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- 07/10/14--12:58: The Many Sides of Elmore Leonard at Anthology Film Archives
- 07/10/14--14:28: Dice Kayek's F/W 2014 Haute Couture
- 07/11/14--06:49: Introducing Artist Eli Keszler
- 07/11/14--08:41: Inside the Venet Foundation
- 07/11/14--12:36: Week in Review: From Saville to Beavers, Our Top Visual Arts Stories
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- 07/14/14--08:52: The Parrish Art Museum's Annual Midsummer Party - July 12, 2014
- 07/14/14--11:59: Edifice Complex: Architecture Leaps From Commodity to Collectible
- 07/14/14--13:47: The Art of Cognac Bottles
This is a new painting titled Better Living Through Windows. It is 16 feet long and its graphic forms come from a TrueType font called Marlett that was used from 1995 until recently by Microsoft to create user-interface icons. It’s part of a series of paintings I’ve been doing over the past three years revisiting the work of Roy Lichtenstein, mostly focusing on his late 1960s and early 1970s work. Pop art was long dead by then, and Lichtenstein spent a decade painting images that were intentionally minimalist, such as mirrors and sunsets. This was maybe his way of coping through a complex decade rife with academic wars and enveloped in waves of theory. I see many similarities between then and now—but mostly the utter absence of a dominant “ism”—as well as a sense of everything and nothing all happening at the same time. So my new paintings evoke 1970s Lichtenstein yet are built from code systems such as printing registration technologies, luggage-tag bar codes, and new fonts built for new systems, such as software coding. The works are a way of mirroring a seemingly evanescent present with a distinct patch of art history that shares much in common with the current moment.
Better Living Through Windows relates most to a 1965 painting called Modern Painting with Clef that I used to draw and redraw obsessively on my high school binder covers. I was maybe 13 or 14, so the painting was then not even a decade old—but I like that it offered a historical double whammy of both Pop art and Streamline Moderne works by Walter Dorwin Teague and Donald Deskey. And now, with this work, a tradition moves forward with another layer.
A version of this article appears in the June 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine.
Among the many plaudits published when the celebrated author Elmore Leonard passed away just short of a year ago was a list, printed in the New York Times in 2001, that laid out his 10 rules of writing. Terse and stripped of all pretense, it includes practical advice such as “avoid prologues” and, my favorite: “Never open a book with weather.” The list is a guide not to building up your prose but to chipping away at it until it’s “purged of all false qualities,” as the writer Martin Amis once described it.
Leonard, who wrote 49 novels over his long career as well as a smattering of short stories, was a towering presence in the crime genre, and his influence extended outside of the literary universe into the movies. Aside from the adaptations of his work — much of which can be seen in a retrospective of his film career at Anthology Film Archives, running July 10-27 — his minimalist narratives and rhythmically crisp dialogue became the defacto tenor of many a screenwriter, easy enough in its broad strokes to trace but difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce in its finest details.
The better known of Leonard’s crime novel adaptations — Steven Soderbergh’s delightful “Out of Sight,” or John Frankenheimer’s criminally underappreciated “52 Pick-Up” — will be presented in the series, along with some of the more obscure films, including “Pronto,” Jim McBride’s 1997 television adaptation of the novel of the same name (which would be the first screen appearance of a character named Raylan Givens, here played by James Le Gros, later embodied by Timothy Olyphant in FX’s still-running television show “Justified”).
The greatest appeal of the series is that it offers a chance to explore an earlier part of Leonard’s body of work, created before he turned his attention to rust-belt revenge yarns. Leonard began his writing career churning out pulpy Western novels and short stories, mostly, as he has said, because of their commercial appeal. There was a market for these kinds of stories and because of their popularity, a better chance at having them sold to Hollywood.
The best of these is Budd Boetticher’s “The Tall T,” based on a short story by Leonard called “The Captives.” A stark narrative about a hard-luck rancher who gets wrapped up in a kidnapping scheme, the film reverses the mythic formula of the Western — good guys and bad guys and the vast desert horizon — so that its definitions are more confusing and complex. The hero exists on the same plane as the villain, and the battle between the two is not who can draw their gun the quickest but who can outsmart the other.
