Sound bites from the show:
Daniella Luxembourg: “I think in general, history is a gentleman. So, if you wait long enough, things adjust themselves.”
Amalia Dayan: “There was a real clash between the work and the space, they sabotaged each other.”
Daniella Luxembourg: “The secret is that we don’t tire each other to death, and we let ourselves dream.”
Charlotte Burns: Hello, and welcome to In Other Words. I’m your host, Charlotte Burns, and joining me today we have Daniella Luxembourg and Amalia Dayan, who co-founded the boutique gallery, Luxembourg & Dayan, with spaces in London and New York, in 2009.
Instead of representing artists, Luxembourg & Dayan together curate a handful of intellectually-minded exhibitions each year, alternating between cutting-edge Contemporary and overlooked Postwar art. They also deal privately. Alma Luxembourg became the third partner in the gallery in 2011.
At this point, I thought we would hand over to Allan, who has a question for you both.
Allan Schwartzman: Oh. My question is simply, what’s on the menu?
Amalia Dayan: Our favorite time is our lunches with Allan. So, what is on the menu?
Allan Schwartzman: We always talk about what’s going on, and what’s on our minds. It could be anything and everything. Maybe a good place for us to begin would be with the Italian market, since this is an area that we all have focused on, and have passion for, for a very long period of time. That market seems to me like it had been somewhat soft in the last couple of years, and then quite recently in this last round of auctions, we saw a great increase in interest and depth of bidding. So, let’s talk a bit about the Italian art market, and where we see it going right now.
Daniella Luxembourg: Well, I think in general, history is a gentleman. So, if you wait long enough, things adjust themselves. The ’50s and ’60s were terribly interesting in Italy because of various political and historical consequences of the Second World War. But, on top of it, the quality of the artists, the creativity in films, in poetry, in literature, and in art: it’s one of the only examples where you had these hubs of intellectuals working together, against the government, with the government.
It all ended, for political reasons, at the beginning of the ’80s. Since then, it was sort of a forgotten thing, although great collectors have great works of art, and they knew what they were collecting. But, the market didn’t respond accordingly.
I bought my first Fontana in the ’70s, the minute I had some money, and I thought there was something haunting about the strengths of the expression. When we started the gallery, we had a critical advantage, because in markets that are not very expensive, or that people do not pour huge amounts of money, you have the abilities to choose because many things were available.
Amalia Dayan: And it was not that long ago, interestingly enough.
Daniella Luxembourg: No. It was 12 years ago? 10 years ago? And yes, it was money, but you had quality for it.
Daniella Luxembourg: Can’t do it.
Amalia Dayan: —a room of those, like we had.
Charlotte Burns: Why was there the rise and then the subsequent fall? And where are we now?
Amalia Dayan: I think the rise was really what Daniella said: it was really unexplored. Allan, you started collecting Italian art when? 10—
Allan Schwartzman: 20 years ago. There was always a significant market for Italian art, but it was focused in Italy, Belgium, France.
Amalia Dayan: Right.
Allan Schwartzman: Places that had collected the work from the start, so—
Amalia Dayan: Germany.
Allan Schwartzman: Exactly. So, it was a substantial market, but it was a European market. In the United States, hardly any of it was collected. Essentially, the style of collecting in this country followed the leadership of the Museum of Modern Art. The Museum of Modern Art said: “In the postwar period, all great art is American art.” And so we didn’t look at what was going on in Europe.
It took a long time for people to begin to realize that Fontana is as significant in postwar European art as Pollock is in Postwar American art, and in fact, there are meaningful parallels there: the detonation of the atomic bomb made possible Jackson Pollock‘s drips, and the exploration of space made possible Lucio Fontana’s slashing or piercing the canvas, because he was looking at what he called the fourth dimension.
So, connecting the dots is something we didn’t begin to do until relatively recently. I think this is for several reasons. One is because of globalism: through Contemporary art, we’ve started to train ourselves to be looking in areas we hadn’t looked before. Number two is because there was opportunity there, and great master works by American artists of the ’50s and ’60s was becoming a much more narrowed supply, and much more expensive.
Amalia Dayan: There were some interesting museum shows also in the last few years, like Paul Schimmel’s show that included—
Allan Schwartzman: Yes.
