December 24, 2004
It would be no exaggeration to say that Lord Duveen made a huge contribution to the British art world in the 20th century. Not only was he responsible for the funding of numerous galleries, but his methods of dealing in artworks largely defined the way that the art market operates today.
However, with his wealth & power he was free to inflict his own opinions on how things ought to be done & people desperate for the money would often ignore other ethical concerns in their pursuit of his funding. This is what happened during the building of the Duveen Gallery at the British Museum, where his insistence on whitening the sculptures to match his view of how they should look lead to the Elgin Marbles cleaning controversy in the 1930s.
A recent biography & play look at the life of the greatest collector of the 20th century.
Thu., December 23, 2004 Tevet 11, 5765
Buying high, selling higher
By Michael Handelzalts
Taking advantage of the fact that Europe had art and America had money, art dealer Joseph Duveen became a legend in his time and created, almost single-handedly, the collections of the great U.S. museums. A recent biography and a new play shed light on his dramatic and colorful life.
Even now, at the outset of the third millennium, after September 11 and after the world’s stock exchanges have crashed more than once, some works of art – those that turn up occasionally and are not in museums – continue to command prices of hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in auctions. However, most of the sales are made by the large auction houses and the buyers insist on anonymity. In the midst of all this, the art dealer, who brokers between price and soul and knows how to turn a picture into money, remains in the shadows. It is doubtful whether, other than in the auction house and the circles of anonymous collectors, there is a character as gargantuan and colorful as Joseph Duveen (1869-1939), who dominated the international art market in the first half of the 20th century.
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