of years and dates.  When you click on a year it shows you the months of the year and you click on those and get the blogs you can scroll through for that month.  Alternatively, there is a small search box in the upper left hand corner.  Put in any word and every blog that had that word will show up and you can scroll down that group.  I just tried film, then theater.  You can put in Indian or Native American or Museum or Freud and you will find something.  Also, if you click on the random photos throughout they will take you to the Missive they come from.

A posthumous portrait at the Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth
(link to blog post)

I am looking forward to hearing from you… who knows you might give me an idea for a brand new Missive.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Collecting Quotations

I have always enjoyed quotes.  I used to sit down with Bartlett’s Quotations and just start reading.  Lately I have read a column of quotes in the magazine “The Week”, a publication I highly recommend.  It reminds me of other quotations that made me think in a new way about a specific subject such as art.

"If there isn't (a) vision it is hard to get others to follow" John D. Rockefeller on accepting an award from the World Monuments Fund, 2009.
Art critic Michael Kimmelman reviewing the Christo Gates in New York’s Central Park wrote, "Art is never necessary. It is merely indispensible."  The Gates were a project by Christo and Jeanne-Claude completed in New York’s Central Park in 2005.

The same writer reviewing a show “Manet/Velazquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting” at the Metropolitan Museum wrote, “The loot Napoleon took from Spain was an epiphany for artists at home.”  The other side of the coin. A European art dealer, Grete Ring said, "Why should one talk about art, if not to open the eyes of others to it"

Often that is difficult because of the “art speak,” jargon, that many art historians use which makes the following comment by a German/Swiss mother and son team of dealers and art historians amusing.  When Marianne Feilchenfeldt read articles written by her son Walter, "This is not art history. This is interesting."

A quote that recently opened my eyes was about the art of cooking, by Chef Fernando Olea at the restaurant Sazón in Santa Fe "The enemy of the taste is the eye and the mind".  If you think of the word taste as one’s preconceived notions about what art “should” look like it goes for art as well. 

In an art exhibition quotes sometimes help us understand the character of the artist either through a direct quote or from someone who knew her/him or even from an observer.

Georgia O’Keeffe said in 1921 "I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then".  A lady from the Philippines sitting next to me on a flight said as if in response to Georgia, "Georgia O'Keeffe reminds me how profound simplicity can be".   Here is an image of a painting called. “Gerald’s Tree 1 ” done in 1937 and can be seen at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.  No, it is not named after me but an Irish writer, Gerald Heard who was visiting Ghost Ranch and brought the tree to O’Keeffe’s attention.  On a tour of the ranch a couple of years ago we saw the tree was still there.

O’Keeffe also had something to say about photography in 1922, “Photography is able to flatter or embarrass the human’s ego by registering the fleeting expression of a moment.”   I would put it slightly differently,  Photography is translating the image that you see in you mind’s eye into an image that everyone can understand.  The grand master in this regard was the photographer Alfred Stieglitz whose muse and greatest model was Miss O’Keeffe.

In a comment about his art Picasso wrote, “I don’t search (for inspiration), I find (it)”.  Similarly an interior decorator told me, “As good as new is easy, as good as old is talent.”  It all depends where you are coming from.

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597-1664) was a painter of the Dutch Golden Age, "He created images of space pervaded by calm" from a museum label of Rijksmuseum pictures at the Portland Art Museum. This is the perfect description of this painting by Saenredam in the Rijksmuseum as well as most of the artists other paintings, “Interior of the Sint-Odulphuskerk in Assendelft, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam,” 1649.

In my opinion the ultimate comment by an artist regarding his craft was by the American portraitist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) who created iconic portraits of George Washington. "What a business this of a portrait painter - you bring him a potato, and expect he will paint you a peach.”   Here is one version of  his portraits of “The Father of our Country” painted in 1796 and now in the Brooklyn Museum.

As the British Poet and Writer Jeanette Winterson  wrote, "Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.”  I will never forget my cousin and senior partner in our gallery, Saemy Rosenberg , saying, “Hear the honeydew from my lips.”

As I finished writing this missive I read the annual Christmas letter from  a friend abroad that includes a few of his favorite quotations. I look forward to learning some of yours.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Who is Mabel Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan (1879-1962)?

The answer can be found in the exhibition “Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West” currently at the Albuquerque Museum.  In a nutshell she was the “hostess with the mostest".

