Sunday, September 27, 2020

Heather James Fine Art

When I came into the art trade, my gallery dealt in a wide range of art including drawings, sculpture, paintings, and decorative arts but they were limited to continental Europe mainly Germany and France.  Also, limited to the 13th through the 18th century with an emphasis of 1500 to 1800.  Then there was an era of specialization such as dealers only dealing in the 17th century Dutch & Flemish art, so I steered the gallery to concentrate on 18th century France, but still in several media.  Now it seems that the tide may again be shifting to a wider range of art.

I became interested in the Heather James Fine Art gallery when I started receiving their emails which showed a great variety of material but always maintaining a high degree of quality.  Many of the emails had modern and then American art and then an Old Master thrown in… suddenly an announcement of an exhibition of photographs of Native Americans by Edward S. Curtis. Here is one of the old masters, a portrait by Jean Baptiste Greuze of Jeanne-Philiberte Ledoux oil on panel c. 1790.

Juxtaposed with the Greuze was a Deborah Butterfield, the sculptor who specializes in life-sized horses constructed of various materials.  I remember sending the email to my wife making a negative comment about the artist and getting this reply, “I still like her work.” As my regular readers know my wife was a curator at the Metropolitan Museum and developed the field of what was then called 20th-century decorative arts. As sculpture, this Butterfield would have been beyond her purview, but I learned she had always found Butterfield’s constructions engaging. That is what makes the art world interesting with endless things to talk about.

The Heather James dealership was founded in 1996 in a small California Arts town, Palm Desert by a wife and husband team, Heather Sacre and James Carona hence the name Heather James.  My contact at the gallery was Montana Alexander who joined the gallery in 2013 and became a partner in 2017.  She was also the individual who helped expand the gallery beyond Palm Desert.  They now also have galleries in New York, San Francisco, Montecito and Jackson Hole with a total of 50 employees.  These include individuals, called “consultants”, who are full time and work with their clients regionally, specifically in Los Angeles, New Port Beach, Austin, New Orleans and Basel, Switzerland.

Heather & James (left) and Montana Alexander (right)

I also asked what the philosophy of the gallery was and in part, I was told, “art is for everyone and not just the chosen few.”  though some of the art they sell must cost a pretty penny, they sell drawings and photographs which are usually of a less expensive nature.  I do not want anybody to just trust what they read about a gallery but check it out as I did for Heather James.  First, I phoned a friend in San Francisco and asked if he had heard of the gallery saying that I was impressed and got the response back, “What’s not to like”.  Then I corresponded with a friend at a gallery of American art in New York and she said, “We do many things with them as they seem to have the entire nation on their email blasts.   they sure know how to market …  with a knack for finding pretty paintings and big names and they have what seems to us deep, deep pockets.”  Aside from their great mailing list, I found another big change from my active days in an art gallery.  In one case, when I asked a question, I was told I would hear from their Director of Technology!  If my father were still around, he would be staring at me asking what that meant!

To leave you with some diverse images, here is an Alexander Calder mobile and a Fernando Botero marble sculpture from the gallery.

Heather James has certainly mastered the adaptation of high-level art dealing with the 21st century.  See for yourself ...

Monday, September 21, 2020

Diana Rigg in Memoriam

The other night we watched the James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with Bond played by George Lazenby.  Not my favorite Bond, we all know who that was … Sean Connery.  However, I must admit to falling in love all over again!  With whom you ask? Well, Diana Rigg, of course.

Born Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg she was able to add the title of Dame which she was awarded in 1994 for her services to drama. She had previously been awarded the honor of a CBE, Commander of the British Empire. I was always amused by the fact that James Bond also had the title of Commander.

Dame Diana died this month at the age of 82 which brought back a number of memories. Her death was even recorded in our local paper, “The New Mexican”, I presume because of her role from 2013 to 2017 as Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones.

The actress was born in Yorkshire, England and shortly thereafter went with her father to India where he was a railway executive.  At the age of 8 she was sent back to England to a girls’ boarding school.  She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where one of her classmates was Glenda Jackson and she was with the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1959-1967.

On stage she was incredibly versatile, succeeding in roles ranging from Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” to --Dottie in Tom Stoppard’s “Jumpers”.  

