Property from the Collection of Nathan L. Halpern
Nathan L. Halpern epitomized the Renaissance man. A pioneer in the world of television, he avoided the limelight and focused his attention on a wide range of interests. These included the collecting of European, Asian and Tribal art, photography, and worldwide specimens of seashells. A lifelong and voracious reader with a strong, agile intellect, he assembled a vast library of important books in the process of studying and researching his interests. His passion for photography and nature would significantly affect cultural and environmental aspects of life in New York. He became President of the International Center of Photography, and later an Honorary Trustee; Life Trustee of the Central Park Conservancy during its revival of Central Park; and a founding member and President of the East Hampton Beach Preservation Society. His love of the arts led him to become a benefactor and member of the Corporation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mr. Halpern was a distinguished alumnus of the University of Southern California, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was a member of three Pacific Conference champion basketball teams. He then graduated from Harvard Law School as a member and Treasurer of the Law Review, beginning his legal career as Assistant to the Chairman of the SEC. Mr. Halpern served in the United States military during the Second World War as a naval officer and later became the Executive Assistant to James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy. Seeking a warfront action role, he joined the Office of Strategic Services in London, participating in the planning of the events of D-Day. He later served as Executive Assistant to the Director of the U.S. Information Services in France, operating behind German lines in Belgium and then meeting with advancing Russian troops in order to start negotiating the repatriation of whole populations in Europe.
Stationed in Paris after its liberation in 1944, Mr. Halpern pursued his passion for art, seeking out artists and dealers in what was still the global art capital. He met Picasso shortly after Paris' liberation through his friend John Ferren, the American artist, who was also in the Intelligence Services. Mr. Halpern and Ferren rode a jeep into the countryside and found Picasso, becoming the first Americans to greet him since the beginning of the Occupation in 1940. Mr. Halpern befriended Picasso in his studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins, and shortly before his return to the United States, accepted the powerful gouache Nu couché as a gift from the artist. This study relates to the artist's 1942 masterwork of the same subject, which was sold at Christie's in 1997 in the eminent Ganz Collection sale. On another occasion, in a truly visionary exchange, he swapped his overcoat and other sundries with Joan Miró's dealer Pierre Loeb for the seminal 1938 painting La caresse des étoiles. When the war ended, he returned to New York in a transport plane with the picture wrapped in a blanket on his lap.
During several of his wartime assignments, Mr. Halpern worked with William S. Paley, President of CBS and renowned art collector. Following the war, Mr. Halpern worked under Paley at CBS for four years, eventually becoming his assistant. Mr. Halpern then went on to found Theatre Network Television, where he would spend the next forty-five years making breakthroughs in television entertainment, global communications and modern technology. Mr. Halpern's company was a pioneer in serving special audiences through television: live, multi-city large screen video-conference productions, pay-television broadcasts of cultural and sports events, product marketing and sales events for major U.S. companies, and interactive national political fundraising events are a few of his innovations. Furthering the concept of specialized communication, he developed image magnification, which transformed large-scale meetings, concerts, and special events and pioneered satellite telecasting to Europe, Japan and China. He designed and supplied the high-resolution large screen television technology used by NASA in the management of its rocket launches, which was instrumental in the extensive circulation of the images from the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
Mr. Halpern's technological innovations extended to the fields of medicine and science. He developed techniques in television that brought live broadcasts from hospitals into major medical conferences, to educate medical professionals through patient case studies, treatment options and surgeries. These innovations helped to bring healthcare to remote areas through transmission displays. During this period of innovation and entrepreneurial advancement, Mr. Halpern formed many friendships. One of the most profound was with the Hollywood producer and avid art collector Joseph H. Hazen. Throughout a fifty-year period they exchanged correspondence on a wide range of subjects including philosophy, literature, politics and, of course, art, trading views on artists, curators and dealers alike. Mr. Halpern also had a long friendship with Ian Woodner, the great Old Master and Modern Drawings collector, who bequeathed much of his collection to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. He also developed an important relationship was with Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first Director of MoMA, who played a significant advisory role in Halpern's purchase of Matisse's momentous drawing of 1935, Femme nue allongée (see lot 7 in the Evening sale).
Much of the Halpern Collection was formed in the sixties through the leading New York dealer Sam Salz, who expanded the Modern focus of the collection to include late 19th century works by Cézanne, Monet, Degas, Renoir and Vuillard. Mr. Halpern was aware that, while each work he considered for purchase should affect him on an emotional level, the paintings should also integrate well with each other, an understanding that is evident in the cohesiveness of the collection. Ultimately it was this dual approach to art, simultaneously imaginative and intellectual, that imbued the collection with such a distinguished and singular character. Nathan L. Halpern was truly a visionary, whose inherent originality, courteous nature and sharp intellect--along with his extraordinary list of achievements and contributions to the community, his country, technology and science--unquestionably place him in the pantheon of celebrated and influential citizens of New York.
Property from the Collection of Nathan L. Halpern