NEW YORK, NY.- The Frick
s Center for the History of Collecting has awarded its Sothebys Book Prize for a Distinguished Publication on the History of Collecting in America to Get There First, Decide Promptly: The Richard Brown Baker Collection of Postwar Art (Yale University Art Gallery, 2011). The books general editor, Jennifer Farrell, shares the prize with essayists Thomas Crow, Serge Guilbaut, Jan Howard, Robert Storr, and Judith Tannenbaum. The Fricks Director, Ian Wardropper, commented, Within recent years, the history of collecting art has found acceptance as an academic field, and we are very proud of the role that the Center for the History of Collecting has played in that development. Established at the Frick Art Reference Library six years ago, the center has fostered a high level of discourse through symposia, oral histories, publications, and fellowships. Furthermore, its book prize, generously supported by Sothebys, strengthens this area of study by acknowledgingand perhaps inspiringnew publications. We offer congratulations to Jennifer Farrell and her colleagues for this wonderfully researched publication and look forward to presenting the award to her formally at a reception hosted at Sothebys in January.
Richard Brown Baker (1912─2002) began acquiring works by emerging artists in the 1940s, becoming one of the first collectors to actively embrace both Abstract Expressionism and Pop art. He eventually amassed more than 1,600 works from the postwar period, including works by such groundbreaking American artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chuck Close, Franz Kline, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist, as well as European and Asian artists such as Alberto Burri, Jean Dubuffet, Georges Mathieu, Kurt Schwitters, and Jirō Yoshihara. Baker bequeathed the majority of his holdings to the Yale University Art Gallery, and the balance to the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence. Highlighting 130 works, Get There First, Decide Promptly is the first complete history of Bakers important collection. Essays by Farrell, renowned art historians Thomas Crow, Serge Guilbaut, and Robert Storr, and curators Jan Howard and Judith Tannenbaum contextualize each of the five decades of Bakers collecting efforts. Entries on individual artists, contributed by Jennifer Farrell, Ágnes Berecz, Susan Greenberg Fisher, Jennifer R. Gross, and J. Fiona Ragheb, as well as a chronology by Elise K. Kenney with Gabriella Svenningsen Omonte, illustrate the remarkable scope of Bakers holdings. Throughout the publication, firsthand accounts from Bakers extensive personal journals describe his activities within the dynamic New York art scene of the day. Many selections from the Gallery's Baker Collection are currently on view in the Yale University Art Gallerys recently reinstalled modern and contemporary art galleries.
Adds Inge Reist, Director of the Center for the History of Collecting, I found this book exceptionally interesting and a model approach for the study of art through the history of collecting that we want to encourage with this prize. The editor has assembled a team of highly distinguished scholars―a veritable whos who of late-twentieth-century art scholars including Robert Storr and Thomas Crow―to contribute deeply researched essays on the many facets of Richard Brown Bakers collecting personality. The fact that Baker kept such a rich and complete journal naturally made the authors collective task simpler, but here too, they use the wealth of archival material available to them judiciously and meaningfully. The catalogue of the collection that follows the six essays is also conceived with Bakers collecting passion as the organizing principle, because the entries are sequenced according to the year of acquisition by Baker, beginning with the earliest, and each richly researched entry focuses the readers attention as much on the collectors motivations for purchases and his reactions to new acquisitions as it does on the work of art itself. The catalogue, thus, uses the records of the collector to enrich our knowledge of works by artists who are now in the pantheon of post-war art, but whose success was often unknowable for Baker himself at the time of acquisition.