The film has a rough-edged quality — a child is murdered within the first 20 minutes, almost offhandedly — that is very much the product of Boetticher, a former bull-fighter who came into filmmaking after acting as a horse wrangler on movies, hanging around the backlots, and working his way up the production ladder. His most famous films are the cycle of Westerns, all starring Randolph Scott, of which “The Tall T” is a piece. Each contain similar revenge narratives and in some ways act as critiques of the genre from within.
The sparse brutality of “The Tall T” would be echoed in much of Leonard’s later crime novels, which followed a similar formula of a man unwittingly pitted against forces that, in other circumstances, would be on the other side of the divide. And at the end of his career, with the introduction of the character of Raylan Givens over the course of several books and the television adaptation “Justified,” Elmore Leonard brought the two strands of his career together. It was no surprise that it worked so well.
“To call it an instrument is, in a sense, utopian, a fantastic thing,” says Eli Keszler, describing the massive outdoor installation he was creating in Katonah, New York, for the Caramoor Center for Music and Arts’s sound-art festival this summer. A fragment of one of these outsize works-in-progress that was in his Gowanus, Brooklyn, studio is an austere-looking contraption: a series of mechanical metal beaters mounted atop black platforms that anchor taut lengths of piano wire reaching to the ceiling. When powered up, the beaters activate according to a preprogrammed score, producing a clattering array of rich, industrial tones as they make contact with the wire.
The final work for Caramoor involves similar mechanisms mounted on trees, the wire reaching, Keszler claims, perhaps as far as a mile. “The idea of pushing something so far that it turns into something else is interesting to me,” he says. The Caramoor installation, which opened last month, is his largest undertaking yet—no small feat, considering that a project last summer involved 850-foot stretches of wire affixed to the Manhattan Bridge. These installations perform autonomously but also serve as sites at which Keszler and fellow musicians can perform, their strange mechanized syncopation adding another live voice to the ensemble.
Keszler trained as a percussionist at the New England Conservatory. Driven in part by exposure to the noise and experimental scene in Boston, he found himself pulling away from a more conservative, composition-based approach to music. “I wanted to push away from that temporal world, turn to something more energy-oriented, and something that had this internal clash with its own timing,” he says. “Initially, I thought that installation would frame the composition and add this antisocial element to the music. If you try to craft a narrative or a structure that has a satisfying musical feeling, sometimes the installation just destroys what you’re trying to do. It’s a difficult experience to perform, but you end up breaking away from patterns.”
Keszler’s own drumming toes a thin line between the tightly controlled and the entropic. (In addition to performances within his installations, he’s played extensively as a solo artist and in collaboration with the likes of Ashley Paul, C. Spencer Yeh, Loren Connors, and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and has released recordings with labels including Berlin’s PAN, Burlington, Vermont’s NNA Tapes, and his own REL records). On the 2010 composition Oxtirn, for example, he plays quickly, creating a frenetic wash of clattering sound that’s contrasted with an overlaid metallic drone, stretching the energy of the composition in another direction altogether. “In my drumming, the constant thing has been the idea of layering so many hits, so many sounds, that it turns into a mess,” Keszler explains. “Oftentimes, musically I find myself attracted to things that are so slow they seem fast and so fast they seem slow—when you have so many hits that they eventually turn into a long tone.” This sense of percussive density provides a point of entry to the third part of Keszler’s practice: his drawings, which, he says, are “really intuitive—they come from this compulsive space, from energy and a need to release.”
Reproductions of a handful of these works on paper were published in the artist book Neum, to accompany an installation of the same name at the South London Gallery in June 2013. L-Set, an ink, acrylic, and enamel on paper work, is an abstract mass of light lines, organic in their interlaced sprawl. Shading gives the mass dimension as well as a topographical feel; atop the wild density formed by these lines are inelegant, opaque strikes of black and yellow, recalling the tension in Oxtirn between Keszler’s lightning-fast drumming and the singular drones. Other drawings have the appearance of warped blueprints or musical scores, two-dimensional renderings, it seems, of the physical and sonic architecture Keszler employs elsewhere in his practice.