-Some of her theatre credits include:

-Abelard and Heloise on Broadway in 1971 

-The Misanthrope on Broadway in 1975

-Follies in the West End in 1987

-“Putting it Together” 1992 World Premier in British Regional Theatre.

-Medea on Broadway in 1994 in the title role for which she won a Tony.

-The reprise of My Fair Lady on Broadway in 2018 as Mrs. Higgins, 

I actually saw Abelard and Heloise in London with my aunt who lived on Hampstead Heath. It was at the time a famous nude scene with Diana.  I remember my aunt laughing because I was looking down during the 2 seconds of nudity!

What an ambitious woman!  From theater she went on to screen and television, first gaining fame in her role as secret agent Emma Peele in the television series, “The Avengers” (1965-1968) opposite Patrick Macnee. I watched it regularly as she was the prettiest crime fighter I had ever seen, and she remains so for me.

The IMDB is the best source for movie and TV content and here is Diana Rigg’s: 

You need to scroll down on the site to see a list so extensive that it is all the more surprising that she is said to have regretted not having more success on the screen!  In fact, she had no Oscar but endless Tony, Emmy, and Olivier award nominations and wins. 


A friend once told her that a critic was someone who left “No Turn Unstoned” and she used that as the title of her 1982 book, a collection of negative reviews of plays and performances from Shakespeare to Stoppard.

Here a couple of examples among the hundreds:

-Maureen Stapleton in the ‘Emperor’s Clothes’ by George Tabori, 1953;

“Miss Stapleton played the part as though she had not yet signed the contract with the producer.

-Laurence Olivier as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, 1974; “Any fan of Walt Disney comics could turn on the set and see he had modeled his appearance on Scrooge McDuck.”

-Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, 1967; “It is the kind of play…that one might enjoy on second hearing if only the first time through hadn’t left such a strong feeling that once is enough”

In one of her obituaries, I believe it was the Daily Telegraph in England,  it said that “a group of gay men in America presented her with a scroll declaring that she was the woman ‘they would be most likely to go straight for’.”   I rest my case!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Is Portland Burning?

Report from a friend in Portland ...

With Apologies to my readers abroad this is a very American story but I think it has some valuable lessons for people everywhere.  Portland, Oregon, a bastion of liberal Democrats, has been singled out by the administration and the media as a hotbed of anarchy.  Naturally, worrying about a good friend there we asked him what his perception of the situation really was.   He happens to also be a former newspaper reporter and here is his reply ...

What's going on in Portland? It's much, much calmer than the news (and especially the right-wing media and the Dumpster in Chief) make it out to be. The action is generally confined to a very few, very small hot spots while most of the city is business as usual-as-it-gets-in-the-midst-of-an-international-health-crisis.

The problem is, we're down to the hardcore -- maybe 200 determined ultra lefties who taunt the cops and the white supremacists, hoping they'll go over the line and attack. Often the cops do: Like so many forces across the nation, Portland's is riddled with heavily armed white supremacists who cozy up to the right-wingers, ignore everything they do, and then attack the BLM protesters after the right-wingers have moved on.

The police union is a huge problem -- the cops hide behind its near-absolute protection, and it's stronger than either the police chief or the mayor. It needs to be busted -- and I support unions.

Trump is obviously using the Portland "situation" to pull a Willie Horton on voters, hoping that fear of urban liberals and the dread "Antifa" will round him up enough votes in swing states to pull this thing off. The killing the other night plays straight into his hands, and that truly scares me.

Details are still scant, but apparently the guy who got shot had just maced some people on the street, and one of them then shot him in the stomach. The right-wingers almost all come from outside Portland, hoping to stir up trouble, which they do, with the aid and abetting of the cops and the criminal president (note that I do not pretend to journalistic "objectivity" in this instance). I've figured the way things have been going a death was almost inevitable. Now it's happened, and there could be hell to pay. Trump would dearly love to send in federal troops of one sort or another and bash heads in Portland to win votes elsewhere.

