Thursday, 23 January 2014 16:57

Living with Art: The Legacy of an American Collector

Written by  Kerri VanderHoff
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Ed Ruscha, b. 1937. Give Him Anything and He’ll Sign It, 1965. Oil on canvas, 57 3/8 x 55 1Ž4 x 1 3Ž4 in. (145.7 x 140.3 x 4.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New york; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau. © Ed Ruscha, photograph courtesy of the artist. Ed Ruscha, b. 1937. Give Him Anything and He’ll Sign It, 1965. Oil on canvas, 57 3/8 x 55 1Ž4 x 1 3Ž4 in. (145.7 x 140.3 x 4.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New york; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau. © Ed Ruscha, photograph courtesy of the artist.

Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Feb. 2 -April 27
artmuseumgr.org, (616) 831-1000

A quote by Emily Fisher Landau provides a little insight into the mind and motivation of one of the preeminent collectors of post-war American art in the United States:

"Never stop learning. Never stop looking. Art is the greatest teacher."

An exhibition of works drawn from the Landau collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art is on view at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) this month. Landau began collecting art in the late 1960s, and has focused on contemporary American art since the early 1980s. She consistently supported risk-taking artists, who she believes "portray the world we are living in now."

"This [exhibition] features bold and often controversial works by 40 artists, including Keith Haring, Barbara Kruger, Andy Warhol and in-depth presentations by Ed Ruscha, Richard Artschwager and Jasper Johns," said GRAM Director and CEO, Dana Friis-Hansen.

The 80-work exhibition traces themes and ideas that have shaped art over the last several decades including abstraction, postmodernism, debates about representation and a revived interest in personal narratives.

This exhibition, formed by a passionate contemporary art collector, is a timely one for Grand Rapids; the topic of conversation among many in local art circles is about nurturing the growing public interest in original art. While Landau had the means to amass a remarkably large collection, the joys of art collecting can be experienced on a smaller scale as well.

Rick Beerhorst, a local artist whose work can be found in collections across the country, said people invest in art for different reasons, but the main one is often personal.

"They love art and want to live with it," he said, echoing the sentiments of Landau. "It enriches their environment where they live and where they work. Good art continues to make you ponder, and look, and think. It leads to a more meaningful existence. One that is thoughtful, inquisitive, always learning."

Richard App, whose Grand Rapids-based gallery is in its 21st year, has witnessed the cultural change over the years and a growing market for original, contemporary art.

"You buy what you like, but educate yourself on what you are getting," App said. "Being able to talk about what you own and sharing meaningful stories enhances the experience."

Galleries are a helpful place for new collectors to learn more about the works they are interested in; they can provide context about the history of the artist and the technique and themes involved. Landau included notable gallery owners such as Leo Castelli in her social circle, along with many of the artists themselves.

To learn more about Emily Fisher Landau's legacy and collecting American art, GRAM offers a variety of programming as well as an audio guide with commentary from Whitney Director Adam D. Weinberg, containing recorded interviews from many of the artists whose work is on view. Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection is a thought-provoking exhibition that complements the growing local interest in contemporary art.


OTHER ART EVENTS

Environmental Impact
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Feb. 22-May 4
kiarts.org, (269) 349-7775

This exhibition encourages heightened public consciousness about the intentional or unintentional consequences of environmental exploitation and neglect. The paintings, photographs and sculptures confront pressing issues, from land development to industrial-scale depletion of natural resources, from the Gulf oil spill to the dangers of nuclear energy, the destruction of the American landscape, and the impact of global warming.

Jack Hillman: Sculpture
Forest Hills Fine Arts Center
Feb. 5-26
fhfineartscenter.com, (616) 493-8965

Jack Hillman watches for patterns that occur naturally. With experiences gained as an industrial designer, graphic designer, environment designer and as a university design professor, Hillman began focusing full time on creating sculptures in 2002.

Committed to Paper: Master Drawings and Prints by Sculptors
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Through April 27
meijergardens.org, (616) 957-1580

Works on paper by sculptors are a critical and expansive part of the permanent collection at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. These drawings and prints, many with ties to the sculptures themselves, are a unique treasury of ideas and imagery. Included in the exhibition are preparatory drawings created in anticipation of works, and master drawings and prints completed as meditations after the works are completed. In addition, life studies and compositional sketches by leading Modern and Contemporary sculptors for whom works on paper are significant to their repertoire are also included.

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