Monday, April 19, 2010

Christoph Wiedenmayer

It's not always easy when one is in the thick of it to remember that art is more than just personal visions or power or money or ego or status. Indeed, to the vast majority of people who pay attention to art, it serves the purpose that originally led most of us in the industry to choose it over potentially much more lucrative career choices: it is fascinating. At times it may be transcendental or spiritually uplifting, at times even life-changing or simply right down infuriating, but good art is always compelling. It draws us toward it. It makes us want to to know more, to understand.

I was reminded of this every time my friend Christoph stopped by the gallery. If you've ever been to any of our opening receptions you may have met Christoph. Tall, elegant, soft spoken and as beautiful a human (kind, generous and most impressively open-minded) as anyone I've ever met.

The source of his insatiable curiosity for what artists were thinking became a bit more understandable once you learned what he did for a living. Christoph Wiedenmayer, PhD, was
an Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University. His research focused on the mechanics of fear in the human mind and in particular how that can be understood to prevent psychopathologies that unchecked fear can cause to develop. Perhaps his research explains why Christoph seemed so open to new ideas, new possibilities, the great unknown. He willingly embraced what others might fear.

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, while jogging in Central Park, Christoph suffered a heart attack and passed away. This came as a huge shock to those of us who were blessed to call him "friend." Christoph was the most health-conscious member of our circle. He exercised, ate well, didn't abuse substances. He would frequently warn the rest of us of the possible repercussions of our bad habits, even as he'd then offer one of his characteristically charming shrugs that said live and let live.

With very minimalistic tastes and habits, Christoph didn't purchase that much art over the years (he wouldn't know where to put it), but he was a constant consumer of the culture that New York offers in abundance. In addition to being an avid reader (known for his command of literature from the classics to post-modern), he loved art, film, music, great food, and nature. He saw nearly every exhibition we ever put on. In essence, it was often Christoph who came to mind for me when I considered that group of non-arts professional in New York that all the rest of us are working so hard to impress. He was the audience. The debates we had about art over the years were some of the most encouraging conversations I've had. He cheered me on, arguing that what we were doing in the gallery was important. If only because he enjoyed it, and, he knew, he was the audience.

There is a memorial service for Christoph this evening at Columbia, Monday, April 19th, from 5:30-7:30pm. The memorial will be in the Skyline Dining Room of Columbia’s Faculty House. There is also a lovely thread of tributes from his colleagues and students on the Bwog (the blog incarnation of The Blue and White, Columbia University’s monthly undergraduate magazine).

We simply cannot believe he's gone.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Iris said...

How tragic and shocking... really sorry to hear, my condolences.

4/19/2010 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

That is what is so fearful about life, it's that it can be over at any moment in a matter of seconds.

Sometimes I think that good people are more prone to health problems, because the rest of the people are so inherently bad in all sorts of
intricate manners, that their body systems have a hard time ingesting all the bad vibes. There is no way to verify that, but many good
persons I know have severe health issues.


I might have asked this person: Is fear subjected to morality? One can only hope now that this man has finally found all answers to his questions. My condolences to his family and friends.


Cedric C

4/19/2010 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Pam Farrell said...

So aorry for your loss...

4/19/2010 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

I happened to open Ed's blog today and I haven't in some time...to see Christoph's photo and then to be shocked that he had passed away. I did not know him well but he owns some of my work. He really was a beautiful person - this is so sad.

4/19/2010 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous jack said...

IM really really sorry to hear that to, my deep condolences.

4/20/2010 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Mery Lynn said...

Death of a good person always leaves such a hole in the lives of the people touched. Thinking of that hole as a well sometimes helps.

4/20/2010 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous pc&games said...

That's tragic, sorry to hear that.

4/22/2011 03:10:00 AM  

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