- Guillaume Apollinaire
- Dessins originaux
- inscribed Cézanne (centre left) and Bereny (towards upper left)
- India ink on paper
- 30 x 23.8 cm; 11 3/4 x 9 3/8 in.
Acquired at the above sale by Dr. Arthur Brandt
Arthur, Arthur, you really do sustain the passion (and bravo, bravo for that!). Collecting art (or anything, for that matter) when coincided with one's heart and mind together, is indeed one of the purest and most satisfying of pleasures. You are one who always qualifies for that, ever since the beginning of your earliest collecting days. Being another of that somewhat limited fraternity of truly sincere and dedicated collectors, I both congratulate, as well as happily join you in this select and fortunate circle. Really Arthur: bravo, and bienvenue.
I first met Arthur Brandt in the early 1980s. I met him through a mutual friend, with whom I also shared the collecting "bug" and passion. When he arrived for his inaugural visit to my somewhat crowded office/apartment, he was initially overwhelmed by the amount of art (and piles of books and catalogues and other art-related miscellany) that met his eye. He sat there in the only space available for viewing-- a comfortable, cluttered couch against the side wall of the no-longer identifiable living room-- ogling whatever happened to be visible on the walls or crowded tabletops. After a few moments he pointed to some picture on a wall and asked me what it was. I recall that it was the lithographic Dada poster designed co-jointly by Kurt Schwitters and Theo van Doesburg. He seemed to like it a lot. From there we drifted into a conversation about Dada, in which I was able to enlighten him quite a bit.He then asked me to show him other Dada-related works, which I did. When the visit ended, he asked me a few prices, and said he would soon be in touch. Within a day or two he was. I don't remember what his first acquisition was-- maybe a couple of things together (I honestly cannot remember). Whatever that purchase was, it constituted the beginning of a long association together.
During the ensuing years Arthur purchased a number of things from me (works by Schwitters, Man Ray, Duchamp, Max Ernst, Delvaux, Diego Giacometti, etc.). He also went out exploring on his own, and because of the geographic diversity of his households and his life, discovered the pleasures of pursuing art in Paris, and sometimes London. Paris was his second home. Arthur discovered the galleries relevant to Dada and Surrealism, but especially did he discover the endless possibilities of seeking and often buying in the Paris auction rooms (especially in their mecca: l'Hotel Drouot).
Arthur's collecting interests gradually expanded. His early adherence to Dada and Surrealism always remained intact, but also he began to explore, and eventually collect, Italian Futurism, Cubism, some School of Paris independents, certain avant-garde Russians, and here and there, a few Americans (among others: his personal friend, Robert Goodnough; Ray Johnson-- to whom his wife at the time, Christine, initially gravitated and brought to his attention; and through my influence, if I remember correctly, the inventor of "The Great American Nude" in all her glory, Tom Wesselmann).
Suffice it to say that Arthur's collection is fascinating, pleasure-evoking and enjoyably diverse. Now with this sale of his collection at Sotheby's in Paris, it is your turn to explore it and acquire some lovely souvenir from it as well. Arthur is pleased that these works-- in so many cases-- might return to their frequent place of origin: his beloved "Par-ee". You are invited to share this pleasure that Arthur has for several decades enjoyed, accordingly.
Timothy Baum, 3 September 2017
The Collection of Dr. Arthur Brandt
In the early 1950s—when Arthur Brandt was still a teenager, and long before he gave a thought to collecting works of art—he encountered a formidable force in the world of contemporary art, though, at the time, he didn’t realized it. Brandt, a budding mathematician preparing to enter medical school, was also an avid chess player, and frequented various clubs devoted to the game in New York City. One afternoon while walking through Washington Square Park, he stopped by the park’s southwest corner to watch people at cement tables playing chess, an activity that continues at the same place to this very day. The strength of the players varies, from amateurs and wood-pushers, to ranked professionals. There are also a fair number of chess hustlers, players who openly challenge passers-by and kibitzers (those watching and commenting upon games in progress) to play, with the intent of enticing them into wagering.
Brandt observed among the crowd a thin, elderly gentleman, whom he recognized from visits to the Marshall Chess Club on West 10th Street. They began talking, and eventually decided to play a game themselves. During the course of the match, both players took out pipes and started smoking: Brandt, a Dutch meerschaum pipe with a long curved stem and large bowl, an unusual accoutrement for a teenager, while the older man smoked a worn pipe that appeared to be—curiously—hand painted. As the game progressed, Brandt, seeing his position improving, mentioned to his opponent that he admired his pipe, and proposed that they wager their respective pipes on the outcome of the game. The man accepted, claiming that he also admired his opponent’s pipe, and wouldn’t mind winning it. Brandt’s position continued to improve, however, so he eventually won the game and the pipe. The gentleman handed over his possession with a smile, saying that they should play again. Indeed, they often did, meeting over cups of coffee at the Café Grecco, still a fixture on MacDougal Street in the heart of Greenwich Village. After their first game, however, Brant recalls having lost more often than he won, so eventually the man walked away with his pipe, too.
