NYC Acquavella Galleries exhibit the Scull Collection

New York City is home to a rare treat that began Tuesday April 13th and runs through May 27, 2010.

The Acquavella Galleries will open an exhibition that documents the acquisitive passion of the colorful New York couple who dominated the contemporary art world in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The exhibition comprises paintings, sculpture, and drawings. In all, forty-four works by twenty-three artists: Lee Bontecou, John Chamberlain, William Crozier, Michael Heizer, Philip Guston, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Walter De Maria, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Poons, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Lucas Samaras, George Segal, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, Myron Stout, Mark di Suvero, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselman and Peter Young.

Robert and Ethel Scull were to art collectors what Andy Warhol was to contemporary artists in the 1960’s. Pioneer collectors of Pop art (known as the Mom and Pop of Pop), they were everywhere in the 1960s, a constant presence on the New York social scene.

According to the gallery, the Sculls began acquiring major works by leading Abstract Expressionist artists in the mid-1950s: Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman but a few, and assembled a distinguished collection of New York School paintings.

Motivated by a taste for the new, they soon moved on, becoming the major collectors of Pop art and the first owners of many works now considered masterpieces including James Rosenquist’s monumental F-III, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art; Andy Warhol’s 200 One Dollar Bills, which sold this last November for $43.8 million; Police Gazette, 1955, by Willem de Kooning; the iconic Ethel Scull 36 Times, Andy Warhol’s first commissioned portrait; and Jasper Johns’ Map, a gift from the Sculls to the Museum of Modern Art.

The Sculls’ greatest passion was for Jasper Johns.

Among Johns’ earliest collectors, at one point they owned 22 major works. Seven are included in the exhibition, among them, the iconic Painted Bronze (Ale Cans), 1960; the 196l sculptmetal The Critic Sees; and Double Flag, which Scull commissioned in 1962.

“The Scull’s collection spanned three generations of American art from Abstract Expressionism to Pop art and Earthworks. They had an eye for it all. It’s quite extraordinary and unusual,” says curator Judith Goldman. By the late 1960s, in his lesser known role as patron, Scull commissioned important works by Walter De Maria and Michael Heizer. In 1968, he could be found in a helicopter high above the Nevada desert looking at Michael Heizer’ Nine Nevada Depressions, which he commissioned.

The high-profile Scull auction of 1973 and the estate sale after his death in 1986 afforded only brief viewings of what he and Ethel owned. Now the public can see the great works they acquired, often straight out of the artists’ studios. The exhibition has been organized by writer and former Whitney museum curator Judith Goldman whose selection of key works, borrowed from major museums and private collections, presents a comprehensive portrait of the scope and quality of their taste.

Many works from important museum collections will be exhibited in the show. Participating museums include: Aichi Prefectural Museum, Nagoya; Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon; Daros Collection, Switzerland; The Detroit Institute of Fine Arts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and the Whitney Museum of Art, New York.

Private collectors will be lending works that have not been exhibited in decades. Lenders include Steven and Alexandra Cohen, David L. Davies, Stefan T. Edlis, Irma and Norman Braman, Janie C. Lee, Shelley and Gilbert Harrison, Linda and Morton Janklow, Barbara and Richard Lane, Thompson and Caroline Dean, and Lisa and Steven Tananbaum. In addition, the Glenstone Foundation and The Brant Foundation are lending works.