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Background Information

Employment History



Museum of Fine Arts

Manager, Diversity Advisory Committee

Museum of Fine Arts


Harvard Law School


Honorary Overseer
Museum of Fine Arts




Web References (8 Total References)

Collector John ... [cached]

Collector John Axelrod"> Collector John Axelrod Collector John Axelrod MFA Adds African American Art

Sixty-seven works by African American artists have recently been acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), from collector John Axelrod, an MFA Honorary Overseer and long-time supporter of the Museum.
It was made possible with the support of Axelrod and the MFA's Frank B. Bemis Fund and Charles H. Bayley Fund. Axelrod has also donated his extensive research library of books about African American artists to the Museum, as well as funds to support scholarship.
"John has been a great friend of the MFA, and I extend my thanks to him for making these works available for our many visitors to enjoy."
Assembled by Axelrod over the course of 15 years, the collection is regarded as one of the finest holdings of American art by African American artists.
"For a great collection of American art, you must include these important artists," explained John Axelrod."I buy what I love, and I'm particularly pleased to be able to share my passion for these works with a wider audience."
"These important works from John Axelrod's collection greatly enhance the MFA's Art of the Americas holdings, allowing us to tell the broader story of American art," said Elliot Bostwick Davis, John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas Department.

tucker contemporary art [cached]

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has acquired 67 works by African-American artists from museum benefactor John Axelrod, a retired attorney and former trustee who oversaw the MFA's diversity advisory committee. According to the Boston Globe, Axelrod is selling the works to the MFA for between $5 million and $10 million, well below market rate.

Axelrod has also donated his research library of books about African-American artists, as well as funds to support scholarship. / Boston Magazine [cached]

John Axelrod has spent much of his life acquiring and dealing art.Now , his collection is so large it's spilling into museums.Lucky museums.

