A Timely Pas­sion

Keith Sher­man and Roy Gold­berg’s col­lec­tion draws from the era of the WPA.

American Fine Art Magazine - - In This Issue - By John O’hern

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.

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