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The Stein Salon Was The First Museum of Modern Art

2 Nov

carl-mydans-author-gertrude-stein-sitting-with-alice-b-toklas-at-a-villa

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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Second House

27 May

richard prince house

SECOND HOUSE is perfectly camouflaged in its surroundings—at first glance, it appears to be an utterly ordinary single story ranch house. Yet when approaching it from the long hillside driveway, the overgrown grass strategically obscures the identity of who or what lies within. Like so many other domestic buildings in the area, SECOND HOUSE looks kind of decrepit or unfinished (passersby must wonder: did the owner run out of money and abandon construction?). Its façade is missing—only a thin, silvery skin made of insulation panels covers the exterior. An abandoned 1973 Dodge Barracuda is parked out back, quietly rusting in the tall grass; an inside-out tire planter adorns the completely unlandscaped front yard. The inside seems as unfinished as the outside. The walls and ceilings are partially painted, leaving the spackled drywall joints visible in many spots. Plywood sheets cover the floors. Exposed fluorescent tubes provide an even, cold light in the five rooms of the house. While the rawness of the interior décor suggests an uninhabited space, SECOND HOUSE is far from empty. The objects and images sheltered within its walls mirror the landscape outside: it’s pure Americana (that has been “stolen,” cropped, and edited by Richard Prince).

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More links:

Richard Prince’s page

Parket 72 – 2005

Guggenheim Museum to acquire RICHARD PRINCE’S SECOND HOUSE, 2005

Lightning Devastates Guggenheim-Acquired “Second House” by Richard Prince

Quote 18 Feb

“The artist’s home and studio were stacked with his artworks, cast-off items, including three broken refrigerators with the doors still attached. A separate storage room was piled to the ceiling with jumbled junk, more artworks, damaged electrical cords and worn-out clothing.” More

Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

3 Jan

Frances Glessner Lee (1878–1962), a New England socialite and heiress, dedicated her life to the advancement of forensic medicine and scientific crime detection. The seeds of her interest began when her brother’s college classmate, George Burgess Magrath (1870–1938), vacationed with the Glessner family at their summer home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Magrath, then a medical student, went on to teach legal medicine at Harvard and to become the chief medical examiner of Suffolk County (Boston). In 1931 Mrs. Lee helped to establish the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard, the only such program then in existence in North America. From that time on, she became a tireless advocate for forensic science. In 1934 she presented the department with a collection of books and manuscripts, which became the Magrath Library of Legal Medicine, and in 1936 endowed the department with a gift of $250,000 (adjusted for inflation, the equivalent of $3,367,000 in 2005 dollars).

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Mrs. Frances Glessner Lee at work on the Nutshell Collection, 1940s-1950s, 
Glessner House Museum, Chicago, Illinois
In 1943, Mrs. Lee was appointed captain in the New Hampshire State Police, the first woman in the United States to hold such a position. Around the same time, she began work on the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death—a series of eighteen miniature crime-scene dioramas for student analysis. The Nutshells allowed Mrs. Lee to combine her lifelong love of dolls, dollhouses, and models with her passion for forensic medicine. She originally presented them to the Harvard Department of Legal Medicine; later they came into the possession of the Maryland Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. Erle Stanley Gardner, the writer best known for creating the Perry Mason mysteries, and Mrs. Lee’s close friend, wrote that “A person studying these models can learn more about circumstantial evidence in an hour than he could learn in months of abstract study.”

Issa Samb

16 May

Behind an old iron gate in a side street, a bizarre Gesamtkunstwerk opens itself up. Under the high roof of a huge rubber tree hangs a web of strings studded with slips of paper and signs, expressionistic-abstract paintings and worn-out pieces of clothing, all held in place by clothespins. … For decades, the artist Issab Samb, alias Joe Ouakam, has created a universe in which the signs of everyday life are transformed into altars of a private obsession.

 In the 1960s, Ouakam, along with filmmaker Mambeti and others, belonged to the founders of the group Laboratoire AGIT-Art. Their multi-media actions were directed against the formalism of the Ecolé de Dakar; out of the “socialization of the aesthetic” developed an aesthetic of the social. This installation could function as a didactic piece for present-day artists – all that’s missing is a sign reading “National Museum” on the gate. (From)

MAN Museum

5 May

Image (C) COLIN MCPHERSON

MuseumMAN is an open cabinet of curiosities tracing a history of two cities through an eclectic mix of art and artifact. With its roots in New York City, it has manifested its unique form of a lived in museum from Berlin to Liverpool. MAN has been a temporal home for artists and visitors alike. Local and international artists are invited to participate in a dialogue within the space that is MAN, where a menagerie of spatial interventions – events, performance and exhibitions from live bands to levitating manholes – are regularly hosted. Activities inhabit every room and no space is left vacated, except by the artists’ intention. 