The show was organized by the Harwood Museum in Taos where it opened traveling to the Albuquerque Museum.  The guest curators for the show are Lois P. Rudnick and MaLin Wilson-Powell. Lois is a professor emerita of American Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston and has written voluminously on Mabel Dodge.  MaLin is an art historian, independent curator and author who has concentrated on the art of the Southwest.   Their show has been 36 years in the making since MaLin applied for an NEH planning grant in 1980.  It never came to anything, however, since museums had no particular interest in Mabel Dodge.  According to Rudnick until relatively recently no museum would have considered doing a show about someone who “was not an artist but a cultural catalyst”.  The world changes and when it is ready it will come.

I am sure that one of the exhibitions that opened up this possibility was a show at the Metropolitan Museum in 2012 called “The Steins Collect” about the incredible collection that Gertrude Stein and her family put together.  Of course, Gertrude Stein is far better known on an international basis but as far as opening the southwestern United States to the art world Mabel Dodge was a major figure.  She had a relatively simple methodology.  She just asked everyone who was anyone to come stay with her.  To quote Mabel Dodge, herself in 1913, “I wanted to know everybody and … everybody wanted to know me”.  They were not just painters and sculptors but included writers such as D.H. Lawrence.

Here is Mabel’s story. She was born to a wealthy family in Buffalo New York  (the final venue for the show will be at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo starting at the end of June, 2017).  In 1902 she marries her first husband, Karl Evans, who dies in a hunting accident the following year leaving her with a son.  In 1904 she moves to Paris, meets and marries Edwin Dodge and the couple establish a salon in their villa near Florence.

Meeting Leo and Gertrude Stein and seeing their fabulous collection of paintings including Cézanne, Matisse, van Gogh and Picasso transforms Mabel’s taste and changes her view of art.  She had felt suffocated by the art of the past.  (As an art dealer I can tell you that children rarely like the art that their parents collected.)

In 1912 she moves with her husband and son to New York City where she established a salon in her Greenwich Village apartment and participated in organizing the famous 1913 Armory Show.

She divorces Dodge and marries the artist Maurice Sterne.  He establishes a painting studio in Santa Fe and entices Mabel Dodge to come out and soon after they move to a town north of Santa Fe, Taos. Here she becomes involved with Tony Lujan, an Indian from Taos Pueblo, who advises her on building a home (now a bed and breakfast). She divorces Sterne to marry Lujan in 1923.

The current exhibition revolves around the artists and writers who Mabel brought out to Taos In another way, however, the show is a view of the history of art in New Mexico in the 20th century.  Thanks to her final marriage she became a great defender of the Indians and brought all her artist friends to the dances at Taos Pueblo.  She wrote about and expanded the market for the Native American artists.  Here is a watercolor by the artist Velino Shije Herrera (1902-1973) from Zia Pueblo.  It was lent by the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe.

A key work in the exhibition representing Mabel’s patronage and role in introducing Modernists to the West is “Abstract Arrangement of Indian Symbols” (1914-15), oil on canvas by Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)  which she bought and today is in the exhibition Courtesy of Yale American Literature Collection, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  Mabel left her archive of photos, letters and manuscripts said to weigh 1500 pounds to the Beinecke.

In 1927 Mabel Dodge had her portrait painted by, Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), a Russian émigré who had arrived in Taos the year before.  He portrays her as the Grand Dame she believes she is.  Today the Nicolai Fechin House is a tourist attraction in Taos. The portrait, however, was lent by The Museum of Western Art, Denver.

One of the paintings I find the most effective in the show in its empathy for the Hispanic culture of Northern New Mexico is “Mexican Wake” 1932 by the Hungarian-born Modernist  Emil Bisttram (1895-1976.  It was a gift of the artist to the University of New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque.

Another amazing painting possibly the best one the artist ever did is one called, “Hunger”  1919, by Walter Ufer (1876-1936) lent by the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa Oklahoma. Ufer, an Anglo artist became something of a hero on the Taos Pueblo as he worked night and day side by side with the doctor ministering to victims of a devastating flu epidemic 1918-1919.

You will have to forgive me but now that I am a Santa Fean I cannot end without mentioning Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986).  She herself said to Alfred Stieglitz in 1929, “…the whole world comes to Mabel’s” as she did herself.   Of her painting  “Gray Cross with Blue”, 1929, she wrote “… the cross stood out-dark against the evening sky … I saw the Taos mountain-a beautiful shape.  I painted the cross against the mountain …”  It comes from the Albuquerque Museum’s own collection.