But while he does draw from the aerial blueprints of spaces in which he’s constructing sound installations, he’s quick to dispel the notion that his ink drawings serve as preliminary sketches for performances. Rather, he describes a sort of triangulation of conflicts, among installation, drawing, and music, between the visual and the aural. “The idea is not to center my practice around the installation but to go through different worlds,” he says. “The drawing, in a way, is solving the conflict I have with installation and music—not just thinking about sound.” Still, it demonstrates a step in how Keszler considers space, which is certainly significant to his practice, on both a practical and a conceptual level. His installations respond to architecture in a specific way, incorporating the acoustics and unique interior structure of a space, whether it’s the interior of a gallery like South London or Eyebeam or, more ambitiously, a construction like the Manhattan Bridge. His project for Caramoor is the first time he actually builds his own architectural framework in an otherwise open space. “I’ve always used buildings, and this piece is going to be in a very pristine natural environment,” he says. “I’ve had to think about it in different terms, but that contrast is really interesting to me: how you build these structures in an environment, and how they accent parts of the environment that maybe we just take for granted, or treat as a given. You don’t think about how industrial these materials are until they’re placed on top of outdoor land.”
What Keszler proposes is, maybe, a different kind of architecture—one that’s “less conceptual than psychological,” by his description: “The installation turns into something that has to do more with people than ideas—it’s really difficult to re-create chaos with a sort of theoretical detachment. Musically, I’m inspired by construction sites and the chaos of cities, as well as nature. To try and directly re-create that through sound is almost always a real failure, but I’m inspired by those structures.” What results is a social space not locked fully into the codes and practices of the often insular art or experimental music worlds, one whose sounds can be harsh but, through their dissonance, open up something new. His recollection of reactions to his brief Manhattan Bridge project brings to mind Richard Serra’s disruptive (and ultimately dismantled) 1981 public sculpture Tilted Arc: “You have random people walking by, and you’re basically intruding in their space,” Keszler surmises. “Especially with sound—it’s cathartic, and the sounds I make are really intense. People are confused, and they don’t know what’s going on. Maybe they’re just trying to go to work. That’s really exciting to me—even if they hate it—because you’re breaking up the rhythm of people’s lives. That’s a healthy thing to do.”
A version of this article appears in the May 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine.
— On Kawara Dead at 81: Japanese-born conceptual artist On Kawara died yesterday at 81. News first came by way of Frieze Magazine’s Twitter account, and was confirmed with an announcement by David Zwirner Gallery on its website. The artist was internationally known for his meticulous date paintings that chronicled each day of his life, and a large-scale retrospective of his work is planned to open at the Guggenheim on February 8, 2015. [David Zwirner Gallery]
— “Diana” Returns to Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s iconic statue “Diana” has returned after a yearlong restoration process to regild the artwork. The statue’s green copper body has been exposed for 80 years until a gift of $200,000 from Bank of America gave the museum the funds they needed for the project. Once again overlooking the Great Stair Hall, the statue has a new, more muted golden coat that is similar — but not identical — to the shiny plating that originally covered in it 1893. [Philly.com]
— National Gallery Names Modern Art Curator: Lynne Cooke has been named senior curator of special projects for the National Gallery of Art, beginning next month. Cooke previously served as a professor at the NGA’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, deputy director and chief curator at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and a curator at the Dia Art Foundation. While at the NGA, she has been working to organize an exhibition about the relationship between formally taught and self-taught artists in the US during the 20th and 21st centuries. [WashPo]
— Elon Musk Gives $1 Million to Tesla Museum: A tweet from cartoonist Matthew Inman, who has led a fundraising campaign for the Tesla Science Center, to Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, prompted the billionaire to pledge $1 million to the new museum. [TIME]
— Iraq’s Antiquities in Danger: Christopher Dickey of the Daily Beast spoke to NPR about how the current crisis with ISIS in Iraq is affecting museum antiquities and archaeological sites in the country. [NPR]
— Sotheby’s to Sell World Famous Watch: Sotheby’s plans to sell the Henry Graves Supercomplication, the most famous and complicated watch in the world, in Geneva on November 14. [Art Daily]
— An audit of 1,218 museums by the French government has revealed many are in danger from improper storage and inadequate protection from theft. [Hyperallergic]
— The Victoria and Albert Museum has launched a campaign to raise £5 million to buy four bronze angels whose history is tied to Henry VIII and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. [Guardian]
— Instagram is proving a real player in online art selling. [Vogue]
ALSO ON ARTINFO
Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.
— Scott Indrisek rounded up 10 must-see summer group shows.
— Martin Gayford reviewed Jenny Saville’s sensual Gagosian exhibition in London.
— Amanda Coulson — director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and the VOLTA art fair — talked about curating and Caribbean stereotypes.
