Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Redefining Creative Generosity

OK, so on this side of the Atlantic, we have the example of Eli Broad who is arguably being creative in changing his mind about earlier promises to gift his considerable collection of contemporary art to US museums and instead maintaining private control of his entire collection via a lending foundation that would focus on keeping as much of the collection in the public eye as possible. For a well-informed analysis of this model, see Tyler here.

Across the pond, however, retired gallerist Anthony D'Offay [pictured above] has done something so remarkably generous, it makes one's jaw drop. The New York Times had reported that this was in the works back in 2006. Apparently now, the arrangements have gone through. From
Bloomberg:
Anthony d'Offay, a retired gallery owner, today made a gift which will add 725 works to British art collections by artists including Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.

The artworks are valued at about 125 million pounds ($250 million) and will be acquired for 28 million pounds, said an e- mailed release by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland.

The release called it ``one of the largest and most imaginative gifts of art ever made to museums'' in the U.K.

London dealer D'Offay, whose donation also includes pieces by Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer and Gilbert & George, will get 26.5 million pounds, representing the amount that the works originally cost him, while the other 1.5 million pounds is the cost of administering the acquisition.
The rationale behind this gift is in many ways even more impressive:
The D'Offay collection will be known as ``Artist Rooms'' because it has been his practice to arrange the works in a series of galleries, each devoted to a single artist.
Every now and then the question of motives arises here, reflecting what I know to be a widespread sense that people become gallerists for the same reasons they would open up any other shop. Knowing how little money many of my gallerist friends actually make (and how long it takes to make a gallery a profitable business), these attitudes boil my blood a bit (but then I'm a hot head, so....). Indeed, knowing some dealers who truly have dedicated their lives to promoting what they see as the important art of their time at considerable personal sacrifice (i.e., they could have cleaned up as a lawyer or ad executive or whatever), I have immense respect for the profession. This story, however, sets a new standard in generosity, from both a gallerist and the artists he knows:
"I believe passionately that creative young people need to have available to them the best contemporary art," D'Offay said in a telephone interview today. "If you are a student in Sheffield, Aberdeen or Cardiff you need to be able to see contemporary art. It's not always an easy thing to do to buy art in depth, so we did everything we could with all the help we could get from the artists -- who were incredibly generous." [...]

"For the last seven years I've been working with my wife Ann Seymour and Marie-Louise Laband, the director of my gallery for 30 years, on putting together these 50 rooms," D'Offay said. "We felt that these particular artists and these configurations of works would be powerful for young people."
Good on you, Mr. D'Offay. Very good indeed.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Walter de Maria's Earth Room was first exhibited in Galerie Heiner Friedrich in 1968.

2/27/2008 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a man who wants to share his art for all the right reasons - to inspire the next round of artists. Broad, on the other hand, seems intent on maintaining his own power.

2/27/2008 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it so simple? museums can be vaults where work given is never shown. and now they are selling things too. it is not just about generosity. The fact that D'Offay makes his gift of 'artist rooms' strengthens the value of such a gift to artists. it is a great idea, and even better an example for others to follow, and i imagine we shall see what the effectiveness of that is. Broad has also collected in depth, maybe he is trying to maintain power to ensure that his legacy is not degraded or diminished by institutional choices, including his own. How much money did he give them? That seems to be the focus these days, what the museums want, how many curators do you know are forced to also be fundraisers to support their curatorial ideas (integrity?). Not that I know anything about how any of that works.

2/27/2008 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Collectors, like gallerists, are going to be rather eccentric individuals, and the quality of their imagination for the value and publicity of art will vary tremendously. I see a difference in that the collector is proprietary of his own ideas, whereas the gallerist, perhaps in more consistent intimacy with the artist (?), has the ego capacity to let go of their own ideas and participate in a more urban flow of exchange. Depending on the vision of the gallerist, this does not lead to a willy nilly exposure tactic, but to an attraction of ideas and practices that gather around that artist's work in the understanding of it.

The collector has the potential to focus in a little more than the gallerist might be capable of, but too often is caught up in lazy thinking and quirky ideas of their own. The new mobility of art is maybe something to be excited by, but not if it is driven by a corresponding immobility of thought.

2/28/2008 08:25:00 AM  

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