Amalia Dayan: —Burri. Then the Burri show at the Guggenheim. There is a Fontana show at the Met that is going to open soon. The market came almost first, before the institution. But also, American institutions are embracing. And I wouldn’t call it a fall. There was a—
Allan Schwartzman: Softening.
Amalia Dayan: —softening, because the prices just went up so dramatically with the discovery.
Charlotte Burns: So, it was a natural leveling.
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes, I think so. It happened to Richter, to Polke, to many other artists, also American artists. It gets to a sort of a peak, and then the real collectors stay, and then the people that bought it in order to make money go to buy something else.
Allan Schwartzman: And when was the Burri show at the Guggenheim? Three years ago?
Amalia Dayan: Three years ago.
Allan Schwartzman: That’s an interesting example. Most Americans did not understand Burri at all. He was the one artist of that whole circle who lived in the United States at two different points—and the second point, for quite a number of years—and yet he was invisible in this country. In large part, I believe, because he created his own foundation and put most of the greatest works that he had into that foundation.
There were no galleries that had ongoing relationships with the work in this country, so that show was a revelation for most Americans.
Daniella Luxembourg: Also, he was living in LA, which was not helpful in terms of developing his market. The reason we started to work with the foundation is exactly because of that, because his ambition was to be represented in American museums. And when we took the connection with the Alberto Burri Foundation in Città di Castello, our mandate was to sell to museums or to public foundations where these things can be shown. He died with a huge feeling of failure because of that, that he never managed—
Charlotte Burns: That’s so sad.
Amalia Dayan: —to enter into big museums. He was exhibiting with Rauschenberg in Rome at the time when everything was open. And yet for that generation, not unlike Michelangelo Pistoletto and others, America was terribly closed, hermetically closed. Didn’t change if they moved here, like [Salvatore] Scarpitta, or they were living in Biella like Michelangelo, or in Rome and Los Angeles like Burri. It was closed for them.
Charlotte Burns: Is that different now?
Allan Schwartzman: At the same time, Mario Merz, who was one of the giants of Arte Povera, is virtually invisible. He has no presence in the market. There has not been a significant show of his work in this country for quite some time. He had one of the great and most memorable retrospectives at the Guggenheim—I believe it was in the late ’80s or early 1990s—was the Mario Merz retrospective. And yet, he’s fallen off. So, there are still huge opportunities in this area.
Amalia Dayan: Same with Scarpitta. For example, we did a Scarpitta show that we thought was—we loved it, we loved putting it together—we thought it was wonderful, and that it would really, once and for all, would put on the table what a great artist Scarpitta is. We produced a catalogue, we did all the necessary moves, and there was very little traction. So, we believe that, for example with Scarpitta, it would click because he’s a great artist, and the market was not somehow ready yet.
Allan Schwartzman: But you had masterpieces in that show. You had phenomenal works. That’s kind of like your Cretto show.
Amalia Dayan: Right. Exactly.
Allan Schwartzman: In five years, you won’t be able to re-do that show, because it’ll be so hard to find them. I think so. I mean, he showed with Leo Castelli. He was Leo’s first exhibition, I believe.
Amalia Dayan: Yes.
Allan Schwartzman: His first racecar that he made, a sculpture, was called The Leo Castelli (1964). He was in the first show that we curated at the New Museum in 1977, and he was a giant in his presence within the artists’ community in New York in a period where there wasn’t much of a market. And still, he kind of stayed in that invisible zone for decades.
Daniella Luxembourg: So, it’s basically knowledge, I think, which drives [the] market. But not knowledge in lecturing or giving people homework to do. But awareness. And when it starts, awareness changes your point of view. There is no reason to follow what makes a huge amount of money at the auctions, because anyhow, it doesn’t say much. It’s like getting the Oscars for movies. Does it mean that all these movies are the best movies that you have seen this year? No. They were the movies that you had the most awareness, and out of them you’ve chosen. But it doesn’t say anything about the industry of that year.
But in order to make awareness, it’s easier for small galleries like ours to do it. We have our point of view. When we do it, we can really accept the expenses of it, and we don’t project it in desperation on the market: “Please, please, buy Scarpittas. Buy a Scarpitta, because our exhibition cost us a lot of money.” Because that is a kiss of death for the market.