Adam Nankervis (Museum Director)is an Australian artist, based in Liverpool and Berlin. He has exhibited globally over the last 20 years. His collaborations with Derek Jarman, David Hockney, Peter Tulley and long-term working partnership with David Medalla – the Fillipino kinetesist, founder of participation, performance artist and conceptualist – have developed a varied experimental practice and participation in a widely diverse set of mediums (…)

MAN was born out of necessity. The fabrication of a “museum” grew from the demand by galleries and artists wanting to exhibit internationally, or inviting me to perform, under the aegis of “host gallery”. 

In 1992 New York was in a tangible recession; businesses were closing and boarded up shop fronts abounded. It felt like a plague had hit. A shoe shop on Mercer Street in SoHo belonging to two friends went out of business, with one month remaining on the lease. I offered to take over the space for a series of exhibitions, thus bailing them out and finding a space to show works in the SoHo area, at that time the monolith of the NYC art world.

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East is East, and West is West and never the twain shall meet

20 Feb

Helinä Rautavaara (1928-1988) made a career of documenting foreign cultures and religions. She travelled outside Europe as a reporter during the 1950s. Her travels to the Middle East and South Asia made these areas familiar to Finns through a series of colourful articles written for the Seura magazine. She also made her first radio and television programmes out of the material collected during these travels. Her subsequent travels added to her ever-increasing amount of photographs, super-8 films, audio recordings and videos.

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Helinä Rautavaara was first introduced to the Rastafarian movement during her trips to London and New York in 1980. She later stated that she had been dragged into the movement because of her African interests. Her ability to move naturally amongst a variety of ethnic groups also brought her closer to the representatives of the black consciousness movement.

In 1981, Rautavaara spent six months in Jamaica in order to familiarise herself with Jamaican syncretistic religions. She got to know a number of local Rasta communities and reggae musicians. She photographed and taped Rastafarian rituals, such as the ceremonies held in honour of Haile Selassie’s 50th birthday. She participated in Bob Marley’s funeral on May 21st 1981 at the National Arena. Rautavaara was initiated into the Rastafarian religion, and she sought to make herself known as Ras Benjamin.

 In 1991 Helinä Rautavaara made a short but consequential visit to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The objects acquired during that visit formed the core of her first museum.

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In 1991 Helinä Rautavaara made a short visit to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The objects acquired during that visit formed the core of her first museum.

Helinä Rautavaara named her 400-volume library on Brazil as her first true collection. She often attached exotic stories to the objects she later acquired, even though the collection includes several antique objects bought from public auctions.

Rautavaara’s style of dressing in ethnic clothes and decorating her home in exotic styles was a reflection of both styles adopted from the 1960s to the 1990s and of her taste as a collector.

Rautavaara herself summed up her relationship to the collection with the following words: “I have never understood an object’s significance as an object, rather it has always been part of an entire culture, not to mention being part of a ritual associated with it.”

In 1991 Helinä Rautavaara rented a former shop at Ruusulankatu 8, Helsinki, where she opened her first private museum. The collections she held at home had been accessible to visitors, but visiting groups had also access to the new exhibition rooms. The Baga-Zombie Museum displayed ritual objects that Rautavaara had brought back from her short trip to Haiti in 1990. In addition, there were Buddhist, Mexican and West African objects, and a wall-size glass painting made in 1885 by the Belgian glass artist Jean-Baptiste Capronnier.

 The cataloguing of the objects began in 1991.  The Helinä Rautavaara Museum was opened on June 16th 1998.

 It needs to be said that not everyone was pleased with the guidelines of Helinä Rautavaara’s collecting activities and their success. For example, the public display of cult and Voodoo objects made a well-known Espoo artist publicly accuse the Helinä Rautavaara object collection of connections to Satanic worship. Rautavaara herself thought that art inspired by the numerous religions of the world should be respected.

Source & more info:  Glims & Gloms

Check also:  HELINA