Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Art of Collecting: Event Wrap Up

On November 12 Members of The Gallery met up in La Jolla for The Art of Collecting.

Owners Joseph Bellows and Ron Stevenson did a fantastic job of welcoming guests to their galleries and "back rooms" for private viewings of their art storage and presentation areas.

This experience sparked a new dialogue for several collectors who took the opportunity to explore works currently NOT on view, by artists they are interested in learning more about.

Post tour, guests noshed on more fine food (and imbibed in more fine wine) before embarking on a lively discussion with John Marciari , Curator for European Art and Katy McDonald, Deputy Director for External Affairs. The conversation generated a host of questions from "can you negotiate a deal?" to "how do you know the dealer is reputable?" to "what should you buy?".

Number one, buy what you love--and visit Museums and galleries to learn and determine what it is that moves you. Marciari responded to questions on reputation and trust, indicating that you should ask other collectors and other gallery owners for feedback, if a certain dealer seems questionable. Look for dealers with a solid history. On this, and negotiations for price, Bellows implored the importance of viewing the process as a "relationship" and not as a "transaction".

On the question of forgeries and fakes, Marciari encouraged everyone to have confidence in their quest for more information--"don't be afraid to reach out to a specialist in the area of art you are passionate about."

Finally, sign up for gallery mailing lists to receive invitations to opening events. Visiting local galleries is an important part of your art education and one of the many ways to support artists in our community.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Discovering Rosalba Carriera

Here’s a story about one of the “new” works on view in the recently reinstalled European Art gallery at the Museum.

A few months ago, one of our registrars came to my office and handed me a quick index photograph (there it is at left) she’d just taken of a work that turned up during an inventory of one of the store rooms. The work, attributed to Rosalba Carriera, was acquired in 1949 but no one could recall ever having seen it on public view.

My first thought: Wow. That looks like the real thing.

Rosalba Carriera was one of the most highly-sought portraitists in eighteenth-century Italy, second in popularity only to Pompeo Batoni (whose portrait of Etienne-Reneé Potier de Gesvres hangs in the recently reinstalled gallery). Rosalba’s particular specialty was the portrait in pastels, and she had few equals in that medium. The portrait of a woman had all the benchmarks of her style, and having been little-exhibited, it seemed – even in the photograph – remarkably fresh. Rosalba is a special artist; the Getty has just acquired a pastel portrait by her.

But then I had my second thought: Oh no. The Frame.

The frame is unmistakably that of the royal collection in Dresden. Once you’ve seen a group of them, you can’t miss them. And the problem with the frame was that at the outbreak of World War II, the Dresden collections were dispersed for safekeeping, and many works never made it back to the museum when the war ended. The Dresden Museum has a major provenance research project underway in an effort to locate all the looted treasures.

Born and trained in Italy, Rosalba had spent years working at the court in Dresden, and the largest collection of her pastel portraits is in the museum there. This seemed to be a vote in favor of the San Diego portrait’s authenticity. The bad news, though, is that I was afraid that just as we’d rediscovered a great work, we might have to send it back to Dresden.

So let the research begin: I quickly discovered in our curatorial files that the dealer who sold us the work wrote in 1948 that he got it through an “exchange with the Dresden Museum, about 18 years ago.” (The dealer was Jacob Heimann, of New York and Los Angeles – and if anyone has more information about him, please let me know). I’ll admit I was deeply skeptical.

I went back to the old catalogues of the Dresden collection. The 1899 and 1905 catalogues list 156 pastels, but only 109 are in the catalogues published since 1929, with no reference to the missing 47.

At this point, I wrote to Andreas Henning, the Curator in Dresden. I explained that I was doing “a bit of research on Rosalba, and that I was curious about the pastels missing from later editions of their catalogue.” (This was a bit evasive, I’ll admit it.) Andreas explained that yes, some of the Rosalba pastels had been missing since before the war, but earlier in the century, Dresden’s then-director Hans Posse “exchanged” some with dealers in an attempt to acquire contemporary art.