You make it as if [it is] nothing, and then the market creates itself. It’s a sort of a dance that you have to do, without too much marketing desperation because that is also killing the awareness.
So, it’s a dance that we have to do. But the most important is that we feel passionate for it. When Amalia was feeling passionate about Scarpitta, we were backing her to make the best exhibition of Scarpitta, which is a huge achievement. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t sell one painting, and obviously we didn’t cover any expenses. We sold other things, and it covered itself.
Allan Schwartzman: You did sell one painting.
Amalia Dayan: Yes, exactly one.
Daniella Luxembourg: It’s true. That one. You—
Amalia Dayan: I didn’t know if it was appropriate to correct you!
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes, we sold one. Great! I’m not so sure it covered the expenses, though.
Allan Schwartzman: I’m sure it didn’t.
Amalia Dayan: That, you’re 100% right.
Daniella Luxembourg: But that is the gesture, and that small awareness of artists. Coming back to Mario Merz, our space is also limited, but if we had a bigger space, Mario Merz is somebody that could work fantastically well with that.
Charlotte Burns: Which exhibitions are you most proud of?
Amalia Dayan: The three of us share a deep passion [for] another Italian artist, Domenico Gnoli, and that’s our next show. We did the first Gnoli show at the gallery six years ago, and it also came out of the fact that Daniella—
Daniella Luxembourg: Collected.
Amalia Dayan: —collected Gnoli, and so I was introduced to the work because of Daniella. But Gnoli is really like a cult. You become obsessed with it. It’s like nothing else. It’s an artist that died when he was 30 and made a very limited amount of work— maybe 150, 200 paintings—and each one from those mature years is almost a masterpiece.
Allan Schwartzman: I think someone could spend a lifetime collecting just Gnoli.
Amalia Dayan: Right. Absolutely.
Allan Schwartzman: And in that, have one of the most remarkable collections assembled in our time.
Daniella Luxembourg: Fantastic.
Amalia Dayan: You find so much satisfaction in looking. There are so many layers of meaning, and of emotional connection.
Daniella Luxembourg: He was a real genius.
Amalia Dayan: He was a real genius. There was not a show in America of Gnoli for decades.
Charlotte Burns: 40 years, I think I read.
Amalia Dayan: Exactly. And because there is so little work, people see one at auction, and it’s very hard to gather en masse to do a show in a museum or at the gallery. So, I think it was a real revelation also for us to be able to live with 15 paintings. Since then, we’re opening the show in May, it took us six years to be able to come up with another 10, 12 paintings to be able to show a group.
Charlotte Burns: What is the hard work in finding them? Is it figuring out where they are, or getting people to part with them?
Amalia Dayan: I think it’s the fact that there’s so few, and most of them are still in collections of people that have them for decades, and they don’t really want to consider—
Charlotte Burns: Letting them go.
Amalia Dayan: —selling or loaning. Yes.
Allan Schwartzman: These are collectors of a generation that didn’t trade.
Amalia Dayan: Right.
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes.
Allan Schwartzman: They bought, and they left with it. If you look at Gnoli, there are parallels with the circumstances around Scarpitta.
Sal Scarpitta, to me, has been difficult to establish a market [for] because he’s a hybrid that falls between two zones.
Daniella Luxembourg: Right.
Allan Schwartzman: The zone of being an American artist—
Amalia Dayan: Completely.
Allan Schwartzman: —whose spirit, and the energy of his work, comes out of Abstract Expressionism, while at the same time being an Italian artist and having as many parallels with the material actuality of an artist like Piero Manzoni. So, it just fell in a crack.
Gnoli, similarly, is a Hyperrealist and he’s an Abstract artist, and if you don’t see that, then you don’t get the work.
Amalia Dayan: He really doesn’t fall into any movement.
Allan Schwartzman: He’s off on his own, and yet the work is so relevant to his time, even insofar as it’s made in a way that is intentionally nostalgic in look. It’s kind of the opposite of American Pop art, which was all about being new, but it’s not unrelated to the same ideas behind Pop art, and how it came into existence.