The Hunter-Gatherer
John Axelrod sits on one of the low , angular armchairs in the living room of his Beacon Street apartment and surveys his surroundings.This is no small task.In every sightline there is an objet d'art , ranging from the bizarre - a sculpture of a naked man walking a razorblade tightrope - to the sublime , a gold figure of Icarus falling to earth.Every surface is crammed with eye-catching sculpture ; every wall showcases a painting ; every square inch of floor space holds a historically important piece of furniture.
Axelrod , a lawyer who practices when the mood strikes , has put a good deal of time and effort into making his home a museum-quality exhibition.At 51 , he has spent most of his adult life collecting and dealing art , and nowhere is his self-described obsession more evident than in his apartment.Axelrod darts around his acquisitions , pointing out works of art and expanding on their provenance.His voice is robust , echoing off the walls of his living room as he talks about his history as a collector.Animated and effusive , he is as frisky and friendly as his Australian terriers.Dapper in khaki pants and a blue button-down shirt , he looks like a businessman on perpetual casual Fridays.Which , in essence , he is.
Drawing on investments made from a series of extremely well-timed business deals - first involving a string of Sheratons , and later a fashion-design venture - Axelrod is one of the fortunate few who can devote himself full-time to his avocation.Now he has a collection that has earned him a place in Artnews magazine's ranking of the world's top collectors.He also has a collection that has nearly squeezed him out of his home.
To the untrained eye , Axelrod's apartment seems overwhelmingly cluttered with stuff , albeit the kind of stuff people reverently tiptoe around and are afraid to touch.Axelrod , however , is comfortably futzy ; he hops up_to fuss with a plant he has just placed in the window , and gives a little nudge to a chair that has fallen out of alignment with its partner.He gazes at his things with the pride and satisfaction of a child who has finally gotten his toys arranged just so.
Although the collection itself is serious , Axelrod's arrangements have a certain sense of humor.A modern ceramic pitcher resembling a gold alien with turquoise tentacles plays off a Ming bowl.
Axelrod didn't buy the apartment to entertain.He bought it to house his ever-expanding collection , and in his 20 years here he has created a home that is both_a shrine to art and a funhouse for someone who loves it.
John Axelrod did not always live with art like this.Growing up in Andover , the son of a house builder and a housewife , he recalls only one piece of artwork in his home - a poster reproduction of a sad and colorful Georges Rouault clown that hung just outside his bedroom.But he was always a collector : rocks , stamps , and road maps_back when they were free at gas stations.It wasn't until later , when he was a student at Andover , that he discovered Eugene Delacroix , Winslow Homer , and Herbert Haseltine in the school's Addison Gallery.He graduated from Andover in 1964 and headed to Yale , where he earned a degree in mathematics and never once set foot in the university's gallery.
Around this time , he bought his first painting.It was a seascape showing boats bobbing in Gloucester harbor , and by his own admission , it was no masterpiece.I still have it around here somewhere , he says , as an exercise in humility..
Axelrod became interested in Art Deco in 1969 , while he was a student at Harvard Law School.He bought an exquisite diamond-shaped tea service by Gene Theobald for $ 45.Today , the set - which he still has - is worth substantially more.Because the tea set appreciated in value , suddenly people tell me I have an eye , says Axelrod.Nobody said that when I bought the painting..
In New_York City , he began educating himself about Deco.He read what few books there were on the topic , and talked to as many art dealers as he could , learning about the period and its key artists.He started buying vintage posters for his walls , and branched_out into furniture and sculpture.He acquired display cases from the G. Fox department store , in Hartford , a dining room table by Art Deco master Gilbert Rohde , and a tall light that once sat in Radio City Music Hall.When he sat_back to take a breath , he'd acquired some of the most important Deco works ever created.He'd also earned the awe of authorities in the decorative arts.
Axelrod soon faced the dilemma of having outgrown himself.He was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge , and he was quickly filling it up with art.Axelrod was running out of wall space for the posters , there were no more surfaces on which to arrange his sculpture , and he had enough furniture to fill his home twice.In_addition to his Art Deco.
collection , he was accumulating American prints and paintings at a steady clip.On a trip to Christie's in New_York , he had spotted a lot of prints by Martin Lewis , the artist who captured urban scenes of New_York in the 30s and 40s.He made the winning bid and suddenly , he says , I was a print collector..
Again Axelrod educated himself.He scoured auction catalogs and magazines such_as House & Garden and Architectural Digest - not so much for the stories as for the ads in back.He progressed from prints to paintings to sculpture , always battling the dimensions of his apartment.He was , as he says , losing the cubic-inch dilemma..
When I see a piece I like , my only question is , Do I love it.I never think , Do I have room for it.That's what contractors and real_estate agents are for , he says.So in 1977 , he did what any self-respecting art collector would do.He packed_up his collection and moved into a bigger place.
John Axelrod's current apartment sits on a corner of the Back Bay where sunlight streams in from three sides and the Esplanade stretches_out in back.Built in 1893 as a single-family residence , it was carved into apartments in 1963.Axelrod quickly set about dispersing his collection throughout the house.He put things everywhere.
The great room facing the Charles River became the main living space.He repainted the walls - which the previous owner , a sea captain , had painted blue - to complement his Deco furniture : a pink and gray background with black and plum accents.In the corner , near a bay window , he placed an enormous Robert Arneson sculpture of a head that gazes from a pedestal of black chalkboards carrying poems about the Hiroshima and Chernobyl disasters.In his kitchen , opposite the floor-to-ceiling cherry cabinets , he hung six paintings above the garbage can.To the left , a display shelf holds a sleek 1930s model train and a collection of almost a dozen Art Deco clocks.He keeps his favorite things in the bedroom : a large round mirror designed by Paul Frankl , once owned by Andy Warhol ; a prized Alfredo Guttero painting , above the fireplace ; various paintings of all kinds covering the walls.Even the bathrooms have artwork hung around the sink and mirror.
His home is quite dramatic , says the MFA's Fairbanks.All of the works have a strong point of view , like John Axelrod himself.All his things are opinionated..
The apartment once had a guest bedroom.In 1994 , an old college friend came to visit , and smoked several packs of cigarettes a day in the guest room.After he left , Axelrod didn't just purge the smoke - he purged the room of houseguests , permanently.
In front of the bookshelves , Axelrod set_up massive easels where he mounts displays for himself.At the moment , the show features a collection of paintings by El Grupo Orion , the first group of South American surrealists.
Axelrod has never called in an interior decorator , and he takes great pride in arranging his collection himself.Only once has he conceded his hammer to a pro.That was when his friend and mentor Martin Diamond , formerly a Madison Avenue gallery owner , arranged for William S. Lieberman , chair of 20th-century art at New York's Metropolitan Museum , to view Axelrod's paintings.
The Metropolitan was not the only museum that took notice of Axelrod.By the 1980s , he had become a collector that the MFA could not ignore.He was invited to be a member of both the American Decorative Arts and the European Decorative Arts visiting committees

Fine Arts - Berkshire Fine Arts [cached]

Greatly strengthening an extremely thin area of its American collection, the Boston MFA acquisition of works by major African-American artists includes 67 works from collector John Axelrod. Now the Boston institution holds one of the major groupings of African-American Art anywhere. Axelrod is selling the works to the MFA at below market values, between $5 million and $10 million.

The Museum of Fine Arts, ... [cached]

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has acquired 67 works of African American art from the collector and MFA Honorary overseer, John Axelrod, who is selling the works to the MFA at below market values, between...

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