RELEASE: CHRISTIE’S TO HOST THE SECOND ANNUAL ERIC M. WUNSCH AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE AMERICAN ARTS HONORING LINDA AND GEORGE KAUFMAN AND RICHARD JENRETTE

New York

New York - Christie’s is honored to announce that the presentation of the second annual Eric M. Wunsch Award for Excellence in the American Arts ceremony will be held at their Rockefeller Center Galleries on January 22, 2014. This year’s award recognizes the remarkable dedication and contributions towards preserving American Decorative Arts by three major collectors and philanthropists: Linda H. Kaufman and her husband, the late George M. Kaufman, and Richard Hampton Jenrette. Christie’s will host the award ceremony on behalf of the Wunsch Americana Foundation, which created the award to continue the legacy of renowned collector Martin Wunsch and to encourage greater scholarship and appreciation of American Decorative Arts.  

“We are delighted to recognize these devoted connoisseurs and advocates for the American arts (Linda H. Kaufman, the late George M. Kaufman, and Richard Jenrette) with this year’s Award,” said Wunsch Americana Foundation President, Peter Wunsch. “My father would be pleased to see these leaders in the field acknowledged for their steadfast focus on preserving America’s heritage and making it accessible to so many people to enjoy and learn from. 

John Hays, Deputy Chairman of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Christies, added, “We are pleased to host this special event that recognizes the importance of preserving America’s material heritage. These honorees are among the most avid and knowledgeable collectors in the field; they personally have invested so much to further the study and preservation of American Decorative Arts, it is truly fitting that they receive this honor.” 

George M. (1932–2001) and Linda H. Kaufman (b. 1938)

Over the course of nearly half a century, the Kaufmans established one of the most coveted collections of American furniture and related decorative arts, distinguishing themselves as true connoisseurs and active philanthropists. 

Lifelong residents of Norfolk, Va., the Kaufmans began collecting American furniture shortly before they were married in 1958. George earned an MBA from the University of Virginia, then worked as a banker, an investor, and a real estate developer before founding Guest Quarters Inc. in 1972. Linda grew up in a home filled with fine art and antiques that her parents, Elise and Henry Clay Hofheimer II, had acquired. She attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk. The Kaufmans have two children, Edward G. Kaufman and Claire Kaufman Benjack, and four grandsons 

In 1977, the Kaufmans established the Kaufman Americana Foundation to award grants for the encouragement, promotion and enhancement of the study of American decorative arts and related areas, including literature and illustrations. Through their foundation, they have supported numerous scholarly books, articles, exhibitions, and seminal research projects. In addition, the Kaufmans funded two galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, contributed to the Charles F. Montgomery Curatorial Chair at Yale University Art Gallery, and established special funds and awards at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va.; the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, N.C.; and the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Wilmington, Del.

In the fall of 2010, Linda Kaufman made a promised gift of over 200 examples of American furniture and decorative objects to The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. This was the culmination of their continuing commitment to the Gallery as members of the Trustees' Council from 1994 to 1998, and Linda H. Kaufman’s participation from 2003 to 2008; also serving on the Collectors Committee, 1982–2009, and The Legacy Circle since 2003. The Kaufmans have also supported the Gallery in various Dutch art projects and acquisitions, as they have been long-time collectors of Dutch paintings. A permanent exhibition of over 100 of the promised American objects is now on view in the West Wing of the Gallery.

The Kaufmans are also known for their generosity in other areas, such as education and research on heart disease, and in 1998 they funded the establishment of the Kaufman Center for Heart Failure at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. In 1985, the Kaufmans and their children funded the George M. Kaufman Presidential Professorship and also participated in creating a Darden Graduate School of Business Administration professorship held by the school's Dean at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. 

This Wunsch Award acknowledges the Kaufmans’ standards of excellence in a variety of endeavors, but particularly their philanthropy and connoisseurship of American Decorative Arts.

Richard Hampton Jenrette (b. 1929)

By his own account, Richard Hampton Jenrette is a “house-aholic.” Over the past 45 years, he has owned and restored 16 historic and architecturally worthy homes, dating from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. Some of these properties have been sold or given away to loving owners, but Jenrette has retained six of the finest architectural buildings, ranging from Edgewater (ca. 1820) on the Hudson; to Millford Plantation (1840), in Pinewood S.C.; and Estate Cane Garden (1786), in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Each home is furnished meticulously with antiques of the Federal and Classical periods (1785 - 1840), mostly American in origin and many original to the house. These are enhanced with lighting fixtures, porcelains and decorative items, largely of English and French origin, which are appropriate to the period.

Jenrette established the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT), a nonprofit foundation whose mission is “to preserve, protect and open to the public examples of classical American residential architecture, and fine and decorative arts of the first half of the 19th century.” Two of the houses are already owned by CAHPT, and the others will be given to the Foundation over time. He generously opens his homes for special group tours by museums, garden clubs, and various preservation organizations, and all proceeds from these tours are donated to either the sponsoring organization or CAHPT, as are the proceeds from the sale of the book Adventures With Old Houses, which describes his 40-year odyssey in collecting and restoring old houses and antiques.

The CAHPT collection of houses and decorative arts is tightly focused: first half of the 19th century, residential, classical, and American. The furniture collection is even more focused, especially in New York-made furniture, with the addition of imported luxury items, used but not made in the U.S. at the time. The six houses include an important collection of classically inspired early 19th century English, French, and other European crystal chandeliers, mirrors, clocks and porcelain, some of it original to the houses. The early 19th century was America’s critical first 50 years, when the new nation adopted the classical architecture of the Greeks and Romans to reflect the Republican values of early Rome and Athenian Democracy at its peak.

Born in Raleigh, N.C., on April 5, 1929, Mr. Jenrette is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina and received an MBA from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business. After co-founding the investment banking firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. in 1959, he served as Chairman of the Board from 1974 to 1996. He is also the former Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States. Described by The New York Times as “the last gentleman on Wall Street,” Jenrette’s distinguished career has included service on numerous corporate boards of directors and philanthropic groups.

Mr. Jenrette has received various awards for his historic preservation activities, including the Louise duPont Crowninshield Award, presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Hadrian Award, presented by the World Monuments Fund.

Dean Failey, former Senior Director of American Furniture at Christie’s, noted, “Patron and collector Richard H. Jenrette, along with White House and State Department architect Edward Vason Jones, and the late Curator of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Berry Tracy, raised the stature of Classical American furniture and architecture to new heights during the 1960s. He is a collector with finely honed taste and a very knowledgeable eye.”

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