“Focus on the major works of the young generation rather than on the secondary works of major artists.” In giving this advice, as astute as he was, to his Cambridge friend Gates Lloyd and his wife Lallie, James Sweeney, who was later to become one of the most brilliant curators of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, could not have imagined that he would be at the origin of one of the most prodigious collections of 20th century American contemporary art.
And yet, when we examine the underlying threads of the collection of the brilliant investment banker Gates Lloyd and his wife Lallie, close to the Parisian avant-garde of the 1920s before devoting almost their entire existence to the support of European and American contemporary creation – we are struck by the couple’s incredibly visionary choices. For we should examine not only the distribution of the collection but also the dates of purchase. In 1938, Gates and Lallie Lloyd purchased Miro’s The Flames of the Sun Make Hysterical the Flower of the Desert. In 1941, they commissioned Hayerford Monster by Calder, a monumental sculpture for their house in Cape Cod where Brancusi rubbed shoulders with Moore and Mondrian. Lallie Lloyd was very close to the artists, and spent her time in their studios. She recognized extraordinarily early the talents of Jackson Pollock, Louise Nevelson, Morris Louis, Agnes Martin, Anthony Caro, David Smith and Willem de Kooning from whom she purchased Black Friday, the first work ever sold by the artist and which would later be given by Gates and Lallie Lloyd to the University of Princeton.
Their passion for art meant that they never resold the artworks they purchased, unless in the case of absolute necessity in order to purchase others. Over the years, Gates and Lallie Lloyd gifted many pieces to the institutions they held dear, notably an example of the famous Clamdigger by De Kooning to the Whitney Museum of American Art, a monumental sculpture by Robert Morris to the Fairmont Park of Philadelphia, a work by Gorky to the museum of Israel and Marcel Duchamp’s famous suitcases to the Washington Gallery of Modern Art to name but a few.
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