Archive for the ‘Collectors’ Category
I’ve just returned from London, a true crossroads of the world (to say the least) and a center for global markets of finance, commerce—and art. Like many visitors, I strolled parks and avenues, walked along the Thames, and took in several museums—from the National Gallery to the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain. Like many others involved with contemporary art, I attended Frieze and Frieze Masters. I also went to London galleries.
Collecting art, which was once the pursuit of a smaller population of people and a smaller number of museums, has become far more common. The exponential expansion of the art market, due to the broad digital distribution of images and information, as well as concentrations of wealth in emerging economies, has led to a true change in the way that people see and acquire art. Globalization of art (and all kinds of related information) has drawn many new people who may not have the same objectives as the traditional collector. The art fair is now a primary source for them.
The growth of the market is, of course, a welcome circumstance for artists, and it should be for art dealers. After all, it is the dealers who support the system more than any other group—an observation that was echoed in an interview with the organizer of the Frieze art fair, Matthew Slotover. This preeminent art fair, which began in 2003, gives global visitors the chance to see dozens of galleries under one roof (or tent, as the case may be) and the brilliant organizer sums it up by saying, “One of these reasons is that people have less time than they used to, so they’re generally people who work and travel a lot and they don’t have as much time to visit galleries as they used to, so art fairs are very convenient…”
On the other hand, however, one must recognize the value of galleries in the larger ecosystem. It’s a topic that was addressed eloquently in a recent op-ed piece written by Dorsey Waxter, president of the Art Dealers Association of America, published in the Blouin Art Info. I would suggest that anyone interested in art and art galleries read the article, and note the words of Ms. Waxter, “I have tried to imagine a world where there were no art dealers and galleries and what that would be like. Fortunately I cannot. All sectors of the art world are tied to one another, but it seems to me that galleries matter the most. Their impact on artists and their influence in the arts community is irreplaceable.”
Over the years, my gallery has taken on all sorts of guises, from exhibition space to lecture hall. But perhaps its most elegant makeover is when it becomes a private dining room. We’ve put together the menu, gone over the guest lists, and had the catering company plan the meal for dinners from 20 to 100 people. It’s a great way to get friends of the artists and the gallery’s supporters to gather in the space with the art.
The largest of these dinners was held in 2000, on the occasion of the Peter Voulkos show of bronzes, a massive and monumental group of work. I took the suggestion of my neighbor, Patricia Faure, and set the dinner up in her space—just to the east of the gallery. We had 100 guests—far more than originally planned, but a truly significant group of people who had known Peter during the previous five decades. As usual, the late Henry Hopkins (who had known Voulkos since the 1950s in Los Angeles as well as the 70s and 80s in San Francisco) served as the toastmaster. Guests ranging from Frank and Berta Gehry to Sid Felsen and Joni Weyl gathered to honor the legendary Voulkos.
Another dinner was just under 50 people, honoring artist Larry Bell in February, 2008. Larry was kind enough to talk about his show of new works on paper, and our guests were treated to a fabulous sit-down dinner. We had the honor of hosting the Director of MOCA, Jeremy Strick and his wife, as well as many of Larry’s oldest friends, including Stanley and Elyse Grinstein and John Mason. Among the others were collectors and curators, all seated in a refined and elegant setting amidst the luminous new collages.
More recently, we co-hosted a dinner honoring Ed Moses, during his 2010 exhibition. Ed invited some of his long-time friends, and we invited some of his long-term supporters. This time, the connections made at the dinner resulted in the placement of a Moses painting at a museum! For this event we moved the feast next door, but still the style remained—a kind of transformation of the gallery space into a small and intimate private restaurant. It’s that kind of personal experience, and sense of community, that makes the art world rewarding.
The sight of a big yellow school bus reminds me of field trips. From elementary school forward, growing up in South Pasadena, I went to many museums and galleries. These ranged from the Southwest Museum in nearby Highland Park to the old Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art.
Now I find myself on the other end of the story. Here at the gallery, we often host school groups, college students, and adult education classes. Some students are just kids, some are middle aged, and we’ve often hosted a van from a retirement home. We also provide (free of charge) lectures, artists’ talks, and exhibit walk-throughs. Many museum groups from out of town come to see our shows. We even coordinate tours for those groups.
Today we welcomed a class on “The Fine Art of Art Collecting” taught by Edward Goldman, a host of the show Art Talk, on KCRW. His dozen students got to spend quite some time looking closely at our show of new work by Jennifer Lee, while learning about her background and artistic process.
Another example of the educational nature of the gallery is the short lecture given by Robert Singer in February, at the opening reception for Sugimoto Sadamitsu’s exhibition. Mr. Singer is a well-known expert in Japanese ceramics, and his knowledge was extremely helpful in explaining the subtleties of the shigaraki and iga styles in which Sugimoto-sensei works.
