Magda Salvesen and Diane Cousineau (eds). New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press, 2005
Magda Salvesen, who lives in New York, is the widow of the Expressionist painter Jon Schueler. When he died in 1992, it took her some time to accept that her role had been redefined by fate. Fully engaged in her own academic career as an art and garden historian, Magda realised that she had to become the primary 'curator' of Jon's work outside museums, and she has skillfully balanced both roles. In Artists' Estates, Magda and her Co-Editor, Diane Cousineau, with great dedication and objectivity, have opted to present a whole range of artists' estates for consideration rather than focusing on the specifics of Jon Schueler's example.
Magda Salvesen relates how meeting Betsy Zogbaum at the 1995 Franz Kline show at the Whitney Museum of American Art acted as a catalyst for her project. Betsy's vivid, though somewhat confused, recollections of her intimate relationship with Kline made her aware of how important it was to tape such narratives before it was too late. From artists' companions and widows, gradually, her scope spread to the children of deceased artists, and then to dealers and other art professionals.
The book records various routes that artists and their legatees pursue as they try to organise their estates. It reveals the intricate ways in which dealers such as Leo Castelli (who had been Schueler's dealer at a crucial stage) promote their artists. The description of the inner workings involved in the forging of Barnett Newman's legacy and Robert Motherwell's refusal to grant his widow, Renate Ponsold, a role in the managing of his estate, are sobering. Fairfield Porter's widow, Anne, emerges as a thoroughly generous figure, despite being obliged to pay far more tax than seems just.
The text leads on the tribulations of the Rothko estate through the interview with the artist's children, Kate and Christopher. It also highlights the remarkable achievement of Jeffrey Bergen in safeguarding and raising the value of the Romare Bearden estate, while simultaneously fulfilling the artist's broader, philanthropic intentions of increasing American awareness of Negro art.
This is indeed a remarkable work (one is tempted to say a labour of love) in which a scholarly objectivity has been continually sustained while presenting this world of saints and sinners. The book has been assiduously researched, and Salvesen has been ingenious at steering a path through the potential legal minefield that such a subject entails.
Whether in the United States or Europe, amazingly little has been written to assist the whole class of artists' beneficiaries. Most artists remain innocent of the inherent risks involved in failing to itemise their work for posterity. There is virtually nothing in print in Britain on such matters. The situation is changing, however, with the increased value of art itself. But maybe not fast enough. This work by Magda Salvesen and Diane Cousineau points the way, providing a model of perfect form for future contributors.
Home and Garden: Paintings and Drawings of English Middle Class Urban Domestic Space 1914 to the present
On 20 February 2007, a remarkable exhibition opened at the Geffrye Museum in East London, accompanied by an excellently researched and produced catalogue. This venture is as rigorously defined by the curators as its title implies, but to the proverbial 'visitor from Mars' it provides a superbly informative and revealing investigation, anthropological in its scope and yet rich in contemporary art.
Francis Bacon in the 1950s
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts seems like a fitting starting point for this fascinating touring exhibition. During the early part of Francis Bacon's career, the collectors Robert and Lisa Sainsbury provided crucial support to the artist as friends, patrons and, eventually, as financial guarantors, and the 13 works that they purchased in the 1950s provide a valuable foundation for this show, which sheds new light on the development of the painter's practice.
Mediators and Messengers: Contemporary Art in the Landscape
The entire agenda for painting about landscape has shifted in the 21st century. Concepts and readings of the land have a weighty and protracted precedence but in the 1970s, far-reaching revisions were explored by artists. These have generated a powerful volume of new work by painters, and installation and land artists.
Pierre Soulages did not begin with giant monochromes, but with smaller works, in which the play of intersecting black brushstrokes over white or yellow grounds yielded a look approaching oriental calligraphy (and in the past resulted in rather superficial comparisons with Franz Kline).
Book review: Photo Art: The New World of Photography
This work, which originated with the Cologne publisher DuMont Buchverlag in 2007, is an invaluable aid to historians of contemporary art and photography. Some 120 international artists who have helped to define the parameters of photography are included, backed up on average with four pages each of high-resolution reproduction. One might, as many will, question the selection, but this is an inevitable response in a field where every enthusiast has his or her own choices.