The collection of Idamae B. and James H. Rich is imbued with an adventurous spirit and intuitive discernment befitting of its collectors. The Riches always pursued an independent course of collecting that did not follow fashions or trends but rather remained true to their instincts, with some thoughtful research and trusted advice along the way. Confident bidders in New York and London auction rooms, the Riches were equally as generous in sharing their love of art and their collection with their community. Their interest in Contemporary Art dated from their attendance at the first Carnegie International in the post-war years, and the Riches were devoted and enduring supporters of the Carnegie Museum and other philanthropic interests in the arts and education. Idamae earned her B.A. in Art History at the University of Pittsburgh and was a member of the Women’s Committee at the Carnegie. James was an Honorary Member of the Carnegie Museum of Art Board, and they both welcomed tours of their collection organized by the Museum. Together they donated acquisition funds, as well as the brilliant Delaware Crossing by Frank Stella, to the Museum. The Riches demonstrated a wonderful receptivity and openness to artists who were not conformists and who embodied the boldness of late 20th-century art. Each artist in their collection defied traditional norms – whether in genres or the materials and processes used – and the Riches matched the artists’ adventurous spirit with their intrepid choice of acquisitions.
Sotheby’s is delighted to present this distinguished collection over a series of sales which began in London this past June and highlighted by a major painting by Albert Oehlen. Luscious color, figuration, avant-garde abstraction, and precision of line appear throughout the collection, culminating with the three works by Richard Artschwager that highlight this selection. Represented here by a sculptural object, a painting and a charcoal drawing, Artschwager’s work is one of the great hybrid aesthetic practices of modern times. Objects like the rubberized hair Console, with its luminous acrylic green hues, have painterly attributes, while more figurative paintings such as The Gleaners, with its elaborately designed frame, have sculptural elements. The 1987 charcoal drawing depicts two diners, seen from above and flattened into a two-dimensional plane which neatly conveys the porous boundary between abstraction and figuration that is a hallmark of 20th century art. The Riches acquired these three works from 1997-1999, a few years after Artschwager was included in the 1995 Carnegie International curated by Richard Armstrong. At that time, Artschwager was awarded the Carnegie Prize in Sculpture, and six works by the artist were acquired for the Museum in 1995/1996 through the Mr. and Mrs. James H. Rich Fund.
In summary, the dynamism of the collection is a profound reflection of the marvelous and intrepid couple who enjoyed collecting and living with art. It is an honor to present this collection to the art collecting community as a tribute to them.
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