— Scott Indrisek profiled painter Gina Beavers, who uses social media as inspiration.
— Martin Gayford covered “The Human Factor” at the Hayward Gallery.
— Anna Kats talked to architecture curator Joanna Warsza about curating between East and West.
— Scott Indrisek’s Studio Tracks series featured a playlist from artist duo Faile.
This Week's VIDEOS:
BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY — It’s all about having fun at Art Market Hamptons. The Brooklyn-based art fair returns to the Bridgehampton Historical Society for its fourth season, boasting a boutique selection of 40 modern and contemporary galleries, while throwing in a little Brooklyn flair with a summer soiree of food truck vendors like Red Hook Lobster Pound and jazz performances curated by Manhattan’s members-only club, Norwood.
Highlights from this year’s fair include Manhattan-based FREIGHT + VOLUME, who brought artists RÖMER + RÖMER and Damian Stamer, and East Hampton’s Eric Firestone Gallery, showcasing works by BÄST and Henry Chalfant. Returning galleries like Galerie Mourlot also brought in exquisite blue chip works by Pablo Picasso and Adolph Gottlieb.
Read more about Hamptons Art Week HERE.
Art Market Hamptons is open now until July 13 at Bridgehampton Historical Society, 2368 Montauk Hwy, Bridgehampton, NY.
— Sotheby’s Partners With eBay: Sotheby’s and eBay announced today a partnership to stream the auction house’s sales live on a new, dedicated section of the online marketplace. Sotheby’s also plans to expand and add online-only themed and time-based sales in the future. The partnership will provide 145 million eBay customers with bidding access to Sotheby’s sales in 18 categories. [NYT, Art Market Monitor]
— Hirst Refuses Sale of Early Spot Painting: Spot painter Damien Hirst is refusing to let his 1988 painting “Bombay Mix,” made for Jamie Ritblat and painted directly on the wallpaper of her house in London, to be sold by the house’s new owner, Jess Simpson. Simpson recently removed and framed the painting and offered it to both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Hirst’s company, Science Ltd, said in a statement, “The ownership of a wall painting in the series titled Wall Spots always resides with the owner of the Wall Spots signed certificate, which accompanies the art work.” [BBC]
— Cape Town’s New Contemporary African Art Museum: A $50 million project to convert 42 colonial grain silos into the biggest museum of contemporary art from Africa is underway in Cape Town, South Africa, thanks to an international team of art experts and architects. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa’s permanent collection — which will fill its 80 galleries along with temporary and travelling exhibitions — comes from the Zeitz Collection, founded in 2002 and currently held and shown in Switzerland, Spain, South Africa, the United States, and Kenya. British architect Thomas Heatherwick, best known for his Olympic cauldron for the 2012 London Games, will build the museum. [Ahram]
— Google Gives MOCA Visitors Wrong Info: Incorrect information about MOCA’s hours, thanks to a complex search algorithm on Google, is misleading museumgoers to visit on days when the institution is closed. [LAT]
— Spain Urged to Return Nazi Loot: Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, issued a statement Friday asking the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid to cease its legal fight to keep a Nazi-looted painting by Camille Pissarro. [Jewish Daily Forward]
— The Problems With Beaux-Arts Museums: Justin Davidson has penned a piece for Vulture examining why Beaux-Arts museums face difficulties and public opposition when expanding. [Vulture]
— Wax museums like Madame Tussauds are growing more popular than ever in the age of the selfie. [Globe and Mail]
— Gilbert & George will be hosting a live Q&A on Tuesday, July 15, on the Guardian to promote their new show at London’s White Cube. [Guardian]
— “Heart Rocks” are the most popular item at the 9/11 Museum’s gift shop, and they are selling out faster than Georgia artist Red Sandlin can make them. [NYPost]
ALSO ON ARTINFO
Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.
A highly unusual panel discussion was held in New York last winter to analyze the Museum of Modern Art’s decision to raze the former home of the critically revered American Folk Art Museum building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, to make way for a MoMA expansion. At the much buzzed-about meeting, organized by the Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, and the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, MoMA director Glenn Lowry made his position clear. “Architecture is different from painting and sculpture,” he reportedly told the captivated audience. “We don’t collect buildings and we don’t collect them for a reason.”