The show is so rich with material I do not have room to include the Spanish Colonial material, the decorative arts or the wonderful photographs that include Weston, Adams and Stieglitz.  So I hope you will be able to go before the show closes on January 22, 2017.

*Images of the Fechin, Hartley,  Ufer and O’Keeffe are courtesy of the Albuquerque Museum.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters

We went to Los Angeles to spend Thanksgiving with our son, Hunter and his girlfriend, Mallory.  Hunter knows we always want to visit museums and he insisted it be the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA).  Why? Because he wanted to see an exhibition on fantasy and monsters.  Not exactly the reason my wife and I go to museums!  Hunter, however, as a child was into comics and later Zombies and has recently scripted a horror film short, so I figured we had to keep an open mind.

The exhibition,  "Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters" was organized by The Art Gallery of Ontario, Minneapolis Institute of Art and LACMA.  What a surprise we had!  At each venue the host institution has added to del Toro’s personal collection from their own holdings including a number of Old Master paintings and prints. Of the more than 500 works in the Los Angeles presentation 60 were from LACMA’s collection.

For those as ignorant as I, Guillermo del Toro (1964 - ) is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist. In his filmmaking career, del Toro has created Spanish-language dark fantasy pieces, such as, his most famous, Pan's Labyrinth (2006), which we had seen when it came out but had not put it together with his name before we saw the show.  In contrast he also had worked on the Hobbit series.  For a filmography see,

The exhibiition explores del Toro’s creative process by bringing together elements from his films, objects from his vast personal collection of sculpture, paintings, prints, photography, costumes, ancient artifacts, books, maquettes, and film. His "libraries" of objects are installed much as they are in his suburban Los Angeles home which he has appropriately named "Bleak House".  The organization is by themes such as innocence and childhood, magic, occultism, horror and monsters, with visions of death and the afterlife.  Since del Torro thinks of his collection as a source of continuous inspiration and devotes sketchbooks to his thoughts some of these are incorporated into the exhibition.

The show is peppered with effective sculptural vignettes of famous people and characters in del Toro’s world.  In one we see a sculpture of Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) a visual effects creator, writer and producer.  Another shows on the wall an illustration of Boris Karloff as the monster in Son of Frankenstein,1993 by Basil Gogos as well as a sculptural scene for the film. Both sculptures are by Mike Hill.

Though they come from different eras LACMA’s Rosa Bonheur  (1822-1899) of “The Wounded Eagle, 1870, and a print by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1728) from a series of imaginary prisons, 1761 fit in perfectly.

Finally a painting of Lady Beatrice Sharpe from the film Crimson Peak, 2015, by Daniel Horne and a portrait vignette of del Toro himself with some of his characters.

In the excellent book published in conjunction with the exhibition there is an interview with del Toro where he says, "The relationship we have with art is very fetishistic because art is a spiritual phenomenon.  Art is explaining to you all the things you can't put into mere words."  After reading this I asked our son what drew him into a similar devotion, though in a different realm of the fantastic. He replied that he was interested in, "where the imagination can go if reality is one step removed."  That is an excellent description of the exhibition we saw.  We were drawn into another world.

We saw the exhibition on its last weekend so you will need to content yourselves with the book and its many color illustrations at what I thought was a reasonable price at a bit over $30 for a non museum member.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kit Carson (1809-1868)

On a recent visit to Taos, New Mexico, known to most as a ski resort and the model of what people think of as an Indian Pueblo, it was also the home of many famous artists and Kit Carson, who played an important role in the Westward expansion of the United States. The hero of my youth has been reviled in recent years as a symbol of the Anglo mistreatment and removal of Native Americans from their lands. The park in Taos where he is buried bears his name despite a recent attempt to rename it, and his home is now a modest museum.

Carson’s life was a classic story of  the American  frontier. When he was one year old his parents moved from Kentucky to the new frontier, Boone’s Lick, Missouri.  He was the ninth of fourteen  children and both his parents died before he was 10 years old.  There was no time to get a formal education.  By the age of 14 he was recorded as being apprentice to a harness and saddle maker.  Within a year becoming restless he hooked up with a wagon train heading down the Old Santa Fe Trail to Santa Fe.  He later went up to Taos, which was his residence for the rest of his life, though he spent precious little time there.  Over the years he was a fur trapper (known at the time as a mountain man), a wilderness guide, an Indian Agent and American Army officer.

