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World Chess Hall of Fame presents highlights from the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection
The Deans purchased their first chess set in the Middle East and thereafter acquired a set in each country they visited. ©Dean Collection 2010, Richard Beenen Photography.

ST. LOUIS, MO.- The World Chess Hall of Fame presents Chess Masterpieces: Highlights from the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection as one of its inaugural exhibitions. This magnificent show celebrates the Deans’ 50th year of collecting together and uses outstanding selected works to trace the development of the game of chess and the design of fine chess sets from the tenth to the early twentieth century. Sets come from Austria, Cambodia, China, England, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kashmir, Morocco, Persia, Russia, Syria, and Turkey. Among the works on display are ones owned or commissioned by Catherine the Great, Napoleon, Czar Nicolas II, and the British royal family. And most importantly, this is the first time that the only two Fabergé sets in existence have been exhibited together in public.

The Deans purchased their first chess set in the Middle East and thereafter acquired a set in each country they visited. As they studied chess history, they expanded their collection more systematically. Now they travel to new countries for the sole purpose of acquiring new sets to make their collection more complete. Their collection includes over 1,000 chess sets and related objects from over 100 countries. The Deans have generously shared their collection with the public for study, research, and education. Pieces from the collection have been shown at The Royal Academy of Art and The Somerset House, London; the Musée d’Orsay and Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; The Maryhill Museum of Art; The Philadelphia Museum of Art; The 1990 Kasparov vs. Karpov World Chess Championship at Hotel Macklowe, New York City; and The Detroit Institute of Art. The book Chess Masterpieces: One Thousand Years of Extraordinary Chess Sets, (Abrams) by George Dean with Maxine Brady, which accompanies this exhibition has received The 2011 Cramer Award for Excellence in Chess Journalism.

"As a curator, this was a unique opportunity to trace the evolution of chess using singular works from one of the finest private collections in the world,” said Larry List. For many years independent curator List has researched the intersections between chess-play, chess set design, and their rich interrelations with visual arts and music. He organized The Imagery of Chess Revisited exhibition and book for the Noguchi Museum, New York, and the Menil Collection, Houston. He has researched and replicated estate-authorized versions of lost chess sets and art works by Isamu Noguchi, Yves Tanguy, Andre Breton, Xanti Schawinsky, Xenia Cage, Man Ray, and others. List co-curated 32 Pieces: The Art of Chess, for the Reykjavik Art Museum and DOX Center for Art, Prague and contributed the major essay, “New Forms for a New Era,” to the catalogue. He contributed the essay “Chess As Art” to the catalogue of the Duchamp/Man Ray/Picabia exhibition at The Tate Modern, London and an essay on the chess-related performance work of Glenn Kaino for The Warhol Museum’s exhibition catalogue, “Transformer: The Work of Glenn Kaino.”

The WCHOF relocated from Miami to Saint Louis, opening in its new home on September 9, 2011. The institution presents exhibitions of artistic and historical significance from collectors and nationally and internationally recognized artists. It also offers interpretive programs in areas such as dance, music and art that lend context and meaning to chess. Its exhibitions feature diverse items of historical and artistic significance and help visitors understand the game of chess as well as how it has impacted global culture.

“It is such an honor to have what is arguably the most important chess set collection in the world on display at the World Chess Hall of Fame. This show continues to be a favorite of our visitors as it supports our mission of preserving and interpreting the game of chess and its continuing cultural and artistic significance” says Susan Barrett, director, WCHOF.

The WCHOF also displays rotating exhibitions featuring items from its permanent collection, which comprises more than 3,000 pieces, as well as four temporary exhibitions per year.

For more information, visit and follow the WCHOF on Facebook and Twitter.

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