Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Acquiring Art at Auction: Part 4 (It’s a Tea Service!)

Grete Marks tea service
Margarete Heymann Löbenstein Marks (German, 1899–1990), Tea Service, ca. 1930. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, Decorative Arts Deaccession Fund, M2011.17.1-.21. Image from Wright auction (Chicago, IL).

The papers are signed and I can say it: The Milwaukee Art Museum welcomed into its permanent collection a Tea Service designed by Margarete Heymann Löbenstein Marks.

After we purchased the work at auction two months ago and the wire transfer payment was complete, several of the Museum’s art preparators traveled to Chicago to pack the ceramic pieces carefully and adeptly deliver them to the Museum’s art vault. I patiently waited a few weeks for the next scheduled meeting of the Museum’s Acquisitions & Collections Committee, when I was able to share the artwork in person.

In the final act of acquiring artwork for the permanent collection, the Museum’s Chief Curator, Director, and the Chair of the A&C Committee signed the paperwork that officially make the object part of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

And now I can say it: Welcome to Milwaukee, Grete Marks!

Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Acquiring Art at Auction: Part 3 (The Auction!)

The empty sale room before the auction started. Wright auction house, Chicago. Photo by the author.

The day of the auction may have dawned Wisconsin spring gray, but to me skies were blue, birds were chirping, and the Amtrak train to Chicago was led by seventy-six trombones.

I had located an object perfect for the Museum collection, gained enthusiastic approval from the Collections and Acquisitions Committee, determined that the object’s condition was museum worthy, set an appropriate bidding limit, and was now about to face that split second at the live auction when we’d know if the object would become part of the Milwaukee Art Museum, or go to another bidder.

No, I wasn’t nervous at all.

Art Curatorial

A Time When Modern Was “Degenerate”

Grete Marks, Teapot, ca. 1923-1932. Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design.

This past weekend, I was proud to present a paper at the American Ceramic Circle’s annual symposium on an exhibition topic I’m developing. I spoke about a German designer named Grete Marks who made radical and beautiful ceramics—designs that the Nazi government called “degenerate.”