AMERICAN FOLK ART FROM THE COLLECTION OF KENDRA AND ALLAN DANIEL
Allan and Kendra Daniel are among that intrepid breed of collectors for whom the discovery and acquisition of an object is but the beginning of a more profound quest. It becomes clear soon after meeting the Daniels that they are committed to a full understanding of the works in their collections, and that they are warmly disposed to sharing their considerable knowledge. With remarkable visual memories and an insightful command of several fields of collecting interest, they have been generous in offering assistance to a host of curators and scholars.
To a significant extent, the field of American folk art has developed as an expression of the passions and pursuits of dedicated collectors like Allan and Kendra Daniel. The pioneers of the early 20th century gathered together materials from American vernacular culture that previously had been understood as mere objects of utility, household decoration, or personal fancy, recognizing in these objects the innate qualities of works of art. The result was the reclamation of an important element in American culture that previously had been either forgotten or ignored.
As the 20th century advanced, others were drawn into this fascinating pursuit; great collections of American folk art were formed and dispersed, and a lively community of dealers entered the field. In addition, institutions like the Museum of American Folk Art were organized to help establish a scholarly base for the study of the subject and a vehicle for bringing it to the public. Even as institutional life in the field grew, however, the leadership of collectors continued to be clearly manifest.
The Museum of American Folk Art, which was founded in 1961, has flourished over the nearly four decades of its history in no small part through the generosity of collectors. Allan and Kendra Daniel are among these long time supporters of the Museum. They have generously pledged a portion of the proceeds of this sale to the Museum, which is now building a splendid new home at 45 West 53rd Street, New York, New York. Scheduled to be open to the public in late 2001, this outstanding facility will provide a permanent center for the study and appreciation of folk art in the heart of the City. The Daniels have kindly elected to support the installation of the Museum's library in the new building. In the tradition of several generations of collectors who have supported the field and the Museum, Allan and Kendra Daniel are providing a legacy that will benefit generations to come.
Director, Museum of American Folk Art
What a pleasure to have spent all these years collecting such wonderful things. Starting as a city boy, going to farm auctions (I bought a brass and iron bed for one dollar)-what fun! I knew nothing about antiques but loved the New England countryside-green fields, stone walls, red sway-back barns and those fast-talking Yankee auctioneers. I had just bought a farm nestled in the hills of northern Massachusetts and combed the countryside for old furniture with that original crusty painted surface I'd come to love. Still spending most of the year in New York City, I opened a small shop on the Upper West Side in the late 1960s, hoping to make a living bringing American country to Gotham. I wasn't cut out to be a shop keeper and closed it in a year.
But I was learning the difference between the objects that were beautiful--valid as Folk Art--and just stuff. There were many good people to learn from, dealers and collectors, and a fledging, struggling little orphan of a Folk Art museum with no permanent home but a handful of dedicated supporters. The iconographic objects that these people had so generously donated inspired me to seek the best and gave me an understanding of establishing standards for the development of my taste and eye.
Of course the old timers said there was nothing left to buy, but I started scouring the countryside looking for treasures. In those days, the 1970s, there were still magnificent sculptural forms floating on top of barns and carriage houses in rural areas and in towns. I fell in love with the beauty of weathervanes. I bought them whenever and wherever I could, from farmers, from pickers, at auction, from dealers and even from fancy Manhattan galleries. I chose only those that had beauty of form and integrity of surface. Some were riddled with bullet holes and dented by BB's, but they wore their history.
And so many other objects I found fascinating. Those haunting portraits of early American farmers and tradesmen frozen in time, behind which you could feel the lives they lived and their times. The hardships and joys shone in their eyes. And the untrained artists--the best of whom had an innate sense of design--created unselfconscious works of art.
That sense of design has been pointed out by observers of modern art, notably Jean Lipman, who compared a horse weathervane by A.L. Jewell (lot #499) to a sculpture by Elie Nadelman. I feel that the portrait of the girl, school of Willam Matthew Prior (lot #890), has an essence of design found in portraits by the modern master Modigliani--the graceful elongation of the face and the enigmatic expression in the eyes.
Barber poles and trade signs, hitching posts and stable equipment, mellow with age and weathering, speak to us down through time of what life looked like in a bygone era when time moved slower, and things were made to last.
I've always been a collector/dealer, having run the American Folk Art Gallery on East 76th Street in the early 1980s and having done many antiques shows. Now Kendra and I are entering a new phase in our lives and want to have fewer possessions. We're looking forward to spending more time at our farm, my original inspiration. Of course I'm sad about parting with things I love, but this sale gives other people a chance to possess and enjoy these beautiful objects. For those who are aware of my secreted hoard in the warehouse, I'm opening the doors wide, and it's all going to be sold along with the additions from our home. There are few worthy objects these days left to be plucked from barn roofs or found in attics, but thanks to Christie's they are once more attainable for those who would treasure them.
The Museum of American Folk Art has spread its wings and its permanent home is rising on 53rd Street in the heart of Manhattan. In support of this worthy institution, we are donating a percentage of the proceeds of this sale to the Library Fund.
In addition, a like amount will be given to the Humane Society of New York whose good works help alleviate the suffering of animals.