John A. Friede, Allan Stone, and Maureen Zarember, New York. Photograph by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
How can I write only one page about this multi-faceted man Allan Stone? I knew him as a warm, giving, gregarious, sharing, talented man, larger than life, with so many friends with diversified interests. It is very difficult to put him down on paper.
I first met Allan in the early 1980s shortly after opening Tambaran Gallery. During my exhibition of Head Hunters of Nagaland, a man wearing a green zippered jacket, sneakers and eating an ice cream cone was seen peering in my window. He rang the bell, entered, and greeted me with: “What’s all this?” After several hours of exhausting questions I asked him if he was an art dealer. He laughed and denied being a dealer. He headed for the door, turned and asked what is the best dealer price on the Naga chieftain’s costume including the basket with the monkey skulls. “Allan Stone’s the name. Just send them up to 86th Street.” “Another nut,” I muttered. “Another time waster...”
A week later I answered the phone to “Mo, it’s Al.”
“Al who?” I asked.
“Where’s my Naga stuff, I have your check here, hop in a cab and bring them up. Just go straight up the stairs and ask for Joanie.”
“Ok” I agreed.
Announcing myself to Joanie, she pointed to a door. “He’s waiting for you; go in there to his office.” I cannot begin to describe this magical mess of accumulated art.
“Mo, I’m over here!” Allan called.
“Over where?” I asked.
He was concealed behind a huge desk piled high with art objects and surrounded by tribal art, American primitive and his famed jars of pickled body parts (which I later discovered where not real), and paintings hung from floor to ceiling. I was greeted with, “Hi Mo, have a cookie. Joanie’s mother just made them...” Later, as Alan walked me to the door I stopped to identify many of his tribal objects and then I asked if a painting of black thick brush strokes on a white background was one of his children’s works. “No”, he chuckled, and said something that sounded like “Datsakline.”
“Do people actually buy these?” I asked.
Several weeks later I visited Allan again and noticed a new painting, similar to the black one but now with pink, green, and black paint mounted in a fancy gold frame. Being a fast learner, I ventured to ask, “Is that the same artist, Datsakline? It must be worth more in that fancy gold frame.” When Allan finally stopped laughing, he enunciated “That’s-a-Kline. Franz Kline.” With that, he grabbed my arm and said, “Now, let’s go look at crushed car parts.” This was my introduction to Allan’s contemporary art world…
Allan was a constant seeker who moved so easily from Wayne Thiebaud’s pie and cake paintings, John Chamberlain’s crushed car parts, abstract paintings by Franz Kline and Willem DeKooning, American Primitive, Tribal International, to John Graham and Bugatti with no need to define his legendary collection to anyone.
Allan Stone was world famous in the contemporary art world and equally known for his fabulously large Tribal Art collection. He purchased most of his important major works long before our meeting, buying from older established dealers like J.J. Klejman, Henri Kamer and Allan Brandt, and of course many other dealers who knew his tough taste, but it was Merton Simpson (an artist himself) and the leading African art dealer who understood Allan’s passion for Congo fetishes and powerful art. These unique art works are now returning to the market place for the first time.
It is clear to see Allan’s attraction and connection to these powerful sculptures that are imbued with raw magic, adorned and encrusted with iron nails, blades, animal skins, fabric, mirrors, horns, shells, feathers, beads and bones all used to conjure, activate, heal, and summon their magical powers – in Allan’s words: “The Juice.”
He loved the stories each piece held, no matter where they originated. They all held his admiration, attention, and curiosity. Years later, I was asked by a friend in the fashion world if I would consider doing a fashion shoot with two of my favorite collectors. To my surprise, when approached, both John Friede and Allan agreed but were concerned about what they would wear. John wore tweed, I wore a Christian Dior suit, and Allan, what else but a tennis sweater? What a fun day we had, make-up and all. We have the photographer Timothy Greenfield Sanders to thank for this memorable and iconic photograph.
Once in a lifetime if you are very lucky you might meet an Allan Stone as I did. His vision and legacy were monumental, as was the man. Oh what fun we had.
New York, September 2013