So, here you have a visionary who’s off on his own, very much a product of his time, very much a product of a lineage that he comes out of, and yet somewhat invisible, because he’s not following a stylistic hierarchy through which we have tended to sort through and understand art of the Modern era.
Charlotte Burns: How far ahead do you plan for your exhibitions?
Amalia Dayan: Good question.
Daniella Luxembourg: The good story about us, that we are three partners, Israelis. Many people work for us: they finished the best schools in London and New York, and they always think that we speak about work, what we are going to do next. And now, we have a very talented—he finished his doctorate at Oxford—Israeli guy, Yuval, who writes our text in London, and he once came to my office and said: “Can I speak to you something personal?” I said: “Yew.” He said: “You only speak about what you ate. You never speak about work and how are the girls. Besides speaking what you ate and how are the girls, so when are you embroidering the exhibition?”
Amalia Dayan: “Do you ever speak about work?!”
Daniella Luxembourg: And that’s the secret. The secret is that we don’t tire each other to death, and we let ourselves dream. That is the key of our success.
I got to sell two years ago a 1928 sculpture by Giacometti, and I couldn’t sell it. The market doesn’t know what Giacometti did in the ’20s and ’30s. And because I’m lazy-natured—it doesn’t show, but I am—only the fact that I couldn’t sell it pushed me to make an exhibition of Giacometti ’20s and ’30s, which is legendary in what we did, because it positioned Giacometti, the way he—the only way to understand him is to learn what he did in the ’20s and ’30s. And the exhibition influenced Francis Morris when she did the Tate, and the rest is history.
But we didn’t speak about it. When I said we have to explore that problem with Giacometti, how come it’s not known? Because the market has energy of itself. The big record price of L’Homme Qui Marche (1961), in a way, killed the knowledge and the experimentation of collectors towards the artists.
So, you have to take it back to its origin in order to make it also a market but also an emotional, intellectual place where you can relate to. When I did it, I picked up the phone to Amalia and Alma. They are not experts on Giacometti, and they said: “Great! We’ll do it with you,” because passion is contagious. So, by letting ourselves, having our passion brut, you know, we make it our own domain. So, that’s how we make our exhibitions. I can’t say more. It’s really that way.
Charlotte Burns: I love that. I was going to ask if it was strategic or opportunistic, and it seems like it’s following a passion.
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes—
Amalia Dayan: It really—
Daniella Luxembourg: Totally is.
Charlotte Burns: Talking of passions, can you remember the first work of art that changed your life?
Allan Schwartzman: The one that I can recall right now is Las Meninas (by Diego Velázquez, 1656)
Daniella Luxembourg: Wow.
Allan Schwartzman: Because in that, I saw so much that I had never seen in a painting before, at least of that era, and I felt, whether it was historically valid or not, that that was one of the beginnings of Modernism and Abstraction. And his self-consciousness, or his awareness of his presence in a painting without it being highlighted, but being one of the greatest presences of the painting, I found, was extraordinary. The use of the mirror and how one thinks about representation, it anticipates the camera hundreds of years before it’s invented. So, that to me is one of those enigmatic, aesthetic experiences where you can get lost in the circle of the work itself forever and ever.
Amalia Dayan: I actually remember, and I didn’t think about it until now, seeing the Gerhard Richter show at the Israel Museum. That it made a huge impact on me, because it was the first, in Israel, my major interaction with great paintings. It enhanced my falling in love with—I love paintings—with paintings. I remember it created a big thirst in me, and hunger.
Allan Schwartzman: Were you looking more at the Abstract paintings, or the representational, or both?
Amalia Luxembourg: Both.
Allan Schwartzman: And was that odd to—
Amalia Dayan: It was a fantastic show with great ’60s work and all the fantastic candle paintings, and the range that only Richter can really do in the most incredible way, between Abstraction and figuration and the relationship to photography. This one show, I remember it having a big grip on me.
Charlotte Burns: Daniella?
Daniella Luxembourg: Until the age of 20, I was basically reading. I didn’t see [many] works of art. But at the age of 20, I started working at the Israel Museum as a very young intern, and I think that was fascinated me more than anything were Hebrew illuminated manuscripts. They were the best Medieval manuscripts, the precision, the emotional life to the word. It was terribly touching.
