Tag Archives: Peter Selz

Craigslist ad leads to discovery of world-class art collection in Berkeley

A 1946 painting by Sylvia Ludins. Photo: Peter Jacobson
Print Friendly

When Justin Cronkite arrived at an Elmwood home last year to check out a dresser he had seen on Craigslist, he found more than a piece of furniture. In the garage, coated in decades’ worth of dust, was a stunning collection of paintings.

There were watercolors, oil paintings, sketches, and even 8-foot murals, most in vivid colors. Cronkite estimates that there were almost 300 pieces, some depicting evocative scenes of political turmoil and hardship, and others abstract.

The owner of the home and the dresser, Jon Katz, told Cronkite that most of the paintings were by his aunt, Sylvia Ludins, who died in 1965. Some were by Ludins’ sister, Katz’s mother Florence Ludins-Katz. Katz has been in possession of the collection since his father died in 2008. He showed and sold most of his mother’s work and always had it in the back of his mind to do something with his aunt’s.

Cronkite, a filmmaker and perennial go-getter, asked Katz if he could help him bring Ludins’ art into the world. Katz said he would consider it. The two parted ways, but Cronkite couldn’t stop thinking about the art. A few months later, he got an email from Katz granting him permission to pursue exhibiting it. Cronkite jumped into action, dusting the paintings and setting up a makeshift gallery in his home.

By a stroke of luck, Cronkite was introduced to Peter Selz, the renowned art historian and founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum. Selz, who is in his 90s and lives in Berkeley, took a look at Sylvia Ludins’ paintings and was astounded.

“I was amazed to see work like this reappear after all these years,” Selz said, “and from an artist who was really very skilled.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

Berkeley Art Museum’s iconic home closes after 44 years

People attend closing day events at the Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, on Sunday, December 21, 2014. The museum is set to close to the public today at its current building and reopen in a new building downtown in 2016. Photo: David Yee
Print Friendly

On Sunday, hundreds of people swarmed through every nook and cranny, every cantilevered balcony and ramp, within the concrete hulk of the Berkeley Art Museum at 2626 Bancroft Way. They came to say goodbye to a building that has hosted innumerable highly regarded exhibitions over four decades, as well as art installations, fashionable events, and parties.

Built in 1970, and designed by architect Mario Ciampi during the brief reign of Brutalist architecture, the UC Berkeley-owned museum has as many detractors as fans. In his closing speech, BAM/PFA director Lawrence Rinder expressed both his fondness for the building and the occasional frustration of dealing with its constraints. The building has been deemed seismically unsound, and a brand new museum is being built in its stead. The new BAM/PFA, designed by New York’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is set to open in January 2016 on the site of a former Cal printing press in downtown Berkeley. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Gabrielle Selz’s ‘Unstill Life’ provides peek into the modern art world with its glamour, ambition, heartbreak

Gabrielle Selz and Peter Selz. Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Selz
Print Friendly

When Gabrielle Selz was growing up in New York in the 1960s, her house was filled with artists who have become icons of the time: Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, and Alberto Giacometti.

Selz’s father was Peter Selz – then a curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, a man whom the New York Times dubbed “Mr. Modern Art.” Peter Selz moved to Berkeley in 1965 to become the founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum, a position that allowed him to showcase West Coast artists. He highlighted Funk, film, and ceramicists like Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson who were not even considered true artists at the time. Peter Selz later became project director for Christo’s Running Fence, the 24.5-mile long billowing fabric fence that ran over the Marin County hills in 1976. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘Saved by the Bay’ at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life explores lives of academic refugees

Print Friendly

Saved by the Bay: The Intellectual Migration from Fascist Europe to UC Berkeley, the exhibition currently on view at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley through June 27, may be a bellwether of that institution’s recent metamorphosis.

The new, reconfigured Magnes is no longer a privately funded museum housed in a mansion on a suburban Berkeley street. In the past three years it has moved to a distinctly urban location on Allston Way in downtown Berkeley and is now a part of UC Berkeley.

Under the aegis of Cal’s Bancroft Library, the Magnes’ remarkable collections of Judaica, art, and archival materials documenting the history and culture of Jewish communities in the American West — 15,000 items in all — are dispersed among various libraries on campus and in orderly climate-controlled storage areas in the new Magnes. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Inspired appropriation: Enrique Chagoya at Kala

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 11.56.57 AM
Print Friendly

In our wired era of ubiquitous information and perpetual image bombardment, all of human history, cultural production included, is online and available for plunder: to sample, remix, recycle and repurpose. This embarrassment of riches has not been lost on artists. In music, film, TV, literature, performance, visual art, you name it, today’s artists steal voraciously from everywhere.

But when everything is up for grabs 24/7, it’s a rare artist who can exploit this vast archive to make distinctive works that speak eloquently to our contemporary condition. Maybe it takes an artist who’s a cultural hybrid him- or herself, who inhabits disparate communities and has a polyglot sensibility, to craft unexpected and compelling forms from the multifarious influences we are bathed in from birth.

Berkeley is currently hosting two exhibitions by contemporary visual artists who meet, even exceed, the requirements for inspired appropriation: “Freedom of Expression: The Work of Enrique Chagoya” at Kala Art Institute through July 6, and Nicole Eisenman/MATRIX 248 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive through July 14. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Book explores impact of Berkeley Art Museum’s Peter Selz

Print Friendly

When Peter Selz arrived in Berkeley in 1965, the university only had a small art gallery to display its modest collection of art. Selz had been recruited from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to oversee the construction of a new, contemporary museum, the Berkeley Art Museum on Bancroft Way.

He did that and more. With Selz at the helm, the Berkeley Art Museum redefined many aspects of modern art and brought overdue attention to California artists.

Selz was already “something of a star,” when he arrived in Berkeley, according to Paul J. Karlstrom, whose new book, Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life, has just been released by UC Press. He had been one of the first curators to trumpet the work of Mark Rothko. His star grew even brighter in Berkeley after he put on groundbreaking shows such as “Directions in Kinetic Sculpture,” an exhibition of the Surrealist René Magritte, and Funk!, which showcased ceramicist Peter Voulkos, Bruce Conner, and other California artists. Selz, who had fled Germany during the Nazi regime, also created the Pacific Film Archive. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Panel to discuss whether abstract art refutes digital age

Blue # by Eva Bovenzi, one of the paintings on exhibit at the Berkeley Art Center
Print Friendly

The Berkeley Art Center is celebrating the centennial of abstract painting with an exhibit curated by Peter Selz, one of the founders of the Berkeley Art Museum and an expert in German Expressionism.

On Saturday at 4 p.m., Selz will moderate a panel with several of the artists featured in Abstract Visions, including Gary Edward Blum, Donna Brookman, Bruce Hasson, Kevan Jenson, Naomie Kremer, Keiko Nelson, and Gloria Tanchelev. After the panel, each of the artists will … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,