Galleries provide a much-needed educational resource, and many teachers and professors use the gallery as a teaching venue. We welcome the visits from USC, UCLA, Loyola, Santa Monica City College, Crossroads, and dozens of other schools. Our artists are also on the faculties of several major universities, including UCLA and Cal Berkeley.
Here at the gallery, we really believe in the value of an education that includes the fine arts. I’m happy that, through the gallery, I’m able to make this kind of experience and knowledge accessible to the general public.
by Diane Factor
The drape, cut, feel of a fine suit
The brim, fit, weight of a perfect hat
The taste of butter, salt and milk in mashed potatoes
The chewed, moistened, odor of a good cigar
The lines, smell, leather of a classic car
The soft velvet ears, of dogs and horses
The bold, original, penetration of a jazz riff
The drip, ooze, guts of strong painting
The sweetness, balm, elegance of a poem
The subtlety, surprise, nuance, of an off color joke
The relief, breathless, joy of an unmuted laugh
The patience, feedback, leveling, of a long talk
The planted, soft, so there, of a good bye kiss
The warm, swollen grip of an old hand
The forgiving, honest, love of a father
The beautiful, proud manner of a man
The simple, peaceful way of letting go.
Monte Factor, who established the longest-running business in Beverly Hills and was, with his wife Betty, a significant collector of contemporary art, has died at the age of 94. Factor was a member of the formative group of Los Angeles business owners and art patrons that emerged in the post-WWII era in Southern California. He died simply and peacefully at 3:30 am Monday morning at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, according to his daughter Diane.
As a young man, he left UCLA to raise money to pay for his mother’s cancer treatment, taking an entry-level job at Schwab’s in Hollywood. Factor then apprenticed himself to the clothing business, and took pride in knowing the thread count for every shirt, as well as the Italian suppliers of the wool used in every suit. Hollywood agents also had accounts with Factor, and would send aspiring young actors to the store for a wardrobe.
Monte Montefiore Factor was born in St Louis in 1917, the son of Nathan Factor, a Polish immigrant and the brother of Max Factor, the makeup entrepreneur. The family moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s. He served in the Navy during WWII as a lieutenant on a sub-chaser, and participated in the Normandy invasion. Monte became a life-long pacifist after this experience. In 1945 he married Betty Berch. Together they started a men’s clothing business in 1947, Monte Factor Ltd, which operated in Beverly Hills for over 40 years and had a clientele that included many Jewish movie stars and gangsters, including the Marx brothers and Mickey Cohen. The store was a full-service men’s haberdashery with a barbershop and bookie upstairs. It was one of the few stores in Beverly Hills that closed to support the Vietnam War Moratorium.
During the 1950s, Monte and his wife Betty became active in liberal politics, and it was through that association the couple became acquainted with many artists. The curator Walter Hopps introduced Monte and Betty to the LA art scene, and they were involved with the Ferus Gallery, becoming life-long friends with Walter and Ed Kienholz. Monte often traded men’s clothes for art works, developing close friendships with many of the artists.
Early patrons of the Ferus gallery, the Factors became part of the strong early support group that Walter Hopps and Henry Hopkins cultivated, along with Betty and Leonard Asher, Fred and Marcia Weisman, Gifford and Joanne Phillips, Elyse and Stanley Grinstein, Richard and Dee Sherwood and others. His family’s collection included works by Edward and Nancy Kienholz, George Herms, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, Peter Voulkos, Ed Moses, Lyn Foulkes, Wallace Berman, John Altoon, Richard Jackson, Ed Bereal, Emerson Woelffer, Hassel Smith, Mark DiSuvero, Tony Smith, Jean Tinguely, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Price and many others.
An early purchase was a painting on paper by sculptor David Smith, and as time went on the Factors became major patrons of the work of Ed Kienholz. Back in the early 1960s, as Factor recalled, the couple scraped up a small amount of cash—as well as some clothes and an old boat—to buy a work from the artist, who was to become a close friend of the family. Some years later they purchased the still relatively unknown artist’s piece, “The Illegal Operation”, a powerful and important piece (later characterized by the L.A. Times as “an indictment of back-street abortion”) that was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008.
“This was one of the most important postwar sculptures in L.A., and it really belonged at the museum,” said Stephanie Barron, LACMA’s senior curator of modern art at the time, in an interview with Times art writer Suzanne Muchnic.
For the Factors, the piece had resonance as a work of art. “It was the most deeply affecting work of art I had ever seen,” recalled Monte Factor in the same article. “It struck very deep into me. Ed once told me that if he ever made a piece of art, that was it. It worked as a drawing, as a sculpture, even the colors. For me it was also the extreme underside of beauty.”