Lowry’s remarks came in stark contrast to a decision announced by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, just weeks earlier. In response to the danger the Millstone River’s continually breached banks posed to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman Wilson House in Millstone, New Jersey, an exceptional 1954 example of the architect’s important Usonian houses, the museum acquired the property for an undisclosed sum with the intention of disassembling and shipping its constituent parts to be rebuilt and displayed on the museum’s 120-acre campus in the Ozark Mountains. The announcement, which emphasized museum founder Alice Walton’s mission to preserve and honor American art in all its forms, drew praise from Chicago’s Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, which commended the museum for its dedication to architectural stewardship.
The Bachman Wilson House’s previous owners, architects Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino, understood that relocating the building was essential to its ultimate preservation—the overflowing river near the property had already caused damage to the wood structure. After placing the home for sale on the open real estate market and failing to draw a preservation-minded buyer, the Tarantinos approached Crystal Bridges. Even though the museum had never planned to start an architecture collection, “it was an opportunity to save a very important, historic architectural statement,” explains Rod Bigelow, executive director of Crystal Bridges. “How could we resist?”
Although this particular sale was complicated by the home’s condition, which drove potential competing buyers away from the property, the Crystal Bridges acquisition reflects an increasingly popular attitude toward architecturally significant homes among private collectors. Such buyers now see that historic homes can be collected, preserved, and appreciated much like fine art.
As more art collectors set their sights on major works of 20th-century architecture, auctioneers have followed suit. Important homes designed by prestige architects are now occasionally sold by auction houses better known for their fine art and high-design sales, such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Wright of Chicago and New York. These architectural lots are strikingly different from the foreclosed houses put up for auction at bargain prices, notes Richard Wright, founder and president of Wright.
“I think that auction houses, my own included, are very good at celebrating the historical qualities and the historical value of these properties and helping to generate, in some cases, international interest for the bidding,” says Wright. Although the higher fees associated with auctions mean this route is viable only for the most significant properties, “elevating them into the art market,” explains Wright, sends a signal “that there are signature works of architecture that should trade beyond their local value.” Moreover, the higher profile of an auction sale draws a wider audience—and preservation-minded buyers. Wright’s own experience selling Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #21, one of the architect’s famed Minimalist steel-and-glass boxes perfectly perched in the hills overlooking the Los Angeles city vista, offers a case in point. Preserved by the owner and revered in the public eye, the home and all its contents sold to a South Korean art collector in December 2008 for $3,185,600, the second-highest price ever achieved for a work of modernist architecture at auction.
The Farnsworth House, Mies van der Rohe’s singular all-glass residence, achieved the record high price for a work of architecture at auction in December 2003. Designed as a weekend retreat for Edith Farnsworth and finished in 1951, the building, near Plano, Illinois, was painstakingly restored by then owner and noted architecture collector Peter Palumbo. The structure sold for $7.5 million at a 20th- century design sale at Sotheby’s New York, surpassing its preauction estimate of $4.5 million to $6 million due to its preeminent role in the history of modern architecture, its fine condition, and the unorthodox approach Sotheby’s took to selling the house.
“That was, in fact, a joint effort between Sotheby’s International Realty and Sotheby’s auction house, and was unusual because generally, real estate is sold by the real-estate division,” explains J. Roger Erickson, senior global real estate adviser and associate broker at Sotheby’s International Realty. Speculation that a collector planned to purchase the home and move it to another state drove the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois to launch a campaign to raise funds for its purchase. The joint efforts of the Sotheby’s auction and real estate divisions elevated the sale’s public profile, which in turn fueled contributions that ensured the fund-raiser’s success. The preservationist team beat a competing bidder for the property, turning Farnsworth House into one of the most beloved house-museums in North America.
The May 2008 sale of Richard Neutra’s 1946 Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs, however, illustrates the potential pitfalls of selling a historic residence at auction. Preservationist couple Beth and Brent Harris acquired the home in 1993 for $1.5 million after it had been alternately unoccupied and poorly renovated by previous owners. The Harrises invested a rumored seven figures in period-accurate renovations, hiring noted Santa Monica firm Marmol Radziner to source materials from Neutra’s original suppliers, and even mine stone from the same Utah quarry from which the original chimney and walls had come. The couple put the home up for sale shortly after they divorced. The twist? The house was entered in a banner sale of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, the first time a building was included in such a high-profile art context. It sold for $16.8 million—more than three times the asking price of comparable Palm Springs properties at the time—but the deal failed to clear escrow for reasons that were never made public. Although the Kaufmann House later sold via a real estate broker for $15 million to a buyer who is dedicated to preserving it, the house’s failure at auction serves as a reminder that historic homes are not merely art objects.
