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 20th 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authors as they share how they mined archival materials, including at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to uncover the unpublished history of the Arensberg collection on the West coast, and ultimately reconstruct how the works of art were displayed in their Hollywood home.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:
Part II: The Arensberg’s Collection: Space, Place, Time: 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: