Archive for the ‘General ‘Spoon’ Category
The brief e-mail came to the attention of one of the Weatherspoon’s education curators: someone’s friend had purchased two paintings from the Oak Ridge, NC Goodwill and discovered a Weatherspoon label on the back of one of them. A little research by the lucky purchaser showed that works by one of the artists, Ilya Bolotowsky, command upwards of $25,000. Did the Weatherspoon know anything about how this painting had ended up at Goodwill?
Suffice it to say, the e-mail sent museum staff into its own research mode. Was this really a Bolotowsky, and how did it end up with a Weatherspoon label on it?
My initial thoughts were that the work must have been part of a Weatherspoon fundraising event, from which artworks (not owned by the museum, but created or donated for the event) are purchased by ticket-holders. Or, perhaps it was in an exhibition at the Weatherspoon back in the day. But I definitely did not think it was some mistake, whereby an artwork of ours had escaped the building. Occasionally one hears horror stories of museums accidentally disposing of artworks, but I refused to believe that’s what had happened. I wanted to give our predecessors more credit than that.
Details came to us piecemeal: an image of the front of the canvas, a title (Vertical Diamond), its dimensions, and a label on the back indicating the purchase price was $5500 in 1979. Based on this information, I began to look through our records for events or exhibitions at that time. I discovered that Ilya Bolotowsky (American, b. Russia, 1907-1981) had been in six of the Weatherspoon’s Art on Paper exhibitions, including 1979. All works in Art on Paper are available for purchase, but only works on paper are included in those exhibitions and Vertical Diamond is a painting on canvas.
I looked at the listing of other exhibitions at the Weatherspoon in 1979. Greensboro Collectors was described as a show of “privately owned art works from collectors in and around the city” at the museum from March 25 to April 15, 1979 and included “paintings by Renoir, Corot, Pearlstein, and Bolotowsky.” I thought that had potential, so I went to the storage area where we keep our archived files, to dig around for information on this particular exhibition. Bingo! The painting, Vertical Diamond, was loaned by Burlington Industries to the Weatherspoon for the 1979 Greensboro Collectors show. I found the original loan form in the file, and all of the details matched – title, date of work, dimensions. (This is precisely why we registrars like to keep EVERY sheet of paperwork, ever!)
It was hard to contain my excitement: it seemed that some lucky person had the real deal! But still, how did a painting that was in the collection of Burlington Industries make it to a local thrift shop? Perhaps we’ll never know the painting’s exact itinerary; what is known is that when Burlington Industries filed for bankruptcy and then moved out of its headquarters building on Friendly Avenue in 2004, its collection of artwork was widely disseminated.
So, you’re curious: who made the Goodwill discovery, and what thoughts were running through his or her head at that time?
Well, according to lucky Beth Feeback, she was only at the thrift store to quickly find an extra layer of clothing or a blanket, to help her make it through an unseasonably chilly day of sitting outside, selling her own artwork at the annual spring art show hosted by Leanne Pizio in Oak Ridge. Halfway through the day, Beth jetted over to the Goodwill she had spotted earlier. She found a few items to keep her warm. And then…: “I spied these two HUGE square canvases in frames. I am always on the prowl for something to paint on or paint over. It helps the environment, and better yet, my pocketbook. I am forever buying prints or paintings at thrift stores and either adding to them – by, say, painting a cat head over Pinky’s and Blue Boy’s faces, or by putting a coat of primer on the picture and starting from scratch. I checked the price on these canvases and knew I had to have them at $9.99 each. You couldn’t buy a new canvas a fourth or fifth the size of these for that amount.
The lady at the counter helped me carry them to my beat-up minivan, and we had a hard time getting the larger one in. It was even worse at the end of the art show, packing our gear and pictures in around the two paintings. Before we packed up, I showed the paintings to some of the artists, and Leanne Pizio noticed that one had a label on the back of it indicating it was from the Weatherspoon Art Gallery at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She told me to be sure and do my research before painting over the pieces: ‘The Weatherspoon gets some big-name artists.’”
Beth says it took her a while to get around to researching the artist. When she looked up Ilya Bolotowsky online and saw auction records for his works, she became giddy. “In a perfect world,” she says, “I’d keep it, save it and retire off of it, but I think that will be for someone else of higher means than me.”
Beth has been in touch with Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York, who represents the deceased artist, and with Sotheby’s auction house. The painting is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in September, and in fact, has already made one more leg of its exciting journey, from North Carolina to New York, to await its auction date.
Although Vertical Diamond has left town, a similar painting can be found in the Weatherspoon Art Museum’s collection: Small Diamond.
