Kandinsky & Jawlensky in Long Beach

Vasily Kandinsky, Points, 1935. Long Beach Museum of Art

The Long Beach Museum of Art has organized a rare showing of its works by Vasily Kandinsky and Alexj Jawlensky. All are from the bequest of Milton Wichner, Harvard-trained attorney to dealer Galka Schreyer, who represented both artists. The attorney had no connection to Long Beach or its small seaside museum, however. It was only after Wichner's 1978 death that Eva Mason, his accountant and executor, selected LBMA for the bequest of 61 artworks. They were (and remain) notable outliers in a modest collection. 

As at the Norton Simon Museum (which now holds Schreyer's personal collection), there's a high Jawlensky to Kandinsky ratio, when one might have hoped for the opposite. Jawlensky died impoverished, with a lot of unsold inventory from all phases of his career. He was branded a degenerate by Hitler and a has-been by the art market. You either love or hate his paintings of abstract faces, chicly androgynous and sometimes identified as Christ. I've more affection for his Fauve-inspired still lifes and landscapes.

"Jawlensky, Kandinsky: The Milton Wichner Collection" runs through Oct. 2, 2022.

Alexj Jawlensky, Winter Ringing, 1828
Vasily Kandinsky, Drawing in Color (watercolor and ink), 1928
Alexj Jawlensky, Still Life, about 1916
Vasily Kandinsky, An Arabesque, 1938


Your lead sentence made my teeth clench: "The Long Beach Museum of Art has organized a _rare_ showing of its works by Vasily Kandinsky and Alexj Jawlensky." [emphasis mine]
You say further that a donor bequeathed 61 artworks by these two major artists, and that the works remain "notable outliers in a modest collection."
Which goes to my teeth clench: why, if a modest museum has a niche mother lode of good art, would such a showing be "rare?"
Why not rotate them always and forever?
In essence, why do museums' curators fail their collections?
Anonymous said…
> In essence, why do museums' curators fail their collections?

Possibly due to apathy, indifference, laziness? Or curators being too distracted by the au courant, too hip for the room, too political, too much in need of money?
Some background: The Long Beach Museum is only 12,800 sf total and does not have dedicated space for its permanent collection. It mainly offers shows of contemporary So. Cal artists. I'm less inclined to "blame" the curators than to question the judgment of the executor, Eva Mason, who chose to put the Wichner collection there. The museum was even smaller in 1978 (the current, Frederick Fisher-designed building opened in 2000), and I have to think she was aware that the Kandinskys and Jawlenskys wouldn't be on permanent view. There must have been a back story as to why Mason chose not to donate the collection to LACMA, but I don't know it.
I see. That is a very sad story for art lovers: a collection ever in limbo.
I went to a dark place with my "blame" of museum curators because sometimes they are the problem. And it doesn't just happen at small, localized museums, but also in bigger houses as well.
Right now, I'm in a beseeching campaign, since early 2021, with my local place, the Met. Things have not gone well.

Highlights: I approached the Met about a treasure in their collection that has been sitting in storage for years: a tiny ceramic cup from China, circa 1480 A.D. I would argue it is the most important Chinese ceramic object in any public collection in America.
The link to the Met object follows:

[Others would argue that distinction belongs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with its Ru ware brush washer, circa 1100 A.D., from the Northern Song Dynasty].
The link to the Philadelphia object follows:

I tried to explain to the Met that the object is utterly essential to any story of ceramic history of China. They even said that they agreed, but said it could take time to put it on display it due to the pandemic. Then they lent the cup for eight months for an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Good so far...at least somebody is enjoying it.
While the cup was in Philly, the Met even announced that it was going to mount an exhibition of its own: Embracing Color: Enamel in Chinese Decorative Arts, 1300-1900. I yelled, "Glory!"
The Met show opened July 2nd this year, and even though our loan to Philly had since been returned, the cup was NOT part of the Met exhibition! I hid my head under the cover for a week I was so disappointed.
It's still not on view, even though this object is the very genesis and apex of Chinese artistic expression in the enamel medium.
I don't know who the curatorial specialist on Chinese ceramics is at the Met. I don't know if there is one. I do know that the chair of the Asian Art Department specializes in Chinese paintings. I also know that the head of Chinese decorative arts specializes in bronzes of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 A.D. - 1368). So no ceramic wunderkind on staff to right this ship, evidently.

They told me life is never easy. They didn't tell me life would be this hard.
Anonymous said…
^ As with Louvre World, I imagine Met Land has so many objects to deal with that after awhile they're going to be looked upon as analogous to the millions of cattle - er, uh - guests visiting Disney World in Orlando.