Getty Research Institute and Philadelphia Museum of Art Announce Two-Part Virtual Event Spotlighting the Iconic Arensberg Collection and Legendary Couple Who Created It
LOS ANGELES and PHILADELPHIA— The Getty Research Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are pleased to announce a two-part virtual event exploring the display of one of the most important private collections in the United States of avant-garde and pre-Columbian art.
During the first half of the twentieth century, Louise and Walter Arensberg carved out a unique place in the history of collecting. No one before them had made such audacious connections between modern painting, Renaissance literature, and pre-Columbian sculpture; and few, if any, used collecting more forcefully as a medium for artistic creation and intellectual exploration.
Much has been made of the significance of how the Arensbergs’ collection took shape in their Manhattan apartment following the Armory Show in 1913 and of their influential role as patrons in the New York Dada circle. Until now, less has been understood about how their collection expanded and changed in character after their move to Los Angeles in 1921, particularly after they purchased their Hollywood home and turned it into a house museum and research institute. For the next three decades, prior to the establishment of a public modern art museum in the region, the Arensbergs put the European avant-garde, the English Renaissance, and Mesoamerican civilizations into dialogue in dense and playful displays that shocked and inspired visitors—including some of the period’s leading artists, writers, and curators. In 1950, the couple gifted their collection of avant-garde and Pre-Columbian art to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When Louise and Walter died in 1953 and 1954, respectively, their rare books, manuscripts and personal papers were gifted to California’s Francis Bacon Library (now housed at the Huntington Library).
In this two-part event, Mark Nelson, William H. Sherman, and Ellen Hoobler, authors of the recently published book Hollywood Arensberg: Avant-Garde Collecting in Midcentury L.A. (Getty Research Institute), discuss and illuminate the Arenbergs’ fascinating collection.
Part I: The Arensbergs’ Hollywood House-Museum: Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 6:00–7:30 p.m. EST. Arcadia Library Lecture.
Matthew Affron, the Philip and Muriel Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will moderate a lively discussion with the authors as they share how they mined archival materials, including at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to uncover the unpublished history of the Arensberg collection on the West coast, and ultimately reconstruct how the works of art were displayed in their Hollywood home. Drawing from this new research, the discussion will also examine how this display reflected the collecting tastes and worldview of the Arensbergs.
Please visit Philadelphia Museum of Arts’ site to register in advance for this free online event: https://philamuseum.org/calendar/event/arensbergs-hollywood-house-museum
Part II: Hollywood Arensberg: Arriving at the House: Tuesday, March 9, 2021, 3:00–4:30 p.m. PST
In the second of two conversations, Mary Miller, director of the Getty Research Institute, and authors Mark Nelson, William H. Sherman, and Ellen Hoobler will explore how the context of the collection shaped how it was assembled, displayed, and interpreted.
Register in advance for this online event: https://getty.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_gTiIjKdlS2qoVPl6jV6cQQ
About the Participants
MATTHEW AFFRON is the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
ELLEN HOOBLER is the William B. Ziff, Jr., Associate Curator of Art of the Americas at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
MARY MILLER is the director of the Getty Research Institute.
MARK NELSON is an author, design director, and partner at the book design firm McCall Associates in New York.
WILLIAM H. SHERMAN is director of the Warburg Institute in London.
The Arcadia Library Lecture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is generously supported by the Arcadia Foundation.
About the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection in Philadelphia
Louise and Walter Arensberg’s extraordinary gift to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1950, together with that of A. E. Gallatin, forms the cornerstone of the institution’s modern art collection. Their path to becoming collectors was set in 1913 after a visit to the legendary Armory Show in New York, where they encountered Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), a painting they would later acquire. In 1915 they eagerly opened their home to Duchamp, inaugurating a forty-year friendship and collaboration between the artist and the collectors.
During their collecting career, the Arensbergs purchased works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, and Vasily Kandinsky, among others, and assembled the largest collection of Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture outside Paris. As their interests extended well beyond Western art, their holdings of pre-Columbian art were displayed alongside contemporary works. The couple amassed the foremost collection of Duchamp’s work in the world, contributing to making the museum in Philadelphia a place of pilgrimage for generations of artists and lovers of the avant-garde.
About the Getty Research Institute
The Getty Research Institute is an operating program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and its history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library—housed in the 201,000-square-foot Research Institute building designed by Richard Meier—is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world. The general library collections (secondary sources) include almost 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library’s special collections include rare books, artists’ journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.
About the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is Philadelphia’s art museum. A place that welcomes everyone. A world-renowned collection. A landmark building. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.
Getty Research Institute
Amy Hood, Getty Communications