When Carson was 19 he was hired to go on a fur trapping expedition to California.  Later, he was appointed as the hunter for the garrison at Bent’s Fort, Colorado.  There was obviously no food delivery to the frontier and the troops had to be fed. 

His travels had him interacting with the Indians and learning several of their languages.  During his lifetime he had three wives, one was Arapaho, another Cheyenne and the third was Hispanic.  The first died shortly after a daughter was born to them who he loved dearly,  taking the best care of her he could.  In 1842 he took her back to Missouri where she could be educated in a convent.  During his return he happened to meet John C. Fremont, the military man and explorer, on a Missouri River Boat.  They got along immediately and Freemont hired Carson as a guide for his first expedition to map and describe the trails to the Pacific Coast.  Freemont’s accounts of the expedition brought Carson to National attention.

Kit Carson had a long and troubled relationship with his legend.  He was most surprised when he first saw a book about himself describing him as a hater of Indians who killed them whenever he could.  The first “dime store novel” came out already in 1840 and he detested them all but there was nothing he could do.  More recently he has been described as a racist, a ridiculous idea considering his marriages alone.

Did Carson fight with the Indians?  No doubt, but he was also recognized by many of them as someone who was totally straight and did not go back on his word.  “Nothing is ever as good as it seems or as bad as it seems.”  This is true for people too.

Carson was in charge of the forced deportation of the Navajo people from their lands known in the oral history of the Navajo as “The Long Walk”. The notion of rounding up and relocating the Navajos, who along with the Apaches, were considered a threat to settlers, was the misguided vision of General James Henry Carleton, head of the Union Army in the territories of New Mexico and Arizona. The Navajo were meant to be converted from nomadic sheepherders to farmers but the chosen resettlement land along the Pecos River was completely incompatible to agriculture.  Carson had objected to the plan but Carleton insisted he carry out the round up and forced march as his patriotic duty.  Many Navajo died for a number of reasons including attacks by enemy tribes, being moved during the winter and nothing would grow on their new land but later many agreed that far more would have died if Carson had not been the one leading the march.

My father always said “I believe everything I read unless I know something about the subject.” So it is with Kit Carson. For the best biography of his life and a full view of the frontier in his time get Hampton Sides’ book, “Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Forewarned is Forearmed

I was in the process of writing about an American historical figure when the enormity of my country’s recent decision finally hit me full force.  The reason is simple: my parents had to leave Germany right after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in 1933.  There was no war, no proven violence, yet, suddenly the country that was suffering from their loss in the first world war had democratically elected the party of a crazed despot in the making.

Then I was sent an article about a California teacher who was suspended for comparing Trump to Hitler in his 9th grade class.   He was a history teacher and holocaust scholar.

I have been speaking about this to friends for some time.  I was taught by my father that, “It can happen here, it can happen anywhere”.  Now we have seen a beginning that we may not believe or wish to believe and pray cannot happen but…   forewarned is forearmed!

No question Germany lost World War I and was under the punitive yolk of the Versailles Treaty.  Article 231 of the Treaty forced Germany to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente Alliance.  In 1921 the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion Marks roughly US $31.4 billion.  Not only couldn’t Germany afford it they found it a national humiliation.

Then came the hyperinflation whereby there were 90 German marks to the dollar at the beginning of 1921 and by the end of 1923 there were 4.2 trillion German marks to the dollar,  a staggering figure.   It finally normalized with a new finance minister in November of that year. There were some high times in Germany for a short while and then there was the Depression by the end of the decade!

The reaction from the people in Germany was not dissimilar to the disenfranchisement that people felt in the U.S. after 2008/2009 Great Recession.  In the people’s opinion obviously their government had forsaken them and left them in a continuous state of suffering, no jobs or financial stability.   Along came a strong man who was charismatic and promised to make Germany great again.

“Early on, Hitler had a central insight: ”All epoch-making revolutionary events have been produced not by the written but by the spoken word.” He concentrated on an inflammatory speaking style flashing with dramatic gestures and catch phrases: ”Germany, awake!”
Time Magazine, February 24, 1920.

