Stephanie Gumpel

19May/103

Day 4 – The Sacred and Powerful History of Art Galleries

Spiral Staircase at Knoedler Gallery

The class goes to Knoedler Gallery.  This gallery was established in 1846 and has endured several tumultuous times in history, keeping its integrity throughout.

We meet with Edye Weissler, an artist and maintainer of Knoedler's library that is filled with books and documents which preserve the delicate history of art.

Edye Weissler

Edye Weissler

Knoedler Gallery's library has the feel of a living entity.  The shelves are alive with books, show catalogs from as far as 160 years ago, and other interesting documents like hand-made reproductions of gallery correspondence between dealers and collectors.

The Glowing Library at Knoedler

When Edye begins to show us the documents of shows from 100 years ago, I start to realize how art's history is charted in documents of catalogs, sales, and letters.  "History is fragmentary," Edye tells us.  We are always piecing together the layers of the past through fragments in the form of objects, books, documents, and the artworks themselves that have been saved for the present.

Edye pulls a small black book out of an envelope and opens to the first page.  It is the catalog of an art show that was in Europe under the Nazi's control.  It is for an art show of "Degenerate Art".

Gallery Show Document of Condemned Art During Nazi Rule

This was a document showing the Nazi's attempt to suppress avante garde work from the time.  The book is filled with page after page of vibrant artwork.  Also, apparently, the Nazi's condemned the artwork and then turned around and sold it after the show, contradicting their claim that it was valueless.

To me, this book is proof that art is powerful.  It was powerful enough for the Nazi's to fear it.  Now, that I am looking at this book today, it is also proof that strong works can never be fully suppressed.  People, time, and nature work together to preserve fragments of history and the value of the art always finds a way to shine through despite an attempt by a force to cut it down.

Edye went on to explain that the way an artwork gains value over time is by the quality with which it is made.

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