The Factors were engaged in political and social projects. Together with his wife Betty, who passed away in April of 2006, Factor established a non-profit organization, the Mar Vista Family Center near the Mar Vista Gardens housing project. The center came to be seen as a national model for early childhood development. Also in 1984, he founded the End Hunger Network with Brenda Eddy and Jeff Bridges.
Monte was a walking encyclopedia of jazz music, contemporary art, and political and social ethics. He was known for his great sense of humor and loved engaging, supporting and learning from everyone he met. He leaves a large community of friends and family, including his four children, and five grandchildren. The family requests that donations may be made to the Mar Vista Family Center, in honor of Betty and Monte Factor. Memorial plans will be private.
—-written by Frank Lloyd, Lawrence Weschler, and Diane and Tom Factor
Ridiculous repeated stereotypes can lead to embedded mythology. Someone recently remarked that Craig Kauffman’s work, like many L.A. artists’, “was never accepted in New York.” My response was something like, “Are you kidding me?” Here’s a short list of the Gotham tastemakers who acquired Kauffman’s work, from just 1965 to 1969: Philip Johnson (a 1965 red and green painting on formed plastic), Frank Stella (a small 1964 formed acrylic painting), Kynaston McShine (legendary curator acquired 2 works for the collection of MoMA, 1965 and 1969), Donald Judd (owned a transparent orange formed plastic wall relief), and Jean and Howard Lipman (a 1967 acquisition for the Whitney Museum, when Lipman was on the Board of Trustees, and Jean was the editor of Art in America). Now, seriously, that would be an impressive group, even for a major New York painter! (Image at left is Philip Johnson, by photographer Arnold Newman, for Look magazine, 1967)
Still not convinced? Then, how about the exhibitions at Pace Gallery–-5 at Pace, a group show in 1965, then four solo shows for Kauffman in 1967, 1969, 1970, and 1972? Maybe Craig’s fame would be more obvious when viewing the cover of Art in America, from 1966. At any rate, recognition is now returning in the form of articles and market prices, which are rising rapidly. That’s one of the subjects of a recent article in Art and Auction, by Eric Bryant. He includes a bit of commentary from another writer: “This myth has developed that it was all about car finishes and surfing,” says Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, an art critic and the author of the recent book Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s. “But East Coast artists like Donald Judd and Robert Morris were making visits to see the latest work, and the artists really were engaged with the theoretical framework of Minimalism.”
It’s also a part of the history of the Whitney Museum of American Art, that in 1987 Richard Armstrong (now Director of the Guggenheim) curated a survey of Kauffman’s work, titled Wall Reliefs from the Late 1960s. In the catalogue essay, Armstrong noted that by the late 1960s Kauffman’s work “had reached an apogee of severe but allusive abstraction.”
I’ve been thinking about doing a series of posts about Los Angeles collections. Does everyone know who the supporters of the L.A. art world were in the early days? It’s a huge part of the Pacific Standard Time history, and is addressed in the first chapter of the Getty’s publication (just issued). Local support is chronicled by authors Rebecca Pebody, Andrew Perchuk, Glenn Phillips, and Rani Singh. They rightfully cite the efforts of Galka Scheyer, who championed the Blue Four (Lyonel Feininger, Alexi Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, and–my favorite since childhood–Paul Klee). Moving forward, the authors also recount the great, devoted collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg (they had as a friend and advisor none other than Marcel Duchamp). It’s just the start of a long story of serious collecting in Los Angeles.
But my thought was to chronicle the many collectors of the burgeoning L.A. scene in the 1960s and beyond. Contrary to the erroneous mythology, there were many, especially those cultivated by Henry T. Hopkins and Walter Hopps in their private classes. One of those was, of course, the Weisman collection. Now known as the Weisman Art Foundation, it’s a treasure trove of great modern and contemporary art, and the Foundation does shows each year throughout the world, often lending to major museums. Take, for instance, the loan of DeKooning’s Pink Angels to the current (and highly praised) retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.
Fortunately for me, William Poundstone has already done a superb job of writing a post about the Weisman Foundation on his blog, Los Angeles County Museum on Fire. There you’ll see photos of the interior of the house and collection. I’ve often taken museum and collector groups to the Weisman Foundation. Though it does require some logistics, it’s well worth it. An easy way to see a selection of works (this one just by California artists) is to head out to the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, on the campus of Pepperdine University. There’s a great exhibition of works on view until December 4th. As you might imagine, one of the star pieces in the show is Craig Kauffman’s Yellow-Blue, from 1965, a superb example of Kauffman’s work.