There were warnings in the New York Times as well on November 20, 1922 but with this coda.  ”But several reliable, well-informed source confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of follower and keep them aroused…”

From, This Day in History, January 30, 1933:  “The year 1932 had seen Hitler’s meteoric rise to prominence in Germany, spurred largely by the German people’s frustration with dismal economic conditions and the still-festering wounds inflicted by defeat in the Great War and the harsh peace terms of the Versailles treaty. A charismatic speaker, Hitler channeled popular discontent with the post-war Weimar government into support for his fledgling Nazi party (formerly the German Worker’s Party). In an election held in July 1932, the Nazis won 230 governmental seats”

No, I do not think that Donald Trump is Hitler but he has released a culture of hate against, Muslims, Blacks and Jews, which truly scares me on a personal level.  We have heard more moderate language to a degree but can he put the genie back in the bottle?

My good friend a lawyer and expert on Constitutional law believes our Constitution and division of powers will protect us and I want, badly, to believe he is correct.   We will, however, have all the elements of a perfect storm in place with all powers of government, President, House, Senate and most probably The Supreme  Court in the same camp.  I hope they show more strength and fortitude to vote their own minds and not follow the herd as they have for the past 8 years.  Without that I am afraid this country is going to continue on its trip down from the super power it thought it was.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court

When I started in the art business the Louis XV style was in vogue.  Simply put this meant sinuous lines.  This was a style that came as a refinement of the exaggeration of the bulbous baroque.  As always happens the pendulum swings and soon people no longer want froufrou but more severe lines as in the Louis XVI style.  It is interesting that this trajectory was seen in the 17th and 18th century and came again for collectors in the second half of the 20th century.

Pierre Gouthière is about as big a name as one can muster for the Louis XVI style.  He was a master chaser and gilder making his own models, which were then cast by others.  He then performed his true magic spinning a common adornment into gold.  He worked for the Royal family of France, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette as well as many in the aristocracy.  The artist was so highly thought of that a street in Paris is named after him.

Charlotte Vignon is the first curator dedicated to the decorative arts at the Frick Collection.  She was born in France and after gaining a law degree at the University of Toulouse she studied at the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris.  There she received her doctorate and came to the States to start out as a Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum from where she was lured to the Frick.

Aside from the Frick’s great paintings it has a phenomenal collection of French 18th century  decorative arts of the highest quality.  Its tradition of doing exhibitions around pieces in the collection not only makes for a good exhibition but they learn more about the works of art they own.  The best way to learn is to compare and contrast and if you can bring pieces together there is no better way to advance your knowledge.

Charlotte Vignon fell in love with the large console table at the Frick that one passes every time one goes to the museum. Since she could be sure that the bronzes on it were by Gouthière it was the perfect hook for an exhibition.

When she decided 5 years ago that this was going to be her show she immediately got in touch with the retired curator at Versailles, Christian Baulez.  Over his career he had studied and written a great deal on French gilt bronze in the 18th century.  As Charlotte said there were many very good bronze makers and gilders and she wanted to nail down attributions to show only pieces that were virtually 100% sure to be by Gouthière. To achieve her goal she asked Christian Baulez to go to the archives in Paris and trace the pieces made for the aristocracy and see what could be found where it is certain that the master worked on them.  She included these in the catalog that she and Baulez did for the exhibition. Formerly there were 300 works attributed to the artist and this has now been reduced to 49 where there can be little doubt.

Of course, there are pieces that could not be brought to the Frick for the show.  Charlotte told me of a wonderful chimneypiece with bronzes surely by the artist and made for Mme DuBarry that she found in a home of a major collector in New York but did not think she could ask the owner to chop it out of his living room!  What she did not know is that I had sold the piece to the gentleman.

As art dealers we often threw the term “Gouthière quality” around, like the auction houses said “rare and important”!  My father used to refer to the sharpness of Gouthière’s mounts but he did not mean so sharp that you would cut yourself which would indicate a machine made mount.

One small exquisite object in the exhibition was new to me.  In fact it is just a knob made for the French-windows of Mme. Du Barry at the Chateau Louveciennes.   This was lent by the Musée du Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

The Frick is currently working on an expansion program but Charlotte had to deal with what she had in terms of space, which is two medium size rooms below ground and one small room above.  It is a disadvantage in some ways but is also an advantage.  A curator’s job is to edit, to narrow down to the essence of what one is trying to show and the small spaces help in that respect.  The room on the ground floor is being used to show the method of making the gilt bronze mounts and a video explaining Gouthière’s technique.  To whet your appetite the latter can be found on the Frick’s website.

