LOTS 307 - 338
Rarely in a generation is a collection formed with a level of insight, intellect, and passion that can capture with crystal clear precision the essence of greatness in the art of one’s time. The Triumph of Painting: The Steven & Ann Ames Collection is exemplary in this regard, a true collaboration assembled and honed over decades of looking, studying, conversing, searching for the best, and knowing when in its presence – an ultimate fusion of thinking, feeling, and fulfilling. It is a collection about painting, its grand and heroic rebirth in a period that might otherwise have seen it as anachronistic, and captures historical significance with scholarly rigor, personal passion and, yes, faith.
Steven came from a family with a celebrated history of collecting: his maternal uncles and aunts were renowned patrons and philanthropists from the Annenberg publishing family. To this day, Walter Annenberg, Lita Annenberg Hazen, her husband Joe Hazen, and Enid Annenberg Haupt are widely regarded as leaders of twentieth-century arts collecting and patronage. From a young age, this abiding love for the arts and art history, as well as a deep regard for all cultural objects, was instilled into Steven. He would hold this cultivated passion close throughout his life; and together with Ann, he began collecting in earnest in the mid-1980s. So enthralled and enraptured by the art that he encountered during this critical decade – particularly the paintings of Gerhard Richter – Steven decided to return to Columbia University, where he attended Law School twenty years earlier, to pursue a Master’s degree in Art History. Like a true scholar, this undertaking was done purely out of love for the material and is one of the most awe-inspiring indicators of Steven’s ineluctable passion. His thesis, submitted in 1994, is a thoughtful and incisive analysis of the influence of photography on Richter’s art. This text is so utterly demonstrative of the unassailable interest and abiding thirst for knowledge that described Steven’s character, we have chosen to publish it in full in this catalogue; it does more to demonstrate just how extremely special this selection of works is than my words ever could.
The result of such a passionate, intellectual outlook is that every work in The Steven & Ann Ames Collection is a foremost example by a great artist – assembled with the highest level of taste and selectivity. Together, the collection tells a story about painting in our time, about greatness in collecting, and about the world and spirit in which the art had been made.
More specifically, the collection focuses on the central struggles and achievements in painting over the last decades: battles between and coexistence of gestural abstraction and figuration; the roles of the replicative capacity of photography and the process driven nature of painting, and how these two often polar approaches have influenced one another to transform painting in the last fifty years.
In the end, what we find most impressive about The Triumph of Painting: The Steven & Ann Ames Collection is the economy with which this team understood and represented the most essential achievements in painting over the last sixty years, with pathos, precision, and personal passion.
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