Keeping an artist’s estate in the public eye with Hans Hofmann Trust’s collection manager, Stacey Gershon

by leslierankowfinearts

Hans Hofmann Collection Berkeley Art Museum, University of California

Hans Hofmann Collection
Berkeley Art Museum, University of California

IN THE FINAL DECADES OF HIS LIFE, HANS HOFMANN REMAINED AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST CIRCLE. HE PARTICIPATED IN NUMEROUS SOLO AND GROUP EXHIBITIONS THAT INCLUDE THE 1960 XXX VENICE BIENNALE.  IN THE 50s AND 60s, HOFMANN’S WORK WAS ALSO THE FOCUS OF SEVERAL TRAVELING RETROSPECTIVES AT SUCH PRESTIGIOUS VENUES AS THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART THAT TRAVELED ACROSS THE UNITED STATES, THE FRANKISCHEN GALERIE IN NUREMBERG THAT TRAVELED TO COLOGNE AND BERLIN, AND THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART.  DURING THE FINAL YEARS OF HIS LIFE, HE RECEIVED MANY ACCOLADES INCLUDING AN HONORARY DOCTOR OF FINE ARTS FROM DARTMOUTH COLLEGE,  THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY,  PRATT INSTITUTE AND THE SOLOMON GUGGENHEIM INTERNATIONAL AWARD. IN 1963, HOFMANN DONATED FORTY-FIVE OF HIS WORKS TO THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA WHICH HOUSES A PERMANENT EXHIBITION SPACE OF HIS WORK.

IN TODAY’S LRFA BLOG, CURATOR AND COLLECTION MANAGER OF THE FOUNDATION, WILL INFORM US OF THE MANY WAYS IN WHICH AN ARTIST WHO IS SO EXTENSIVELY RECOGNIZED DURING HIS LIFETIME CAN, WITH THE PROPER SUPERVISION AND EXHIBITION OF WORK AND CATALOGUE RAISONNE, MAINTAIN THE ATTENTION AND STATUS HE ENJOYED DURING HIS LIFETIME.

Hans Hofmann The Lark, 1960 BAMFA, University of California

Hans Hofmann
The Lark, 1960
BAMFA, University of California

STACEY, IN 2013, HOFMANN’S WORK WAS EXHIBITED AT TWO PRESTIGIOUS VENUES, THE MUSEUM PFALZGALERIE KAISERSLAUTERN IN GERMANY AND THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA’S BERKELEY ART MUSEUM. WHAT WAS THE CONTENT OF EACH OF THESE EXHIBITIONS?

The MPK exhibition is one where James Yohe from the Ameringer McEnery Yohe contacted them as they had interest in doing a Hofmann exhibition. It was somewhat of a retrospective but not completely. It was curated by Karen Wilkin and Bill Agee.

Berkeley owns 40 of the most magnificent Hofmann paintings and work on paper that Hofmann personally selected for them (with their input of course) so they do tend to have a few Hofmanns up. They are planning another exhibition in Germany and Luxembourg which will open in 2016/2017 that focuses primarily on their pictures but will be adding in additional works from museums.

Hans Hofmann Renate's Nantucket 1965 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hans Hofmann
Renate’s Nantucket
1965
Metropolitan Museum of Art

HAVE YOU ORGANIZED A RETROSPECTIVE OF HIS WORK THAT HAS TRAVELED TO VARIOUS VENUES?

Lucinda Barnes from Berkeley wants to do that after her exhibition closes in Europe. That will probably open in 2019 and travel within the US. It’s exciting to work on that with her and help her locate works from the trust she hasn’t seen as well as from different collections, private and public. What is fascinating is that she was influenced by the recent publication of the CR and feels its time to take a closer look at Hofmann and show a progression which couldn’t have happened without the Catalogue Raisonne.

WHAT IS YOUR SELECTION PROCESS OF THE WORKS IN A PROPOSED EXHIBITION. I ASSUME THE VENUE, THE CURATORIAL POINT OF VIEW OF THE MUSEUM AND THE THEME OF THE EXHIBITION ARE ALL TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT?

