Tales from the Art Crypt: The Painters, the Museums, the Curators, the Collectors, the Auctions, the Artby Richard A. Feigen
Richard Feigen's fifty years in the art world have given him a unique perspective on its inhabitants and habits. He writes about the painters he has known and represented (among them James Rosenquist,
From one of today's most influential art collectors and dealers: a lively, revealing, sometimes blasphemous, always knowing look into the world of art.
Richard Feigen's fifty years in the art world have given him a unique perspective on its inhabitants and habits. He writes about the painters he has known and represented (among them James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, Jean Dubuffet, and Joseph Cornell), and about others whose work he has collected. He writes about his galleries in Chicago and New York City, and about his fellow dealers, including Julien Levy and Leo Castelli.
He talks about the "eye" that allows a dealer to recognize a fine painting. He discusses the great art-owning families, art historians, scholars, and conservators. He recounts the story of the debacle at the Barnes Foundation that resulted in the undoing of Albert Barnes's vision for his museum, and reveals the fate of the artworks that belonged to Gertrude Stein. He dissects the art boom of the 1980s and its effects, and takes on the commercialism plaguing American museums today: blockbuster exhibitions and the replacement of great directors with "professional administrators."
Feigen has given us an intimate, engrossing portrait of the great art game as it has been played in the twentieth century.
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- Knopf Publishing Group
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- New Edition
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- 6.58(w) x 9.53(h) x 1.27(d)
Read an Excerpt
Arrows of barium nitrate pierce the black sky, tracings of invisible bullets aimed at the heart of what we have known as connoisseurship, the love and study of objects fashioned by man. Bit by bit, year by year, the ghostly missiles find their mark and the art crypt fills with casualties of the old order, museums, collectors, artists, those who already love art and those who could have. Anciens combattants, veterans of the culture wars, "elitists" who thus far dodged the bullets, still wander about in daylight hours as the legions of darkness sleep--hack political opportunists, affirmative culture activists, guardians of "family values," Bible-belting fundamentalists, strategic planners, management consultants, museum headhunters, box-office impresarios. The surviving veterans wander about, hoping for better days, lighting candles, trying not to curse the darkness, spinning vestigial myths from the crypt. . . .
At the dawn of the new millennium, things in the art world are not as they had always been. Dramatic changes started unfolding in the 1960s, triggered by Vietnam War inflation, the proliferation of money, the monetization of art, and the battle between the auction houses for hegemony in the marketplace.
During the last half of the century, there was still time for a ruthless buccaneer like Norton Simon to put together one of history's great collections, and for a scoundrel like Richard Glanton to break Albert Barnes's will and try to decimate his collection. Alice Toklas was still alive in the 1960s, clinging to the Picassos she had bought with Gertrude Stein in the early years of the century, and their paintings were still there in1968 to be sold outside the auction rooms. There was still great twentieth-century art around for eccentric acquisitors like Rose and Mort Neumann, and for social climbers like Mary and Leigh Block. Art dealing did not yet seem like a dying profession, and there were still gentlemen dealers like Julien Levy and master salesmen like Sam Salz. There were art discoveries to be made. Countries were not yet provoked by the press and soaring prices into patrimonial protectionism. Although the American government had never placed a premium on culture, the Christian Coalition had yet to sight it in its cross-hairs as some blasphemous and lascivious beast lusting after its children. The corporate culture had not yet turned the museums into box-office palaces and mail-order houses, and transformed their directors from connoisseurs who proclaimed to the public their love of objects into administrators and fund-raisers who lured the crowds and spilled no red ink.
What will become in the new millennium of the kind of museum we had known for the last hundred years? Will the changes be reversed; will museums go back to surprising and exciting and teaching the public? Should they? Is the old way "elitist"? Should museums, like the entertainment industry, give the public what it wants to see--van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Wyeth, Fabergé, more "multicultural" projects? Should finance and administration propel some young people into the museum field and others out? The questions are pressing.
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