And yet, the vast majority of the city is unscathed. This is hardly the Watts Riots. Plus, property damage is minimal (you read about federal buildings being set on fire: in reality, they're tiny little things on the floor that are put out immediately) and except for immediately after the Minneapolis murder, when there was a mass of window-smashing downtown, looting has been nonexistent. Portland's targeted by the right. Why? Basically, because we're a Scandinavian city in a nation that hates the idea of social democracy. (There: Off the soapbox now.)”

The protests have now lasted over a hundred days and the self-proclaimed Antifa activist who claimed he shot the member of the Rightwing group in self-defense has himself been shot dead by federal marshals.

Here is an article in the New York Times written around the same time as our friend’s report. It gives an insight into the local Portland protesters, as opposed to the extremists from Right and Left who are getting the spotlight:

Edgar Allan Poe wrote, ““Believe nothing you hear and only one half that you see.”  Unfortunately, I may add, and even less of what you read.  Unfortunately, sometimes, the media is parroting what is coming from hate groups!

There were student riots in Paris, France in 1968 when I had to go there for work.  Everyone thought I was crazy to go because the Newspaper reports made is sound like the city was on fire.  The truth was that most if not all the fuss was around the school, the Sorbonne, and most of what was burning were car tires.

Guess what, I did not visit the student quarter and neither had nor saw any issues during my visit.  So, I learned it is best to find out the details behind a story and not just read the headlines!


NB: A question hanging over my last missive was how did the Tiffany Fire Hood survive with a salvage company.  Now, I have heard from Norton’s source, Arlie Sulka at Lillian Nassau, there was an additional owner.  She wrote, “I acquired the piece from a private collector who had been storing it for many years”

Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Tiffany Fireplace in Florida

As you know I was a dealer in Old Master paintings and my wife trained in the field of French 18th century decorative arts.  After joining the Metropolitan Museum, she discovered some pieces in the storerooms of the Met of French furniture made by Emile Jacques Ruhlmann and other Parisian works of the 1920s and published one of the first articles defining Art Deco.  As curator she was able to bring the Met pieces out of storage and establish the field of 20th-century decorative arts at the Met, later known as the design collection.

I mention this to explain that our first collection which we put together for ourselves was in Art Deco and Art Nouveau under the latter category one can place Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933).  We visited all the dealers in the field. One which we felt very close to was Lilian Nassau who established her eponymous gallery in 1945 specializing in Tiffany.  After Lillian Nassau retired (she passed away in 1995) her son Paul took over the gallery.  Then in 2006 Lillian's associate since 1980, Arlie Sulka, acquired The Lillian Nassau Gallery.

Sometimes an art dealer has the deep satisfaction of knowing where a piece belongs and succeeds in placing it there. As soon as Arlie Sulka was able to acquire the fireplace hood from  Laurelton Hall, she knew to get in direct touch with the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida.

The Morse Museum was founded in 1942 and according to its website it houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), including the artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps, and windows; his chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago; and art and architectural objects from his Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall.

The Chapel by Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Morse

When I asked Arlie about this sale she responded, “Having been able to exhibit the fireplace hood and to subsequently facilitate its placement in the permanent collection of the Morse is deeply gratifying. I feel fortunate to have had this tour de force at Lillian Nassau for both its historical significance and its very personal connection to Louis Comfort Tiffany. While the gallery has handled many Tiffany masterpieces over the past 75 years, I consider the fireplace to be among the most significant objects ever to come through our hands.”

The communications director at the Morse, Emily Margaret Sujka, saw that I had published the photo before when I saw the fire hood the first time in the Lillian Nassau booth at TEFAF (the European Art Fair) New York Edition, last year.  Since it had obviously struck my fancy, she contacted me about the museum’s acquisition supplying more information about its provenance. 

The piece was designed and fabricated in Tiffany’s studio and installed around 1883 in his 72nd Street home in New York City. Building Laurelton Hall with the idea of filling it with his most important works, Tiffany had moved the fireplace hood there in 1919. When the country house burned in 1957 the fireplace hood was thought to have been destroyed.  Apparently, it was salvaged by the demolition company and remained in their warehouse until its recent discovery.

Fireplace in situ in Tiffany’s 72nd Street Home

This is a case in point of the strange life of objects: an architectural object resurrected from the ashes of the home the artist planned as the showcase of his achievement, to be acquired by a museum that has fulfilled his vision as the greatest repository of his work.