There are 21 works of art in the show and I asked Charlotte to name her favorite not including the Frick’s own console table.  She thought for a moment and blurted out two pairs: the candelabra that she first spotted in an exhibition in New York from the Galerie Kugel in Paris. Subsequently they came to the museum through a generous gift from Trustee Sydney R. Knafel. They were commissioned by the Duc d’Aumont ()1709-!782), one of the most important art collectors of the time.  She also loved the appliques (wall lights) lent by the Louvre that were made for the Duchesse de Mazarin (1759-1826) around 1780, the same connoisseur who commissioned the Frick’s table.

The incredible scholarship that goes into this kind of an exhibition is a great tribute to the curator of the show and former curator at Versailles.  They have brought us a whole new perspective of Gouthière, an artist greatly admired but not here-to-fore well understood.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Coming Home Again

No I am not going back to New York but rather I am referring to a group of 9 ceramic pots, which are currently being shown at the Poeh Cultural Center at the Pojoaque Pueblo in an exhibition entitled “IN T’OWA VI SAE’WE” (The People’s Pottery).  Here is an image of the installation an the resulting case.

I do not need to go into the mistreatment of the Native Americans by the white man (Anglo for the purposes of this Missive) even when the latter thought they were doing the right thing… nothing has changed politically speaking.

This, however, is a benign story regarding the Indians and the clay vessels they made for use as in storage of grain and water.  At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century the Anglo believed the Indians to be a dying race.  This was not just because of the Indian wars but also due to disease and assimilation.  I still remember in the 1950’s as a teenager and even into the 60’s believing that someday the whole world would be united thanks to faster communication, travel and intermarriage.  Ah, the idealism of youth.   

Most of my readers probably know about The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act known as NAGPRA.   Simply put it is legislation whereby the Indians could repatriate the religious artifacts and bones of their peoples, which the Anglos had absconded with.  Not everything was stolen, however, objects were also bought or excavated.  As the Indians continue to seek their identity, culture and history, which was traditionally oral, they wish to see, touch and smell objects from their past.

The Tewa are a group of Indians from pueblos within an hour’s drive both north and south of Santa Fe.  They are joined by the Tewa language and share the Pueblo culture.  There is also a Tewa village on First Mesa at Hopi in Arizona who had migrated north.  The Poeh Cultural Center at Pojoaque represents the culture of all the Tewa peoples.

Bruce Bernstein is a scholar of Indian art and culture and has written several books and many articles on the subject.  His current positions are as Executive Director and Curator of the Ralph T. Coe Foundation (where I am on the board) and more importantly for this Missive is Cultural Preservation Officer for the Pueblo of Pojoaque.

Bruce Bernstein and his wife, Landis Smith at Bandolier National Monument

The idea of returning pots for long-term loan to the Poeh Cultural Center museum started with a 1903 photograph Bruce found of three men posing in front of 12 pots. They included the then Governor of the Pueblo of Pojoaque, Antonio Tapia Montoya and anthropologist, George Pepper who had been sent out by The American Museum of Natural History in New York to collect artifacts.  Bruce went to New York to look for the pots at the Natural History Museum but did not find them so he turned to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), which has some 20,000 pieces of pottery from the pueblos of New Mexico in hopes of finding similar pieces.  Experience is everything and from 1997 to 2007 working as Assistant Director for Collections and Research at NMAI he had been responsible for moving the collection from the George Heye Museum in New York to Washington and their storage facility in Maryland.  In effect he had overseen the entire collection.

Such pots are not eligible for repatriation under NAGPRA as they were utilitarian, not sacred but Bruce knew it would be important if these pots could be brought back home, particularly the water jars as water is a vital life force in the southwest.  He achieved their return using the established museum practice of long-term loan. 

