Monday, February 19, 2018

February Tweevenings: Bill Shipley Shares Stories About Art Collectors

February's Tweevenings speaker was Bill Shipley, Tweed Museum docent and lifelong artist who spent most of his career in the Big Apple, occasionally rubbing shoulders with some of the most famous artists of the past fifty years. His topic had to do with collecting art.

After being introduced by museum director Ken Bloom, Shipley prefaced his remarks with a little background on how the Tweed Museum came about.

George P. Tweed and his wife Alice were themselves art collectors. For three decades they collected art until he died 1946. In the 1950s Mrs. Tweed opened her home on Sundays to share the collection with the community. Eventually she developed the funding to build the museum, which opened in 1958, making the collection more accessible still.

In its early years Bill Boice guided the museum and began adding to the collection. The Sax brothers purchased work and added still more. Over time others contributed and today the Tweed maintains an extensive body of work.

By means of storytelling Shipley introduced us to different kinds of collectors.

Four Kinds of Collectors

1. Eugene Victor Thaw

"Lincoln in Dalivision" -- Dali
Born in 1927, Eugene Victor Thaw died just last month. Thaw was a major collector and art dealer. Every museum in country has a portion of their collection that passed through this man's hands. His master drawings went to the Morgan. After meeting Lee Krasner he eventually became the man who wrote the catalog on Jackson Pollock.

Thaw collected bronzes, French ceramics and was a major force in collecting world. When Georgia O'Keefe died he went to Southwest to evaluate her work, but then began collecting Native American work. He was on cusp of everything that was happening.

Though he started with little money he managed to amass a fortune, then gave it all away to the Fenimore Museum.

Shipley noted, "You don't need a lot of money to be a collector." The three things necessary to be a collector, he said, are an Eye, Education and Experience.

2. Dorothy & Herbert Vogel

The Vogels bought minimalist art. Tiny things, small, portable. Tthey talked to artists and collected artists who were working small. (In contrast to the massive Motherwells at the MoMA.) They were so into collecting that they got rid of all their furniture so they could have more room for art. They lived like monks.

Herbert died in 2012. When he died, it took five moving trucks to carry it all away, donated to the National Gallery in D.C. This gift was a work of art in itself because of the way they amassed it and kept it. Bill noted that he got to know them through his late partner.

3. Judith Rothschild

"Cervantes" -- Etching by Salvador Dali
Nanette and Herbert Rothschild were her parents. They built an amazing collection of European works. When the parents died she inherited it.

She liked to hang paintings in her apartment without identifying the artists. Her collection included Mondrian, Milton Avery, Brancusi sculptures…

Judith got zoning for a large glass structure atop her building. She never advertised her collection. An artist, too, she had a studio above Carnegie Hall. Metropolitan wanted her collection so badly, they gave her a show of her own paintings, with a lavish dinner opening… the best champagne, and all the rest. They pulled out all the stops. But the next day the NYTimes called it a scandal.

Judith used some of her money to set up a foundation to help under-recognized artists.

4. Hudson Walker 

"Three Angels Entertained by Abraham"
Marc Chagall
Walker separated himself from his grandfather, and collected American modernists. He gave his work to the University Gallery, which later became the Weisman (U of MN).

Shipley told a story about a controversial event involving a large Motherwell in his collection. Katherine Ordway bought the Motherwell and hung in the Kirby Center at UMD. Evidently it was too modern for some peoples' 1957 tastes because the students protested and were not going to attend graduation unless the Motherwell was taken down. (Student protests evidently didn't begin with the Viet Nam War.)

Hudson Walker modeled his collection after the Frick Collection. The Walker fortune came from lumber industry. An interesting trivia bit: some of the Walker collection was left hanging in his home even after it became a rental home.

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Art displayed on this page is from the Tweed show "Treasure From Home."

Do you collect art? There is plenty to go around. Enjoy it.

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