The expected sale of a 1953 Edward Durrell Stone-designed house in Darien, Connecticut, currently on the market for$1.6million, is mired in concerns about the structure’s future. By today’s standards the 2,334-square-foot house is small for its 1.1-acre plot of land; midcentury modernist architects like Stone often placed smaller-scale homes on large lots to emphasize the relationship between house and nature. Homes on the real estate market have an extremely limited buyer base if they come with preservation clauses, and there are no stipulations in place to ensure that the Stone residence won’t be disfigured by new owners—or even razed. The destruction of lesser-known historic properties has become increasingly commonplace when houses are acquired by owners who fail to appreciate a building’s full historic significance. Indeed, the Stone home in Darien may face the same fate if a conscientious steward doesn’t come forward to purchase it. The Architects’ Newspaper reported in late 2013 that a real estate developer has designs on the property for the purpose of building a neocolonial pastiche on its lush grounds.
Homes classified as historic landmarks typically face less of a threat. Frank Lloyd Wright’s William Winslow House in River Forest, Illinois—his first independent commission, circa 1893—has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970 and is up for sale for the first time since 1955. Listed in December 2013 for $2.4 million, the 5,000-square-foot edifice features built-in dining room benches, a wide foyer that testifies to Wright’s early experimentation with horizontality, and preservation clauses that require an owner to seek official approval from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation before making changes. Those requirements do not tend to bother the kind of buyer who intends to care for the residence, explains Kathy Coumou, a senior vice president at Christie’s International Realty. “People love the story behind a historic home and love to own a piece of that narrative,” she explains.
That’s not to say there aren’t unique concerns on top of the common challenges that come with purchasing any piece of real estate. “The people who are going to buy historically significant homes want to take care of the residence and preserve it in a historic way,” says Wright. “But, of course, there are all the pedestrian concerns: What are the real estate taxes? What are the local zoning laws?” Fine art collectors need not seek approval from municipal bureaucrats to cultivate their properties. But the difficulties—and the joys—of purchasing and owning historic architecture often stem from the essentially public quality of all architecture. Ultimately, dedicated preservationists work both for themselves and for the larger community. Conscientious proprietors guard architecture that both belongs to the owner and exists within the cultural patrimony.
Aby Rosen, cofounder and principal of RFR Holding in New York, knows firsthand the pleasures and pitfalls of collecting historic buildings. The prolific real estate developer owns some of the most important pieces of 20th-century architecture in the United States, including New York’s 1958 Seagram Building, designed by the two most important names in postwar architecture, Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. At the Midtown Manhattan landmark, Rosen is attempting to effect a change many observers believe is too extensive: the removal of Picasso’s painted curtain Le Tricorne, 1919, from the first-floor Four Seasons restaurant. The artwork, many feel, is part of the building’s historic interior—it has hung there since the restaurant opened in 1959—and a judge temporarily barred Rosen’s company from relocating the tapestry in early February. With the entire building listed as a historic landmark, there’s little RFR can do for now to overturn the judgment. Rosen, however, remains dedicated to preserving historic architecture as he sees fit. “People want to rip things down and rebuild,” explains the developer, “but the connoisseur is the one who wants to take what’s there and wants to find a way to make it livable in the 21st century.” It’s an attitude with which MoMA’s Lowry would likely agree. Whether stemming from the standpoint of a collector-connoisseur or a preservationist, such opportunities—and purchases— are on the rise.
Rosen, also a Durrell Stone devotee, purchased Stone’s 1938 A. Conger Goodyear House in Old Westbury, New York, for $3.4 million in 2011 and gave it a thorough restoration. Working with Steven Harris Architects and consulting with the World Monuments Fund, Rosen sought to “keep the spirit of the property alive,” he says, by researching and reviving the residence’s history. “I modernized the whole interior and kept all the original details and all the configurations. I changed a couple things around to make it more efficient on the inside, but I kept the structure and the integrity of the house.” Stewardship, Rosen believes, is a matter of preserving a property’s essential distinctiveness.
A version of this article appears in the May 2014 issue of Art+Auction magazine.