Artists Foundations: curator Stacey Gershon of the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust shares her expertise

by leslierankowfinearts

STACEY GERSHON Curator, Hans Hofmann Trust

STACEY GERSHON
Curator, Hans Hofmann Trust

HANS HOFMANN COMMANDS SIGNIFICANT RESPECT AS A POST-WORLD WAR II PAINTER IN THE ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST MOVEMENT OF AMERICAN ART AND AN INSPIRED TEACHER AND INFLUENCE ON GENERATIONS OF ARTISTS TO FOLLOW. IN 1996, THE RENATE, HANS AND MARIA HOFMANN TRUST WAS CREATED UNDER THE WILL OF RENATE HOFMANN, HIS WIDOW. ONE OF ITS PRIMARY PURPOSES IS TO ENCOURAGE THE STUDY AND UNDERSTANDING OF HANS HOFMANN’S EXCEPTIONAL LIFE, WORK AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE ART OF HIS TIME. THE TRUST SEEKS TO ACCOMPLISH THIS BY SUPPORTING EXHIBITIONS, PUBLICATIONS, EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAM THAT FOCUS ON THE ARTIST.

Laburnum, 1954, Oil on linen, 40 x 50 inches (101.6 x 127 cm) Private collection, Photography courtesy of Tom Powel Imaging

Laburnum, 1954, Oil on linen, 40 x 50 inches (101.6 x 127 cm)
Private collection, Photography courtesy of Tom Powel Imaging

IN RECENT DECADES, MANY ARTISTS  WHO HAVE ENJOYED CONSIDERABLE COMMERCIAL AND CRITICAL SUCCESS DURING THEIR LIFETIMES GIVE SERIOUS CONSIDERATION TO THE LEGACY OF THEIR WORK AND TO THEIR ESTATES.  TO SAFEGUARD THEIR ARCHIVAL HISTORY AND BODY OF WORK AND TO REALIZE PHILANTHROPIC GOALS, ARTISTS ESTABLISH FOUNDATIONS THAT PRODUCE CATALOGUE RAISONNES OF THEIR COMPLETE OEUVRE, CURATE EXHIBITIONS, ARRANGE LOANS AND ENDOW GRANTS TO SUPPORT OTHER ARTISTS AND PHILANTHROPIC INTERESTS.  IN 2000, THE COUNCIL OF ARTISTS FOUNDATIONS WAS ESTABLISHED TO NETWORK AND SHARE IDEAS IN THIS FIELD AND IN NOVEMBER 2010, CHRISTINE VINCENT PUBLISHED A COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF THE ARTIST AS  PHILANTHROPIST.  VINCENT’S STUDY TRACES A LONG AND VARIED HISTORY BEGINNING AS EARLY AS 1883 WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A SCHOLARSHIP BY BOSTON ARCHITECT ARTHUR ROTCH, FOLLOWED BY THE FOUNDING OF THE TIFFANY FOUNDATION IN 1918. AS ARTISTS’ WORK GAINED SUBSTANTIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT IN THE 1960s AND 1970s, ARTIST FOUNDATIONS BEGAN TO READ AS A LEXICON OF THE LUMINARIES OF MODERN ART: ROTHKO, GOTTLIEB, NEWMAN, RAUSCHENBERG, TWOMBLY AND JOHNS, TO NAME JUST A FEW. http://www.giarts.org/article/artist-philanthropist

TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG IS HONORED TO INTRODUCE CURATOR STACEY GERSHON, CURATOR AND ADVISOR TO THE HANS HOFMANN FOUNDATION. http://www.hanshofmann.org

STACEY,  THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE LRFA BLOG.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE HANS HOFMANN FOUNDATION? WHEN DID YOU START AND FOR HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THE CATALOGUE RAISONNE OF HIS WORK?

I’ve been involved with the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust for 8 years. I met Mark Altschuler, a former Trustee, when I was working as the curator for the JP Morgan Chase Art Collection. When I started the Trust was hiring a new Editor of the CR who was Tom Padon. I was hired to manage the art in the Trust’s property as well as work on the CR.

JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

FOR MANY YEARS, YOU WERE WITH THE JPMORGAN CHASE ART COLLECTION, A COLLECTION I KNOWAND RESPECT ENORMOUSLY, ESTABLISHED IN 1949 WHEN DAVID ROCKEFELLER, THEN PRESIDENT OF THE CHASE MANHATAN BANK, INITIATED THE FIRM’S ART PROGRAM AND SET A PRECEDENT FOR CORPORATE ART COLLECTING.

I worked in the art collection for 25 years. It started in 1959 when David was President and they were building 1 Chase Plaza on Wall Street.

WHEN DID YOU JOIN THE JPMORGAN CHASE COLLECTION AND WHAT IS THE PROFESSIONAL HISTORY OF YOUR WORK THERE?

I started in 1982 as the registrar and since it was a small department and we all worked in one space it was easy to learn a lot especially since we were focused on contemporary work which was being done at that time. Work was coming into the office all the time so we got to see so much of what was happening through the 80’s. It was an exciting time. When I started working at the bank, the collection had 4,500 works and it grew to over 35,000 installed in over 450 locations around the world during my tenure. It is an international collection with important works in all the banks major headquarters. Art was always purchased from every country where the bank did business so it contains art from over 2000 international artists. Quite an amazing place and collection to work on.

Sam Francis Drapeau Americain, 1969 Mural JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

Sam Francis
Drapeau Americain, 1969
Mural
JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR CURATORIAL ROLE IN THE SELECTION OF WORKS FOR CHASE ENRICHED YOUR PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE? IN WHAT WAYS HAS IT CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS COLLECTION MANAGER FOR THE HANS HOFMANN FOUNDATION?

Well, I learned an enormous amount about contemporary art at Chase. We had works that I hadn’t seen anywhere – Fangor, Paul Feely, many artists who weren’t showing and works from all over the world who never showed in NY or hadn’t since the 70’s. It was a great learning experience and it taught me that it sometimes takes awhile before you understand and appreciate the work of some artists, that was certainly true for me. I was lucky to work with a collection for a long time and got to appreciate and understand art that wasn’t always fashionable when I was working there.

Daniel Buren In the Dining Room, 1982 JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

Daniel Buren
In the Dining Room, 1982
JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

FOLLOWING YOUR WORK WITH THE CHASE COLLECTION, YOU ESTABLISHED YOUR OWN ART ADVISORY SERVICE. IN WHAT WAYS DOES A CORPORATE COLLECTION DIFFER FROM THAT OF A PRIVATE COLLECTION? IN WHAT WAYS IS IT SIMILAR?

I still work with smaller corporate collections as well as private collectors. They are very different – it is a lot of fun assisting putting together a collection for a collector, its personal, you get to work alongside them and talk a lot about the work. They live with their collections for the most part so it becomes a part of their lives. Corporate collections have a different focus, not as much business driven but soft branding, how does the collection reflect on the values of your company, their values and mission and philosophy. How do they want to portray themselves to their clients and employees. Every business is different so it makes the job challenging and extremely interesting.

Alexander Calder Mobile (Untitled) 1959 JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

Alexander Calder
Mobile (Untitled)
1959
JP Morgan Chase Art Collection

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OUTSTANDING WORKS THAT WERE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CHASE COLLECTION AND HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE ITS POINT OF VIEW AND DIRECTION?

There are so many outstanding works at Chase – early works: a gorgeous Calder Mobile which was in the branch on 55th and Park, San Francis mural which was commissioned for the banks mid-town office. A Daniel Buren room, A Brice Marden painting “To Bob’s House”, an early Robert Smithson painting from 1959 which is titled Purgatory. Not what he was known for at all.

IN OUR NEXT POST, STACEY WILL DOCUMENT HANS HOFMANN’S RICH HISTORY AS AN ABEX ARTIST AND HIS CONTRIBUTION BOTH TO THAT VITAL PERIOD OF AMERICAN ART AND TO THE LEGACY HE LEFT BEHIND. THE LRFA BLOG WELCOMES ALL COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS. STACEY GERSHON HAS GREAT CURATORIAL EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE IN COLLECTION AND ART FOUNDATION MANAGEMENT. FIRE AWAY!!