And also archeology. These huge pieces of the Nabataean archeology that the grandfather of Amalia excavated in Sinai were fabulous. The monuments of the past were terribly emotional for me. Incredible.
Amalia Dayan: Daniella also brought me to think about my grandfather’s collection because he lived in a house outside of Tel Aviv. The garden had—
Charlotte Burns: And your grandfather, for people who don’t know, he was the famed Israeli military general, Moshe Dayan.
Amalia Dayan: Right, so he was excavating all over Israel, and he lived in his garden with the most incredible archeology, and–
Daniella Luxembourg: The [sarcophagi] from—
Amalia Dayan: [Sarcophagi], just full of it. Now they’re in the Israel Museum. But I really grew up going there on weekends for Saturday lunch or Friday night dinner, and the whole garden was full of these incredible objects.
Daniella Luxembourg: And apropos the art market and that, when her grandfather’s collection was sold, I was working at the Israel Museum—my mentor was Teddy Kollek, the legendary mayor—and there was a big uproar. The state of Israel had to pay $1m for the collection that basically came from the earth in Israel. And Teddy said: “We are paying it.” I said: “Why?” “Because,” he said: “People forget how much they pay. They have the best work, so who cares?”
Charlotte Burns: That’s so true, I think. When you just said a million, I was like, wow, $1m for all of that?
Daniella Luxembourg: It was in the ’70s. When did he pass away?
Amalia Dayan: ’79?
Allan Schwartzman: I had one other experience that related to your question. A moment of meaningful revelation for me was early on in my working in the art field, there was an exhibition at Sonnabend Gallery of Gilbert & George, and I remember reacting violently negatively to the work. I found it to be morally objectionable. I thought that it was corrupt and opportunistic of its sitters, or of its subjects, and it bothered me so much that, whenever I would run into somebody and they asked about what I’d seen, I couldn’t stop talking about the show and what upset me in it. And it was the fourth time that I said this that I realized all the reasons that I found the work to be objectionable were the reasons that made it interesting.
Daniella Luxembourg: Of course.
Allan Schwartzman: And that’s been one of the biggest revelations for me about art.
Daniella Luxembourg: It’s like falling in love.
Allan Schwartzman: Exactly. It goes back to your passion issue.
Charlotte Burns: Do you see differences between your London and New York audiences and activities?
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes, probably. Americans love to learn, and there is a quest for newness in America. Europe is an old animal. They are not looking for the new, and it’s a different way of projecting. Yes, we have clients from Italy and Germany and France that are interested in what we show, in Italian art, but there is nothing new to them. Whereas here, it’s all new. In general, I think that Europe since the First World War sells and America buys. The search of newness is here, more than in any place in Europe.
Amalia Dayan: Even if it’s not new in terms of young—
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes, it’s new. The awareness is—
Amalia Dayan: Just in terms of ideas and awareness.
Daniella Luxembourg: The sales are basically here more than in Europe.
Charlotte Burns: Are you committed to the gallery in London?
Daniella Luxembourg: 100%.
Charlotte Burns: With Brexit, do you feel differently about the future, or—
Amalia Dayan: We’re committed to a gallery in Europe.
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes, of course.
Amalia Dayan: I don’t know if in London.
Daniella Luxembourg: I hope that they will do the right thing. It’s a tragedy for the art world in London, but yet, there is no other place. London is the European capital of culture, more than any other place that exists, so it would take years to make another capital.
Charlotte Burns: Do you think energy is shifting to Paris?
Daniella Luxembourg: It’s an interesting question. I haven’t seen that.
Amalia Dayan: We’re thinking about it and we’re talking about it a lot, what will happen, if Brexit will affect us to a point where we have to go somewhere else. Where will we go? It’s a difficult—I think we will make our own thing, whether it will be Paris, Milan, Zurich. Also, Daniella and Alma both live in London, and that’s where life is, and the day to day.
Charlotte Burns: Right. Of course.
During your time in the art world, how have you seen tastes shift?
Daniella Luxembourg: They shift all the time now, Allan? It’s a shifting thing.
