Passion Points: Arts/Culture
The first view visitors have of the Brant Foundation Art Study Center is a juxtaposition that would make anyone smile: the 12-foot-tall bright rust-orange Jeff Koons sculpture Balloon Dog on point outside a beautiful stone barn from 1902. Whimsical modernity, meet staunch traditionalism. Set on the edge of a polo field in north Greenwich, Connecticut, the barn has been transformed by Richard Gluckman of Gluckman Mayner Architects into a gorgeous art study center showcasing selections from Peter Brant’s superb collection of contemporary art. Gluckman, who is known for his renovation of the Whitney Museum, retained the structure’s lovely period details like the stone hearth, added an enormous skylight that floods the space with natural light, and created a terrace out back where guests can take in the pastoral surroundings. On Friday, Indagare joined Peter Brant, Jeff Koons and other artists in the show at a special preview of the collection, which opens to the public by appointment this week.
“I’ve been collecting art since I was nineteen,” says Brant, the newsprint billionaire, film producer and polo player, now in his early sixties and going through a public divorce. “My taste is conceptual in nature. As a collector, you need be open minded enough to recognize what will be considered great ten years from now.” The exhibition, “Remembering Henry’s Show: Selected Works 1978-2008”, was inspired by a monumental 1969 show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art curated by Henry Geldzahler and features 100 works from such artists as David Salle, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, Keith Haring, Karen Kilimnik, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman and Urs Fischer. Selections range from two graphic Warhol Rorschach paintings (1984) to Elizabeth Peyton’s beguiling Napoleon (2005) to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s wildly colored and kinetic Boy and Dog in Johnnypump (1982). More recent acquisitions include David Altmejd’s Wood Clock (2007), an imaginative sculpture incorporating a faux tree trunk, taxidermy birds, shoes and crystals. Perhaps the most stunning work is Koons’ Puppy, a 43-foot-high topiary sculpture covered with 80,000 fresh flowers, which is installed in a field across the street. If Brant had to pick one highlight? “The Basquiat,” he says. “It has an energy that’s pure genius.”
One quirk about the museum is that none of the artworks are labeled. “I find checklists and cards distracting,” says Brant. “They take away from what’s happening on the wall.” Such details reveal just how invested Brant is in the project. “Peter’s been involved in every aspect of this space,” says Koons, adding, “his passion for art is also a passion for friendship.”
The current show will be up for a year and is well worth the hour’s drive from Manhattan. Next up: an Urs Fischer solo show in spring 2010.
PLANNING A VISIT
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center is open Tuesday through Saturday by appointment only and can accommodate up to 100 visitors at a time. Peter’s daughter Allison Brant leads docent tours. To schedule one, email firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s best to book at least a month in advance.
A marvelous nearby restaurant is La Crémaillère, just a mile down the road. Set in a white clapboard farmhouse from 1750, it’s cozy and romantic with a rich, quintessentially French menu: foie gras terrine with duck confit; escargots; veal with white wine and tarragon. Be sure to try the famous homemade “custard” ice cream.
To get there from the Brant Foundation, head northwest on North Street towards Bedford for a little over a mile. North Street becomes Bedford-Banksville Road as it crosses from Connecticut into New York. The restaurant will be on your right and has a parking lot. 46 Bedford-Banksville Road; 914-234-0736; cremaillere.com
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