A Timely Passion
Keith Sherman and Roy Goldberg’s collection draws from the era of the WPA.
Keith Sherman and Roy Goldberg’s collection draws from the era of the WPA
The great jazz trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker (1929-1988) wrote the lyrics, “i fall in love too easily/i fall in love too fast. ”they are lines often quoted by one of our collectors but unlike Baker’s assertion that such a love can’t last, the collectors’ love for the work they purchase is long lasting.
Keith Sherman’s company provides public relations and marketing services for the entertainment industry. Roy Goldberg, MD, is a geriatrician. Despite their busy and different careers, Sherman and Goldberg share a passion for American art of the early 20th century especially the period of the WPA and the 1939 Newyork world’s Fair
in particular. there is a room in their country house devoted to art and artifacts of the World’s Fair—over
1,000 pieces. In the pre-internet days of flea markets and antique shows, each bought the other something from the fair. then there was a third piece. they declare that “three makes a collection.” Goldberg explains, “it took on a life of its own. ”they continue to look for handcrafted art associated with the fair, not glasses and ashtrays emblazoned with the iconic Trylon and Perisphere. They have a business together, Helicline Fine Art, that “works with new and experienced collectors, institutions, interior designers and art professionals to develop new collections and to help expand current collections. ”the Helicline was the 950-foot long ramp that connected the Trylon and Perisphere at the fair and is symbolic of the couple’s desire to connect people with art.
They connected with the original 7-foot tall plaster for the 42-foot tall sculpture, Riders of the Elements, created for the fair by Chester Beach (18811956).The plaster, which they call
The Chester, sits in their garage in the country because it’s too big to get into either their house or their Newyork City loft. they bought it at auction with a friend and decided to have three 42-inch bronze reductions made—one of which has pride of place in the New York loft.
They also collect things hidden in plain sight. Mercury by Joseph Freedlander (1870-1943) once graced the top of one of 104 bronze light posts along Fifth Avenue from 1931 to 1964. An intriguing connection is an Al Hirschfeld drawing of a souvenir salesman at the fair.as a young man in the entertainment PR industry, Sherman used to run photographs of theater luminaries to Hirschfeld’s home for him to create his extraordinary caricatures. His company was the artist’s publicist for the last 15 years of his life and today, one of his clients is the Al Hirschfeld Foundation.to commemorate an anniversary, he asked Hirschfeld to do a drawing of himself and Goldberg. It’s a classic Hirschfeld— with five “Ninas,” his daughter’s name, hidden among the lines of the drawing. Goldberg says, “we met in our 20s and moved into a 1920s art deco building.we had posters from our college days but wanted to know more about the period when the building was built.we went to the Strand Bookstore and discovered the WPA.” Sherman adds, “we love collecting
books and now have a robust library.” The couple has a vast knowledge of the period but still buy out of passion and love. they often get a piece home and find it illustrated or written about in one of their books. Some remain mysteries, but no less loved. “after we find a piece,” Sherman says, “we love doing the research.”
One day, driving through Dutchess County on the way to the country, Goldberg shouted, “stop the car!” He had seen something intriguing in a shop window. It was a cast stone sculpture, This Eden, by Anita Weschler (1903-2000). Sherman recalls, “I stopped, we asked the price and bought it then and there.”
The couple have a number of studies for murals both executed and unexecuted. “the studies and preparatory sketches are about the process,” Sherman says. “the end result is important, but these show the process of how and artist got from A to B.”
Goldberg adds, “some of the murals were executed but then destroyed.the studies are a window into what was going on at the time. whether they were executed or not doesn’t diminish their importance.”
The windows into the past also reflect life today. Ben Shahn (18981969) painted Demonstration, Union Square in 1934. Shahn photographed and painted the protests against social injustice in Union Square and around City Hall, the type of gatherings that are becoming frequent again, today.the painting was the cover illustration for the exhibition catalog Newyork City WPA Art: then 1934-1943 and ... Now 1960-1977.
The Empire State Building, by Glenn O. Coleman (1887-1932), measures an impressive 84 by 48 inches and was included in one of the Museum of Modern Art’s first exhibitions in 1932. Goldberg points out the dirigible passing behind the building’s tower, an allusion to a plan to have the airships moor to the tower to disembark passengers. He also points out the ubiquitous hot dog vendor and tenements as part of the image of “New York being transformed.”
Solomon R. Guggenheim (18611949) collected the work of Rudolf Bauer (1889-1953) in the 1920s at the behest of Hilla Rebay (18901967). She had been Bauer’s lover and, in 1939, became the first director and curator of the Museum of Nonobjective Painting, now the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Guggenheim acquired everything Bauer created. After Guggenheim’s death, Rebay was forced to resign and Bauer’s paintings were relegated to storage. Not one of them was hanging when the Frank Lloyd Wright spiral museum opened in 1959. His painting Con Brio, 1923, was exhibited in the Guggenheim’s exhibition, Art of Tomorrow, in 1939, and still bears the museum’s collection label. It was deaccessioned by the museum and now has a home in the couple’s Manhattan loft.
Goldberg reveals that they have a “one in, one out” policy for their collection “but Keith doesn’t stick to it” he laughs.“it’s sort of why we started Helicline,” Sherman adds.“we have a finite amount of space.we have regularly donated pieces to museums, and finding new homes for pieces with our clients allows us to keep collecting.” Sherman says,“we’ve brought things into our life that give us such pleasure and joy—things that we love.” Goldberg remarks,“we follow our heart. If a piece appreciates, so be it.” The couple lives and loves their art noting that the works from the past still speak to them today. Sherman adds, “Art is like oxygen.”
On the left is Labor Crushed by Injustice, Labor Sustained by Justice, circa 1937, ink and tempera and oil on board, by Louise Ronnebeck (1901-1980). Beneath it is an Art Deco aluminum panel, circa 1930, from at building in St. Louis. On the right is...
To the left of the door, from top, are New York Street at Night, oil on board by Ernest Fiene (18941965), and Randall’s Island, oil on board, by Harry Lane (1891-1973). To the right of the door is White Cloud, Salem, mixed media on paper, 1917, by...
On the left is The Cyclone at Coney Island, oil on board, by Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962), who also made the frame. Next to it is Man with Hammer, mixed media on paper, by Vladimir Lebedev (1875-1946). Next is The Tube Station, a linocut, edition 39 of...
Hanging on the wall is Con Brio, 1923, gouache and in on paper, by Rudolf Bauer (1889-1953). It was deaccessioned by the Guggenheim Museum. On the table is Ruhl’s glazed terra-cotta Man with Gear. Next to it is Demonstration, Union Square, 1934,...
On the far left is Man on Bench by Hugo Scheiber (1873-1950). On the facing wall is Two Lawyers Talking, circa 1945, oil on paper mounted on board, by Guy Pène du Bois (1884-1958). The bronze in the foreground is Mercury, by Joseph Freedlander...
In Keith Sherman’s office above Sardi’s restaurant in New York’s theater district are Crash, oil on canvas, by Ross Dickinson (1903-1978), and Maxwell Street, circa 1948-1950, oil on canvas, by Robert Addison (1924-1988). On the cabinets are assorted...
Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003), Roy and Keith, 1993. Ink on board.