Or, stop by your local Goodwill. Maybe you’ll get lucky, just like Beth…
Let us know if you do!
—Heather Moore, Registrar, Weatherspoon Art Museum
As many of you may know, WAM recently loaned Woman by Willem de Kooning (1949-1950, oil on canvas) to the Musem of Modern Art’s blockbuster exhibition de Kooning: A Retrospective (September 18, 2011–January 9, 2012). As is common among many museums lending artworks to exhibitions at other institutions, one condition of this loan was that a courier must accompany the artwork to and from the MoMA. The role of a courier is to ensure that an artwork travels safely to its destination, to monitor the unpacking and installation of the work, and to closely inspect the work’s condition to make sure that it has not been affected by the rigors of travel. The Registrars Committee of the American Association of Museums even has a “Code of Practice for Couriering Museum Objects.” I was pleased to serve as the courier for the return of the work but also a bit nervous, knowing the responsibilities it entailed. My worries manifested in concerns of slipping on an icy New York sidewalk and rendering myself unable to perform my courier duties.
Arrangements were made for me to fly to New York and report to MoMA following the close of the exhibition. After providing the proper credentials, I was escorted by the exhibition’s registrar into the gallery where Woman hung, surrounded by other works from de Kooning’s second Woman series. Our Woman more than held her own amongst the other ‘gals’. Crates were staged along the floor and I quickly recognized the crate for our painting standing nearby. A few other couriers were working in various areas of the gallery and overseeing their works being packed. I was assigned to one of the painting conservators working on the exhibition who, coincidentally, had examined Woman upon her arrival with Registrar Heather Moore back in August.
Together we closely examined the work, referencing the condition report created prior to the painting’s departure from the Weatherspoon. A condition report is a document containing images and detailed notes about the condition of a work (i.e. cracks in paint, marks, abrasions, etc.). After examining the painting and the frame we jointly concluded that there had been no changes to the condition of the work since its arrival at MoMA. I was happy to learn from the conservator that Woman was in good condition in relation to other de Kooning works from this time period. Once we were finished with the condition report a team of two preparators (museum professionals whose duties include handling and installing artwork) packed the work into its crate while I observed. The crate was custom designed by a fine arts crater to protect the work during travel. After Woman was packed securely in the crate I reviewed the schedule and arrangements with the MoMA staff for the next leg of Woman’s journey via fine arts shipper.
I reported back to the MoMA the next day to observe the crate being moved by the MoMA preparators through the museum and onto the fine art shipper’s awaiting vehicle. Trucks and vans used in fine arts shipping are typically outfitted with environmental controls (including temperature and humidity regulation), air ride and other security measures and are manned by two drivers. After the crate was loaded, strapped into place, and the doors to the vehicle secured, locked, and alarmed, I joined the two drivers as we set forth on our way back south.
The eleven hour ride home was fortunately fairly uneventful except for some very heavy rain in Virginia. As we drew closer to Greensboro I was in contact with WAM staff on the other end who were patiently awaiting our arrival. The painting was quickly and carefully offloaded and moved into our secure storage, where it remained crated for at least 24 hours to allow it to acclimatize. This is done so the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air and the microclimate existing in the crate slowly and gradually adjust so as not to cause any drastic changes that would cause damage to a work (i.e. a canvas expanding and contracting due to severe humidity changes). After the acclimatization period our preparators unpacked the work and it was examined again using the condition report. We were pleased and relieved to find that Woman had travelled safely to and from New York.
You’ll have a chance to welcome Woman home when she goes on view in Highlights of the Permanent Collection this fall.
Posted by Myra Scott, Assistant Registrar, Weatherspoon Art Museum
New article in the August 2011 issue of Our State magazine by Lorraine Ahearn.
“In 70 years of collecting modern art, the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro has become nationally known for selecting works of enduring value….”
Read more by linking to article.
MadMonk Interactive the Greensboro-based web design team who created the Weatherspoon Art Museum’s new interactive website recently received an Award for Excellence in the art website category during the 17th Annual Communicator Awards.
The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for Communications Professionals. Founded by communication professionals over a decade ago, The Communicator Awards receives over 9,000 entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world. The Award of Excellence, their highest honor, is given to those entries whose ability to communicate puts them among the best in the field.
Who is Behind the Communicator Awards?
The Communicator Awards is sanctioned and judged by the International Academy of the Visual Arts, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, communications, advertising, creative and marketing firms. IAVA members include executives from organizations such as Alloy, Brandweek, Coach, Disney, The Ellen Degeneres Show, Estee Lauder, Fry Hammond Barr, HBO, Monster.com, MTV, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Victoria’s Secret, Wired, and Yahoo!