He brought the past Governor of Pojoaque George Rivera as well as the current Governor, Joe Talachy and various members of the staff from the Poeh Cultural Center, as well as a number of potters to view 1200 pots at NMAI.   Groups were also convened to look at slides so that they would have the people’s representatives choose the ones that would mean the most to the Tewa communities.  They decided that they would request pieces dating before 1920, when they were for home use before there was a market.  They were made for family and friends and therefore, unsigned, leaving their creators unknown.  Here is a photo of tribal members examining pots at NMAI  as well as a single pot, dating circa 1850, which is  now in the display at the Poe Center. (Image of members of Pojoaque tribe examining the pots and a single pot)

Speaking with Bruce Bernstein he made it quite clear that he sees the vehicle of extended loan. as a means of normalization of the relationship between the Anglo and Native American Museums. He hopes to stimulate this kind of loan to the benefit of all.  There will eventually be a total of 100 pots delivered to the Poeh and the 9 that are here represent the first homecoming. In Bruce’s words “These pots have been in Washington D.C. as a delegation representing Tewa people. But now they’re coming back to refortify Tewa people’s culture.”

Sunday, October 30, 2016

TEFAF New York

TEFAF, The European Fine Art Fair, was established in The Netherlands in 1988 by a group of art dealers under the umbrella of The European Art Foundation.  It takes place in Maastricht, The Netherlands on the German and Belgian border and not far from France.  This year it had an added venue—New York City. 

TEFAF is a fair that combines antiquities, old master paintings and drawings with European and Asian decorative arts as well as modern and contemporary art.  If you wanted to meet most of the art world you needed to show up in Maastricht every March.  I have written about it several times in years past but not in the last two.  Just enter TEFAF into the search engine on my blog  and you can read more.

TEFAF’s organizers decided, however, since art sales weakened everywhere with the recent recession and the United States has always been thought to be the holy grail for the art market they would take advantage of an opportunity.  There were two New York fairs that aspired to imitate TEFAF organized by Haughton International Fairs and Artvest.  The Haughton fair has now been bought out by TEFAF and Artvest in partnership.   They are replacing the Art & Antiques fair formerly organized by Haughton International Fairs and the Spring Masters fair previously organized by Artvest.  The first, presenting historical art took place last week and the next in May will concentrate on modern and contemporary.

 I regret not being there, but the coverage is excellent and, knowing many of the players, I cannot resist this temptation to write about it.  TEFAF’s exhibit hall in Maastricht accommodates 270 exhibitors from 20 countries but the far smaller New York Armory can hold only 94 exhibitors from 13 countries of the 300 applications they received.  In articles written for the New York Times by Judith Dobrzynski, she found that many collectors in this country did not know about the European Fair and says that the TEFAF organizers hope that the New York fairs will draw people to Maastrcht in March.

Why is TEFAF different from all other fairs?  Particularly, in the old master and antiques categories TEFAF distinguishes itself in that they always have a committee of prominent experts including museum curators vetting all the material submitted for sale.  This gives the public an extra degree of confidence in what they are buying.  The other major inducement is presentation.  Galleries can end up paying up to $250,000 dollars after they are finished with expenses of shipping, lodging and installation of their booth.   Though that may be unusual $100,000 is not.  Installation can also give confidence and highlight what should be especially noted in a booth helping to justify prices of prime works of art.  The Richard Feigen Gallery in New York asked Juan Pablo Molyneux, the Chilean interior designer to the wealthy, to do up his booth.  Axel Vervoordt, Belgian dealer and noted designer in his own right created his own space.  Here first is the Feigen booth and then Vervoordt’s.

My daughter went to school with Anderson Cooper so I have been interested in him beyond his newscasts.  I did not know he had an interest in art but, being the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, I guess that is not too surprising.  He bought an Old Master painting on opening night.  I happened to have seen it in the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition “Unfinished Thoughts Left Visible”.   It is an unfinished painting by Anton Raphael Mengs, “Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar (1775). Here is an image of Anderson Cooper at TEFAF, New York and of his newly acquired painting.

 Credit: Art News by Maximiliano Duron
Courtesy of the Met Breuer Museum

In Martha Schwendener New York Times’ article about the fair she mentions the combined booth of 3 dealers Julius Boehler and Georg Laue from Munich and Blumka Gallery, New York.  They have put together a Wunderkammer, a format made famous by the Green Vaults in Dresden for the display of  small Renaissance treasures in silver, gold and precious stones.  The dealers based theirs on a painting by Georg Hinz  (1630/31-16880 in the Hamburger Kunsthalle.

Hopefully I will be able to go personally next year and report on this very special art event.