Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Agnes Gund, President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and Chairman of MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, at her beautiful apartment on the Upper East Side. Ms. Gund was gracious enough to open her home to a number of MoMA supporters, giving each of us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in room after room of her private collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. Most hosts might welcome the visitor then excuse herself, but Ms. Gund kindly encouraged us to sink into the beautiful upholstery for lovely conversation and yummy canapes, as she shared some very personal and sincere insights into the art of, well, arts patronage. From her take on the benefit circuit to the delights of truffle foraging, it turns out Madame Gund is a woman after my own art-loving heart. Here are a few tidbits from my scrumptious afternoon spent learning and listening from one of the greats. Did you know…
That Aggie believes drawings to be the best medium for exhibiting the “soul of the artist”?
That her truffle-rooting Italian dogs aren’t allowed in the living-room, so as to avoid a certain, um, conservation-demanding mishap?
Speaking of conservation, did you know that Aggie’s prized Jasper Johns flag must be craned in and out of her Park Avenue apartment through a window, and is thus almost never loaned out on exhibition (and will never be sold), as she finds herself terribly anxious for the art handlers’ safety on de-installation day.
That the Sol LeWitt in the dining room must not be dusted, but rather calls for very unique sticky putty to be dabbed over the surface and corners to collect unseen debris?
That Aggie makes a policy of never selling a work by an artist who is still alive, because she would never subject her dear friends to such market awkwardness?
That Aggie likes emerging young artists, but is equally fond of older artists for the similar way they transition into creative maturity.
That she despises galas and thinks they’re an unbecoming tool for asking someone to donate to a cultural institution.
That Aggie’s most recent acquisition was a Tara Donovan sculpture?
That when conservators were called upon to tend to a bit of feline spray on the Rothko (yup…), they also found traces of Coca Cola.
That gallery white walls are so last year? Aggie painted over hers in favor of showcasing her collection against the more ambiance-friendly and decorator-approved tones of sand, cognac and caramel.
That her brother, we went blind at age 26, is a sculptor of the most beautiful wood and bronze fauna-inspired works of art, and that his foundation for the blind has contributed to developing research that has actually reversed blindness in three people?!
That when it comes to installation, atmosphere is everything? Aggie explained that the same work of art can feel immensely different when shown at MoMA, than when shown at PS1. A work of art, she said, even feels different to her when it is returned to her private collection from being on loan to an institution; somehow the tone of the piece shifts and adjusts to the space in which it is settled or uprooted.
That one of her favorite past-times is mushroom foraging with her dear friend, Jasper Johns?