Cover image for Tales from the art crypt : the painters, the museums, the curators, the collectors, the auctions, the art
Tales from the art crypt : the painters, the museums, the curators, the collectors, the auctions, the art
Feigen, Richard L., 1930-
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Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
Physical Description:
x, 296 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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N7460 .F454 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The influential art collector and dealer shares his stories of friends made in business--from Jasper Johns to Joseph Cornell--to the famous art historians, collectors, artists, and scholars who have crossed his path along the way.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Art collector and dealer Feigen, born in Chicago in 1930, began buying paintings at age 12, established a Chicago gallery in 1957, and then moved to New York and opened the first gallery in what became Soho. He has been an important force in the art world ever since, and he now shares his remarkable adventures in this collection of engagingly urbane reminiscences, frank revelations, and peppery commentary. Feigen tells dazzling stories about nefarious art deals, his discovery of a lost Poussin, and his efforts to help keep the Barnes Collection and the holdings of Gertrude Stein intact. But he is at his most commanding when he condemns the commercialization of museums and the hobbling of the National Endowment of the Arts and duns his hometown for its neglect of the great Chicago painter Ivan Albright. Feigen's captivating eloquence and unique insights into the perversities of the art world make this a provocative and salient work. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Veteran art dealer Feigen offers up some salty tales from his decades of wheeling and dealing in the vicious and malicious world of the international art market. Feigen represented a number of artists, notably Francis Bacon, before they were considered salable, let alone successful, and was present during some heavy-duty deals in recent decades. His short chapters read like occasional essays, presented without any special order or continuity and containing accounts of meetings with artists from Mir¢ to Matta that have the convincing ring of someone who delights in minutiae and idiosyncrasy. (Sometimes the negotiations are described in such detail that they'll confound those not themselves involved in running art galleries.) On the downside, Feigen has a weakness for some of the lesser art produced in Chicago (where he was born), and makes too confident pronouncements on complex attribution questions involving artists like Poussin. (Sometimes he seems to prefer asserting the scandalous over the provable, as when he claims that the Italian Renaissance artist Sodoma "possibly" had sex with a zooful of pet animals.) These are relatively minor points, however, considering Feigen's willingness to tell all (or much) of what he knows, and his clear and disarming manner of doing so. Given the vast smoke screens raised by legendary dealers like Duveen about their sometimes dubious activities, this frank, detailed account by a mover and shaker in today's booming art market is sure to be discussed over many a downtown dinner. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

New York$based art dealer Feigen offers an intimate and gossipy glimpse into the sometimes tawdry world of art. In his over 40-year career, Feigen mingled at the highest levels of the art world, buying from and selling to well-known collectors and major museums. In addition to the stories (some only now made public) behind the sales of individual works, Feigen digresses into fascinating portraits of some of the most influential collections of the last 50 years. These glimpses into the lives of such people as Rose and Morton Neumann, Mary and Leigh Block, and others bring to life the often-overlooked names on museum wall labels. Feigen also expresses his less-than-sanguine view of the museum world, asserting that commercialism and showmanship have surpassed connoisseurship as the requisite for directors and top curators. Recommended for collections with an interest in the art world."Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Despite the fact that Theo van Gogh had a remarkable and world-famous brother and Feigen does not, he and Feigen, though separated by a century, warrant having the books about them reviewed together, as both individuals share the salient characteristics of art dealer and art collector. Furthermore, each has sold the works of the Old Masters. They each had/have remarkably interesting, intriguing, fascinating lives. And what is most important and useful is that each book reveals a wealth of information that until now was either unknown or known only to a relatively small group. Theo is a catalog for an exhibition at the (Vincent) van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam; there are three major essays by museum staff on Theo's life, his work as a dealer, and his life as a collector. From 1881, he was manager of the Paris branch of Boussod, Valadon & Cie. (formerly Goupil & Cie.) at 19 Boulevard Montmartre, and knew, sold, and collected all the main contemporary artists of the day (e.g., Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Degas, Pissarro, Barbizon artists, Monet, Renoir, Redon, etc.). The exhibition and catalog are of further importance, as the Vincent van Gogh Museum owes its existence to Theo's efforts. The catalog also reproduces all the nearly 200 works in the exhibition--works he sold and owned, and nearly all in color. The catalog also includes a fine chronology, catalog, lenders, introduction, and foreword; well produced and reasonably priced, recommended for all collections of modern art. Feigen has been dealing with art since his childhood, including professionally for some 40 years; his work has been international, as his book amply attests. He has been involved with Poussin sales, the Barnes Foundation, portraits of Trumbull and Jefferson, and scores of Italian Old Masters. There are anecdotes here for all tastes. The book is predominantly about connoisseurship, and against much of what is driving museums today. Feigen states his views clearly; he laments conservation practices, blockbuster exhibitions, the selling of the museum. Some of this is wonderful: in "The War of the Museums," Feigen provides a sobering reflection on the current state of museology. Highly recommended. J. Weidman; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art



INTRODUCTION 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 in 1968 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. Excerpted from Tales from the Art Crypt: The Painters, the Museums, the Curators, the Collectors, the Auctions, the Art by Richard A. Feigen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 3
Detective Storiesp. 5
The Jefferson Portraitp. 31
Fresh Paint and Postage Stampsp. 35
Chicago, New York, and the Saving of Sohop. 39
The Storm Before the Calmp. 66
Dr. Barnes and the Devilp. 70
Rose and Morton Neumannp. 92
The War of the Museumsp. 107
Julien Levyp. 168
Artists' Vestalsp. 175
The Bute "Trumbull"p. 196
Baksheeshp. 205
The Power of the Pressp. 225
Mary and Leigh Blockp. 247
Gertrude Stein: The Inheritancep. 274
Notesp. 301