Allan Schwartzman: I think, more than tastes shifting, although there’s been a huge amount of shift in taste, is the manner in which collecting evolves. In this country, let’s say, in the 1980s, where this current market was rooted, new collectors collected the work of their generation,
Collectors who have entered into collecting, certainly in the last ten years, have tended to enter with a greater knowledge base than the people who preceded them, with a greater awareness of value and the marketplace, as art has increased substantially in value.
I think people are less engaged in the presence of the living artist than in the past, even if they’re collecting the work of living artists. The whole relationship to what collecting is, and where one moves within it, I think has changed.
You have a bifurcation beginning to form, which we could see evidence of a number of years ago, between those who are most interested in the top 20 artists who have the most hyper-expansive markets, the artists who continue to set records at auction, and those who are looking for their own way.
I think we’re just now at the beginning of an increasing wave of interest in people looking to step outside of the top 20, into finding their way as collectors, into experiencing art in a different way, bringing a different sense of time and study to the pursuit. So, I think we are on a precipice of change.
Charlotte Burns: Do you both agree?
Amalia Dayan: I think all these things that Allan mentioned definitely exist, and that’s the thread. There is much more awareness to value in the last ten, 15 years, and I’m not saying it as a negative. Art became so expensive that it became a consideration.
We see with many collectors today, they want the best of the top 10, top 20 let’s say. But also what we do which is quite different from that, is bringing to the limelight the more undiscovered, and that has an audience as well.
Daniella Luxembourg: But the best changes, that’s the thing. We have very a bad memory toward change. If you take the last 10 years, and you go: “What made the record price at auction?”, you’d be amazed.
It’s a very good exercise to do, because you would see that in the Contemporary field 10 years ago, something which you have absolutely no desire to own today made the record price. I’m not speaking about the fact that it was a lot of money, it’s now worth less, because we are not in that business. We are not in the business to protect the funds of our clients. But what is interesting is the urgency, because there is a certain urgency to acquire. You see a work of art and you feel that you have to have it immediately. No? Otherwise, you don’t buy.
And I always say that every sale is an accidental gesture, basically. It’s accidental, but it’s only one, and you can have it in front of the painting, and that urgency made a record price for that artist or another artist 10 years ago, which today you don’t want to have for any price. Not even for taking two zeros out of the end of it, you just don’t want to have [it].
And that’s the magic of it all. That’s something that we cannot predict. It has to do with awareness and consciousness, political. The politics have a huge influence on us. It’s as if not, but it does.
Charlotte Burns: In what ways, do you think?
Daniella Luxembourg: Sometimes you don’t want to be associated with certain consumption of the past because you think it’s tacky. But suddenly—it was tacky the whole time—but suddenly it becomes tackier in front of you now.
Charlotte Burns: Right.
Daniella Luxembourg: It is things that you are ashamed to be associated with, and yet people paid 10 years ago, nine years ago, eight years ago—not in 1920s, but in our time—huge prices for it, and as if they don’t want to have it [now].
Allan Schwartzman: In happy times of plenty, we see shiny, happy things that are very accessible, selling extremely well. And they start to look superficial, indulgent, and less relevant when times are challenged.
And it’s not necessarily that the times are challenged economically, but as Daniella says, politically, or emotionally; and those are times where we find art that is more content-driven than style-driven that become more powerful. It just so happens, in general, my interests lie more in the content sides than the shiny side, but I think we constantly see this pendulum within taste. It’s kind of like, when you get into economically challenged times, and people who remain very rich don’t want to be buying the big house that year. It’s just part of one’s psychology.
But I do think that there are moments where we still have phenomenal opportunities. I think just back to—I think it was last fall—where one of the greatest paintings by Lucio Fontana came up for auction. This is a work from the Venezia series, which is a body of work of the scale and mastery of his famous Fine di Dio series, although there’s been less trade in Venezia paintings in recent years, and unlike the Fine di Dio, there’s a much wider range of stylistic types to those paintings. I remember the show that was organized at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection that came to the Guggenheim in New York. I think it was called “Venezia/New York”.
Charlotte Burns: Right.
