Sunday, 29 December 2013

"An Unrepeatable Moment in the History of American Art Collecting"

Sonya Quintanilla, George P. Bickford curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, talks about the newest addition to the Cleveland Museum of Art ( Steven Litt, ' Reincarnation, nirvana and the body electric: Indian and Southeast Asian art at the Cleveland Museum of Art', The Plain Dealer December 27, 2013.
"A less-obvious observation about the galleries is that together they constitute a remarkable cultural artifact that records an unrepeatable a moment in the history of American art collecting. The galleries [...]  are the legacy of a confluence of money, market availability and curatorial acumen that occurred in Cleveland in the 1950s and ’60s. [...]  many works were acquired between 1954 and 1983, when Sherman Lee served four years as a curator of Far Eastern art and then 25 years as director. Lee, who made the museum what it is today in many ways, capitalized on a $34 million bequest in 1958 from industrialist Leonard C. Hanna Jr., worth roughly $275 million in 2013 dollars. At the time, Quintanilla said, nationalist scholars in India championed the idea that Indian art should be exported to create greater awareness of the country’s cultural stature. “Intellectuals wanted major U.S. museums to buy this material,” she said. “Objects were flooding out, and were affordable and available. The 1950s and ’60s were a golden age of collecting.” It all came to an end in the 1970s, when Indian cultural policy changed, Quintanilla said. Yet by then, Western dealers were stocked – and Lee, armed with the Hanna millions, moved through the market with the precision of a sharpshooter".
Is it really true that all the objects on the market between 1970 and 2013 when this gallery opened were ALL bought by dealers in the 1950s and 1960s? That really seems to be stretching credibility...

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