Hans Hofmann Work on Paper Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hans Hofmann
Work on Paper
Metropolitan Museum of Art

There is another exhibition which Karen Wilkin is curating with the Museum of Modern Art in Jacksonville, Florida and it will only be works on paper so there are several shows in the works at the moment and, yes, all of the above gets taken into account. Hofmann didn’t do a lot of preparatory drawings for his paintings but there are many that relate especially since he went back to many of his subjects time and again. All of these exhibitions will be interesting in different ways but all will give a more adventurous approach and not just the typical late paintings that we know and love.

Hans Hofmann Pompeii 1959 The Tate, London

Hans Hofmann
Pompeii
1959
The Tate, London

WITH SO MANY MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS OF INTEREST IN THE CURRENT GLOBAL ART MARKET, IN WHAT WAYS DOES AN ARTIST’S FOUNDATION WORK TO KEEP THE ARTIST’S WORK VITAL AND AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC?

Mostly by working on exhibitions and the Catalogue Raisonne which was extremely important I feel to really understanding his work and his importance.

HOW IS AN ART FOUNDATION ESTABLISHED, SPECIFICALLY THE HANS HOFMANN FOUNDATION?

It was established as a foundation but in 1996 was converted (if that’s the correct term) into a Trust. Foundations are frequently formed by an artist or family to ensure their legacy. Hofmann didn’t have children so his second wife Renate was his only heir.

Hans Hofmann Heraldic Call 1965

Hans Hofmann
Heraldic Call
1965

WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY PURPOSES OF THE HOFMANN TRUST?

To promote the work of Hofmann and his students.

HOW IS THE TRUST STRUCTURED AND HOW DOES IT ACCOMPLISH ITS GOALS?

They accomplish their goals but sponsoring exhibitions on Hofmann and the Catalogue raisonne. We will also be working on several catalogues on his work on paper but it won’t be a full CR since there are so many works on paper.

Hans Hofmann The Gate 1959-1960 Solomon Guggenheim Museum

Hans Hofmann
The Gate
1959-1960
Solomon Guggenheim Museum

HOW LONG WERE YOU WORKING ON THE RECENTLY PUBLISHED CATALOGUE RAISONNE?

IT MUST BE A GREAT PLEASURE FOR YOU TO SEE THIS EXTENSIVE AND DETAILED PROJECT REALIZED. WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF PUTTING TOGETHER A CATALOGUE RAISONE, PARTICULARLY ON AN ARTIST WITH SUCH AN EXTENSIVE BODY OF WORK, EXHIBITION HISTORY AND STATURE?

I worked on the CR for 7 years and there were other people involved who also worked very hard, Suzi Villiger the editor as well as Tom Padon who was the editor before Suzi. Many research editors: Jessie Sentivan, Helen Vong, interns, all the galleries, collectors and museums who participated and James Yohe who is always helpful with his time and ideas. The trustees were instrumental is forging ahead with the project and getting it to happen.

It was a great project and the book is amazing and I can only thank Suzi Villiger for that. She is a great editor and had a fantastic visual sense of what we wanted to accomplish. The CR takes a team and lots of research and getting people to participate. A huge effort so it is fantastic that it was accomplished.

STACEY, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR INSIGHT AND EXPERTISE ON THE SUPPORT OF AN ARTIST’S ESTATE. IT WAS TRULY ILLUMINATING.

IN OUR NEXT LRFA POST, I AM VERY PLEASED TO INTRODUCE KIM SCHMIDT, DIRECTOR OF SALES AT RYAN LEE GALLERY. RYAN LEE IS A DYNAMIC VENUE IN CHELSEA, A  NEWLY EXPANDED 8000 SQUARE FOOT SPACE. AFTER NEARLY 20 YEARS AS A DIRECTOR AT MARLBOROUGH GALLERY, SHE JOINED RYAN LEE, AN EXCITING MERGER BETWEEN ESTABLISHED DEALERS MARY RYAN AND JEFFREY LEE WITH A FOCUS  NOT ONLY ON EXHIBITIONS OF THEIR ROSTER OF INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS BUT ALSO ON UNIQUE PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS THAT INVITE THE INPUT OF INDEPENDENT CURATORS.

I LOOK FORWARD TO THIS INTERVIEW AND YOUR COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS.