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Collector John ...
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.
has also donated his
extensive research library of books about African American artists to the Museum, as well as funds to support scholarship.
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
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.
has also donated his
research library of books about African-American artists, as well as funds to support scholarship.
Boston.com / Boston Magazine
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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..
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, ...
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...