Allan Schwartzman: And, so, it was an exhibition of these two bodies of work that Fontana made, one after the other. The first being the Venezia paintings, which are, in many ways, his most Baroque, his most lavish, his most romantic, his most open and serene. And then he went to New York to show the Venezia paintings, I believe, and when he was in New York and he discovered this city, and it’s noise and dissonance and energy is when he made his metal reliefs; which are really the opposite of the Venezia paintings: he hasn’t cut with a knife—he’s cut with a torch. Or with huge materials, and so the very physicality of them and their presence is quite different. It’s the difference between Old World and New World.
And in that show, there was a black painting from the Venezia series, that stopped me in my tracks that I thought: “If this painting ever became available, this would be the most phenomenal thing to place.” It came up for auction in the fall, in London. I had client who was bidding on it. We assumed it would get out of our range, and we were able to buy it for what was a low price for such a significant work.
Amalia Dayan: Definitely a low price.
Allan Schwartzman: There just wasn’t much competition, and that’s a masterwork.
Amalia Dayan: Right. Incredible work.
Daniella Luxembourg: I always say that great works have legs. They go to the people that deserve them. And from time to time, we have great works that come our way. My imagination works only when I see works of art, otherwise I don’t know to speak about it.
Charlotte Burns: What was the last great work of art or exhibition you saw?
Amalia Dayan: Thanks to Daniella in London, I saw a show that I loved, and I keep on talking about it since. The collection of Charles I at the Royal Academy. He was an unbelievable, very passionate collector and also the ambition of the museum of the Royal Academy to pull together because half of it maybe comes from the collection of the Queen, but a lot of it they were able to assemble from different museums.
Apparently, I don’t know if we spoke about it, it took the curator only four or five years to put this show together. The show, it’s a show that looks like it took a lifetime to assemble together, but you see this eccentric man’s passion
Daniella Luxembourg: We didn’t speak about ugliness. Things that are not beautiful are much more important than things that are beautiful, so in the Gauguin show, at the Grand Palais, which everybody poo-pooed because it doesn’t have the trophy Gauguin, but it had all his ceramic works and all his experimentation with paper, all his monotypes and the colors he invented, and all the things that he wanted to be; because he was a stockbroker. So, when he became an artist, he made a very big effort to become an artist.
And the effort in becoming an artist and doing everything—ceramics, sculptures in wood, monotype—unlike Degas or Manet, he was not able. He had an awkwardness, Gauguin, he painted really badly. But, the exhibition is fantastic because the power: it’s like when someone who stutters, when he makes an effort, he makes a bigger effort. So, he’s a stuttering man in the art world, he didn’t do so easily, any gesture was a huge effort. That exhibition was so beautiful in the authentic way. The struggle was there, and I loved it. I love struggle.
Charlotte Burns: Allan?
Daniella Luxembourg: I haven’t seen it. Tell me why.
Allan Schwartzman: So, this is an artist who’s emerged, really, in the last 10 years, and addresses is a series of cultural, personal and formal ideas in a way that has great complexity, and I find quite moving. I think the market, perhaps, has one image of him based on a certain body of work that tends to keep coming up for sale, which are the works on corrugated board with gold leaf.
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes.
Allan Schwartzman: But there is so much vision and precision to what he does, and the way he utilized that building is flawless.
Daniella Luxembourg: Interesting.
Allan Schwartzman: The intersection between his work, how it looks, what it’s about and what that building can contain is quite sophisticated. I think that—
Amalia Dayan: It’s interesting because I disagree, I have to say.
Amalia Dayan: No, because I love the work and I own work that is in the show, but I thought there was a real clash between the work and the space, they sabotaged each other. It’s such an intimate, delicate work that the vastness of the Guggenheim, it almost looked ridiculous in this palace of this great architecture. And also, I felt that the way they positioned it, you needed so much explanation, which is not necessarily the case with his work, but seeing it in that context and the way the show was constructed, I felt that you needed to make a huge effort to get it; and I resisted that.
Allan Schwartzman: I hear what you’re saying. But let me give a slightly different viewpoint on both of your major points there. So, I learned about the New Testament through art history. So, when I studied Northern Renaissance painting, I had no idea who was who or what meant what, and it was a huge encyclopedia of symbolism.
Amalia Dayan: Yes.
Allan Schwartzman: Every single element, every single color meant something.
Amalia Dayan: Right.
