Sunday, July 17, 2016

My Wife, Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, in her own words

From the transcript of the 1989 video celebrating Rosenberg & Stiebel gallery’s 50th anniversary in the United States.

“I first came to Rosenberg & Stiebel as a student.  The Institute of Fine Arts Museum Training program had a marvelous method of training you in the old days.  They said you had $1,000 from The Metropolitan Museum of Art to go out on the market and find something the Museum really needed.  Even then (1969) that was not a great deal of money and you were to reserve a piece and present it to the curators.  One of the pieces presented each year would be purchased.”

“I was given a list of the dealers in my field of French eighteenth century and Rosenberg & Stiebel was identified as the ladies and gentlemen’s dealer.  I came to their front door, very timid, very frightened.  I remember being greeted by the most gracious gentleman that I had ever seen, my ideal of civilized male humanity.  He, however, absolutely dashed all my hopes.  He turned me over to his son!  Fortunately he eventually became my father-in-law.”

“When I became a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I was given the thankless task of organizing an international art dealers exhibition.  The only good part about it was that my fellow co-organizer on the dealers’ side was Gerald Stiebel.   We got very much involved and eventually married. And ten years later I joined the gallery.” 

“Being an art historian is, obviously, a value to the gallery.  It is part of my contribution but I think what’s more important than my academic studies was my experience of 13 years on the curatorial staff at the Metropolitan.  There I began to really deal with works of art in the original and become their advocate.  Finding great works of art, special works, speaking works and then interpreting them to other people whether they are the higher ups on the curatorial staff or the general public.  It’s very much the same thing we do at the gallery."

Penelope installing case at the Metropolitan Museum

“Scholarship is essential in the art field.   You have to be able to understand what the work of art is about.  You have to understand its context.  You can learn that at school or you can learn it on your own but you have to know it.”

“I don’t think that has really changed over the decades.  Perhaps the knowledge was more intuitive in the early days of the firm.  Now we back it up with more academic research perhaps than was available then but it’s still the intuition that is the basic guide.”

“The reason the gallery has survived and been successful for so many years (since the 1860’s) is the nature of the family itself.  Its members, each of them, have that intuitive eye of connoisseur ship but there is more than that.  The family revolves around objects of art.  Each child grows up with art as the daily conversation at the dinner table.  The way each member of the family relates to the outside world is through objects of art.  To the Stiebels art is more than business.  It’s more that we do, art is who we are.”

Conclusion from Gerald:  As you know we have moved on and closed the gallery a couple of years ago.  My daughter owns a bookstore, my older son is in Traverse City, Michigan in  real estate and our son is an actor but all retain interest to one degree or another in the arts.  Once there it doesn’t just disappear!

Penelope and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, “The City Different” and have exchanged our passions for European Art to Native American and Spanish Colonial art expanding our horizons in the art world.

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