We then went through the old catalogue lists, and we found one pastel described as a “Portrait nearly front view, dark grey background. Brown eyes; flowers in the gray hair; brown, multicolored flowered dress with a décolletée. The right hand at the breast.” This seemed to match. It was number 88 in the old catalogue, and it had been sold back in 1924 in exchange of a painting by Wilhelm Trübner.

At this point, I went back into storage and opened up the frame. There, on the back of the old stretcher supporting the pastel, was a most welcome sight: the number 88. Case closed. Not only had we confirmed its provenance, we’d also established that it had been sold by Dresden, and that we would not have to send it back.

And it’s now on the wall in San Diego, for the first time in decades. But pastels are delicate, and after a few months, we’ll return it to a nice dark corner of the storeroom to preserve it.
Come see it while you have the chance.

John Marciari
Curator of European Art
Head of Provenance Research

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Art of Collecting

Image via Joseph Bellows Gallery:
012, Edward White Spacewalking Above the Texas Coastline, Gemini 4, June 3, 1965, digital c-print, 24.5 x 24.5 inches

Tonight The Gallery is privy to its first off site members only event, held at the Joseph Bellows and R.B. Stevenson Galleries in La Jolla. Making sure to create a lively experience, we have created an itinerary of social connecting, gallery FAQs and behind the scenes walkthroughs. In preparation for the event we have enlisted a goodly amount of wine and some comfortable seats for our favorite fashionistas. If you are not a member (call (619) 696-1918 to join!), or cannot attend tonight's event, I've put together some of the questions that will shape our conversation with the curators and gallery owners. In addition, there are some great resources on line that revolve around this very topic: How to Start an Art Collection.

Image via R.B. Stevenson Gallery: Old Rembrandt, acrylic on interference, 12 x 14 1/2 in, 2004

Questions for The Art of Collecting

How do you start a collection?

What art should you buy?

How do you know which dealers/galleries are reputable?

I don’t know what art I like…where do I start?

What are the top collectors asking or looking for from a Gallery owner?

What is the most common question asked by a new collector?

How does a gallery differ from an auction house?

Why buy art? Why not just support your local Museums?


Apartment Therapy is one of my favorite design inspiration web/blog sites...they broke it down simply here. BUY WHAT YOU LOVE!

I found this interesting piece via The Harbus, a publication from the independent student weekly for the Harvard Business School. It offers an overview of a panel discussion (2006) with a variety of thoughts from artist to gallery owner, professor to professional.

This article is written from a gallery owner's perspective--Sylvia White...
1. Educate your eye
2. Establish your budget
3. Determine your goals
4. Become a responsible collector
The author also shares her insight on "the ideal gallery" here.

Stay tuned for more on this topic after tonight's fabulous event.

-Sarah Beckman, Associate Director of Development

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Calder Jewelry, and the Calder Headboard

A Calder-Guggenheim Story

Picasso's friend and biographer John Richardson was here last week to deliver the Axline Lecture. Over the days he was here, we spent a lot of time wandering around the galleries together, and I spent a lot of time soaking in all the great stories he told. Here's one of them.

As we wandered through the Calder Jewelry exhibition, John saw the large photograph of Peggy Guggenheim wearing a pair of Calder earrings. He recalled that Peggy Guggenheim was a great fan of Calder and that in addition to all the jewelry she owned, she also commissioned Calder to make a bed headboard for her. This was very similar to the jewelry: made of twisted wire in abstract and animal shapes, with moving parts. It still exists and is on view at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, where it is exhibited in the room that used to be her bedroom.

What isn't usually part of the story told about the headboard, though, is that Peggy Guggenheim didn't like it. Why, one asks? Apparently, when things began to heat up in the bedroom (a not infrequent event if one believes the rumors about her love life), the headboard's movable metal parts created too much of a racket.

-John Marciari, Curator of European Art