Daniella Luxembourg: Of course.
Allan Schwartzman: I loved those paintings just by looking at them, but then learning the stories and the relevance of all the different symbols, the role of iconography transformed the paintings because it gave me a greater grounding in the sophistication of the artist. And I see Danh the same way. I find his work to be very moving as an experience.
Amalia Dayan: It’s very interesting to think about it like that.
Allan Schwartzman: But, if you know the context for where this piece was made, and why, and what his link is to it—
Amalia Dayan: You need the iconography
Allan Schwartzman: Then that brings it to life in a much bigger way.
Amalia Dayan: Yes, that’s true.
Allan Schwartzman: And in terms of the space, I feel like he dealt with emptiness as meaningful as he dealt with the places of presence. So, as you go through it, and so much of the work—
Amalia Dayan: Which is an important thing in his work, definitely.
Allan Schwartzman: Yes, so much of the work, or most of it, is made in fragments in the residue of culture.
Amalia Dayan: Right.
Allan Schwartzman: And so seeing this very modern utopian building filled, or, in a certain sense, littered with fragments from all different kinds of cultures; be they classical, liturgical, political, I found they gave everything meaning and presence.
Amalia Dayan: Right, interesting.
Daniella Luxembourg: I have to see.
Amalia Dayan: Yes, now you have to see it.
Daniella Luxembourg: No way I am not seeing it!
Charlotte Burns: You’ll have to see it and report back so we can—
Daniella Luxembourg: Yes.
Allan Schwartzman: Part two.
Charlotte Burns: Yes, part two, exactly.
Allan Schwartzman: With food.
Amalia Dayan: The most important factor in our life/
Charlotte Burns: You mentioned the ways in which the political and the emotional affect art, the way we see art, the way we buy art. We’re living in a time that there’s been a real shift between, you know, what was before and where we are now in so many ways. Do you feel that that affects the way that you’re looking at art? Do you find that your eyes have changed in this period of shift?
Daniella Luxembourg: I’m sure they are, even if we’re not aware.
Amalia Dayan: Hopefully.
Daniella Luxembourg: In political terms all of us, I guess, share the same political views, one feels a failure, in so many ways. There are so many wars and misery and really unbelievable suffering all over the globe. So, I think that the reason I’m starting to be interested in Modernism of the ‘20s and early ‘30s is exactly that, because that optimism of changing the world, the fact that with Modernism, one can bring, obviously it was proved, huge failure as well. But, Dada, Surrealism, Léger, Miró, all these Modernist movements that wanted to make it better is something that I’m terribly interested in. Probably, also, as an escapism from what’s happening here.
Also, and that is interesting to remember, the ‘20s were so developed, Paris was the center of the universe, Berlin for a certain time after the First World War, but then Paris—and yet it all vanished.
And what happened later in America in the ‘50s had nothing to do with what happened in the ‘20s in Europe. In a way, America rediscovered itself and had its own path.
Daniella Luxembourg: And Modernism in Europe in the ‘20s and ‘30s, only came back with small examples of what we are speaking about—Italy, about Germany, about France—but never to the monumentality that it used to be before. So, I miss it, so we are looking back. That’s my personal point of view.
Daniella Luxembourg: Never came back, they never come back. That’s the thing. Look at the history. Empires. Huge amount of knowledge, of intellectual and emotion capacity of talented people. Never comes back to the same place. It goes somewhere else and develops somewhere else.
Allan Schwartzman: But interestingly, that American art in the 50s came out of surrealism and psychoanalysis, so it had the same root, but they had to find their selves in a different way.
Daniella Luxembourg: Of course, of course. Totally different.
Charlotte Burns: Is there anything anyone would like to add?
Amalia Dayan: When are we having lunch?
Daniella Luxembourg: What are we going to eat?
Amalia Dayan: Where? Where?
Charlotte Burns: Well thank you so much to my guests, Daniella Luxembourg, Amalia Dayan and Allan Schwartzman, it’s been a pleasure to have you all day today.
Amalia Dayan: Thank you Charlotte, thank you very much.
Daniella Luxembourg: Thank you. Burns
Allan Schwartzman: Thank you Charlotte.
Charlotte Burns: Thank you.