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The Stein Salon Was The First Museum of Modern Art

2 Nov

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By JAMES R. MELLOW

“I always wanted to be historical,” Gertrude Stein announced shortly before her death, “from almost a baby on, I felt that way about it. . .” And, for the better part of her life, she was. In the beginning, in the early nineteen-hundreds, she shared the honors with her brother Leo. The Stein ménage in Paris (a ménage à trois consisting of Gertrude, Leo, and Gertrude’s lifetime companion Alice B. Toklas) was a Mecca for the modern- minded. The principal attraction was the collection of Cézanne oils and watercolors, the early pictures by Matisse and Picasso, the paintings by Renoir, Manet, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec, which she and Leo had had the funds and the foresight to buy. The walls of their atelier were hung to the ceiling with now-famous paintings, the double doors of the dining room were lined with Picasso sketches. In the early decades of the century, hundreds of visitors flocked to the display of vanguard art: many came to scoff, but several went away converted. It was a brilliant scene–and a historic one. For all intents and purposes, Leo and Gertrude Stein had inaugurated, at 27 Rue de Fleurus, the first museum of modern art.

The remains of the pioneer collection–a cache of 38 paintings, drawings and collages by Pablo Picasso and nine works by his colleague, the Cubist painter Juan Gris–are in the process of being sold by the heirs of the Stein estate for a reported $6.5-million. The buyer has not yet been announced, but it is believed that a trustee–or a syndicate of trustees–of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has been actively engaged in the secret negotiations. Although spokesmen for the museum have refused to comment, the names most often mentioned in connection with the sale are William S. Paley, president of the museum; David and Nelson Rockefeller, chairman and member of the board, respectively; and John Hay Whitney, the board’s vice chairman. The disposition of the collection after the sale is not known, but it is expected that the museum will mount an exhibition that will bring together the purchased works and many of the major paintings once owned by the Steins that have since passed into other private and public collections. The exhibition would be fitting–and perhaps final–tribute to a salon that made history. Viewers in the United States would have an opportunity not only to see the once- controversial pictures, but to catch a glimpse of the Stein salon as it existed during its most brilliant period.

On a typical Saturday evening, 60 years ago, one would have found Gertrude Stein at her post in the atelier, garbed in brown corduroy, sitting in a high-backed Renaissance chair, her legs dangling, next to the big cast-iron stove that heated the chilly room. A few feet away, one could hear Leo expounding to a group of visitors, his views on modern art. Among the crowd of Hungarian painters, French intellectuals, English aristocrats and German students, one might pick out the figures of Picasso and his mistress, Fernande Olivier (Picasso looking like an intense young bootblack; Fernande, almond-eyed and attractive). The man with the reddish beard and spectacles, looking like a German professor, would be Matisse. Next to him might be the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and his clinging friend, the painter Marie Laurencin. The tall figure would be that of Georges Braque, whose superior stature among the smaller cubists made him the official hanger- of-pictures in the atelier. In the American contingent, the familiars would be the painters Patrick Henry Bruce and Alfred Maurer, both of them early advocates of the modernist vision and both, at the same time, followers of Matisse. It was Alfred, as Gertrude recalled, who held up lighted matches so visitors could see that the Cézannes were, indeed, finished paintings because they were framed.

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Enigmatic New York publisher and private bookshop Fulton Ryder — founded by artist Richard Prince — has been captivating us with their Tumblr snapshots of rare and fascinating cultural fragments. We wanted to take a closer look at their collection of books, manuscripts, and counterculture collectibles, and they were kind enough to allow us a peek. More

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Laurie Simmons

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Interview with Laurie Simmons in Dirty Magazine

The Book Lovers

24 Jan

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The Book Lovers is a long term project about novels written by visual artists. It is divided into the following installments: a collection of novels, a parallel online database, a series of exhibitions, a performance program, and a symposium. The collection includes a total of around 140 titles, and it has been acquired by m hka, Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, Belgium.

The show at EFA Project Space New York

January 25 – March 9, 2013

Mouse Museum

2 Dec

Claes Oldenburg put together an odd collection of kitsch, found objects, souvenirs, trivial everyday pieces and toys plus material and prototyps for his art works. The Mouse Museum was first shown in 1972 at the documenta 5 in Kassel.

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Claes Oldenburg was born in 1929, in Stockholm. His father was a diplomat, and the family lived in the United States and Norway before settling in Chicago in 1936. Oldenburg studied literature and art history at Yale University, New Haven, from 1946 to 1950. He subsequently studied art under Paul Wieghardt at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1950 to 1954. During the first two years of art school, he also worked as an apprentice reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago, and afterward opened a studio, where he made magazine illustrations and easel paintings. Oldenburg became an American citizen in December 1953. In 1956 he moved to New York and met several artists making early Performance work, including George Brecht, Allan Kaprow, George Segal, and Robert Whitman. Oldenburg soon became a prominent figure in Happenings and Performance art during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1959 the Judson Gallery exhibited a series of Oldenburg’s enigmatic images, ranging from monstrous human figures to everyday objects, made from a mix of drawings, collages, and papier-mâché. In 1961, he opened The Store in his studio, where he recreated the environment of neighborhood shops. He displayed familiar objects made out of plaster, reflecting American society’s celebration of consumption, and was soon heralded as a Pop artist with the emergence of the movement in 1962. Read more…

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Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos

4 Nov

The exhibition at New Museum (NYC) conjures an imaginary universe in which Trockel’s own artwork shares space with objects and artifacts, spanning different eras and cultures, that map her artistic interests.

 Since the early 1970s, Rosemarie Trockel has produced an impressive body of work that includes drawing, collage, installation, “knit paintings,” ceramics, videos, furniture, clothing, and books. She brings together a range of associations and references from art history, philosophy, theology, and the natural sciences. For “A Cosmos,” Trockel places her work in the company of others whom she regards as kindred spirits. Installations created for the New Museum illuminate the intellectual and formal connections between her practice and a range of historical figures including self-taught artists James Castle and Morton Bartlett, and the botanist/mathematician José Celestino Mutis. Objects whose impetus was primarily aesthetic will be juxtaposed with pieces that more conventionally belong to the realm of science. Trockel’s roughhewn glazed ceramics from the past several years will be displayed along with Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka’s delicate glass models of sea creatures created in the nineteenth century. A selection of new work by Trockel can be examined in conjunction with watercolors by the seventeenth-century artist Maria Sybilla Merian, whose impeccably precise yet beautiful renderings of flora and fauna proved invaluable to scientific study.

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