Whereas the gentleman had freely offered his name, it meant little to the young pre-med student at the time. Only years later would it come to mean a great deal to realize that he had played chess—and won the pipe of—no one less than the famous artist and chess player, Marcel Duchamp.
Some twenty-five years would pass before Arthur Brandt began collecting seriously, a passion that coincided with a lifelong love affair with the city of Paris. It was there that in the 1950s he met and married Veronika Mlaker, a Zurich-born Slovenian ballet dancer who, a few years earlier, had been discovered in Munich by Jean Cocteau and brought to Paris by the Roland Petit Company. Eventually Dr. Brant purchased an apartment in Paris, where his children recall that he experienced the peace and tranquillity that he was unable to find in New York. He enjoyed visiting museums and artist’s studios, and purchased works of art only when he chanced upon them. An encounter with the private art dealer Timothy Baum in the early 1980s changed everything, for his interest in Dada and Surrealism was nurtured and developed through his guidance and expertise. For several decades, Dr. Brandt relied heavily on his advice in purchasing works of art.
As his collection grew, Dr. Brandt’s chess game with Duchamp took on added significance, for over the years, he would go on to acquire an impressive selection of work by the artist. The Boîte-en-valise, for example, contains miniature reproductions of Duchamp’s most important works, often described as a portable museum in a suitcase. A majority of works in the Brandt’s collection are small in scale, and, because there are so many of them and not enough wall space in his home to display them all, a good number lie about in their frames resting against walls or pieces of furniture. Visitors are free to pick these works up off the floor and examine them, in the same fashion that a person examines the individual reproductions in a Duchamp valise. The effect can be quite memorable, for viewers gain an intimacy with the objects and a sense of discovery that would not otherwise be possible.
Such experiences are bound to occur with other works in the collection, such as the collage by Kurt Schwitters, the German Dada artist who magically transformed street detritus into the visual equivalent of poetry. In some cases, the materials are organized into cohesive geometric compositions, while others retain the random quality of the object as originally found. Some of these works were clearly intended to be playful: one collage displays the image of a winged cupid, his index finger extended as if making a rhetorical point, while the word “Announcements,” clipped from a newspaper, appears, appropriately, at his side. Another is intended as an homage to Herbert Read, the renowned British art historian, whose head is positioned awkwardly on a recamier, next to a little girl who cuddles up to a reclining woman bearing a moustachioed male head.
The humor that these works elicit is common to many works in the collection, especially those by the American painter, photographer and object maker, Man Ray, the only artist in the collection represented by more works than Schwitters. The works by Man Ray date from various phases in his long career: from watercolors and drawings made in the New York and Ridgefield period; a rare lost object from the Surrealist period bearing the impression of human lips (from an edition made in 1973); watercolors from the decade he spent in Hollywood; to and an assortment of objects made in Paris in the last years of the artist's life.
Over time, Dr. Brandt was drawn increasingly to works from the Dada and Surrealist periods. Among the most important of these works is a large watercolor drawing by Francis Picabia, and a comparably sized painting by Kurt Seligmann. The Picabia, made in 1915, is a rare mechanical work made during the artist’s second sojourn to New York. Although the image is abstract, its subject is revealed in its somewhat cryptic title: Intervention d’une femme au moyen d’une machine. Since the artist inscribed these words prominently in the lower-right corner of the composition, it would appear that he wanted viewers to find this subject within the image, although anyone not intimately familiar with his work would experience difficulty in doing so. The Seligmann painting dates from 1933, when the artist was living in Paris and participating actively in the Surrealist movement. His Buste d’Homme is characteristic of his painting from this period, in that he fuses the magical realism of Miró with the floating, unarticulated geometric shapes employed by painters of the French Abstraction-Creation group of the 1930s. In 1938, just before war broke out in Europe, Seligmann moved to the United States, where over the course of the next two decades, he perfected a style in which macabre, anthropomorphic figures clad in armor are either dancing or engaged in mythical combat, several examples of which are preserved in the Brandt Collection.
As it turns out, the chess game that Dr. Brandt played with Marcel Duchamp over fifty years ago was an auspicious event, not necessarily because he won, but because the experience continues to affect—however unconsciously—the way the way he goes about collecting works of art. The same intellect that won a pipe—which, to this day, is one of Dr. Brandt’s prized possessions—plays a crucial role in each acquisition and, just as the chess game involved a degree of calculated risk, works are added to the collection with the reasonable assurance that they will match the quality and historical context of other works already acquired. This is an ongoing game that we can be fairly certain Dr. Brandt will not lose.
Francis M. Naumann
[adapted from Francis M. Naumann’s text published in the exhibition of Dr.Arthur Brandt’s collection held at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2006]