‘People Like Horror, Like Terror': Emmerich on Collectors and Their Art

sphinx People Like Horror, Like Terror: Emmerich on Collectors and Their Art

‘Sphinx’ (1987) by de Andrea. (Courtesy ETSU)

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art recently announced that it has finished cataloguing the papers of the late dealer André Emmerich, who is best known for showing the work of Color Field painters. The AAA also has a transcript of an interview that the New York gallerist gave to Mona Handler in 1993 about his life, and it turns out that it is fantastic.

Here’s a bit from Emmerich about some peculiar experiences visiting the homes of collectors, including one “swinging bachelor”:

MR. EMMERICH: … People like horror movies, like horror on their walls, deny it on one level that it’s there, that they see it only for their formal duty, but on another level like it for the horror that’s contained within it. At least that’s my conclusion after many years of involvement in the field.

The people – the use people make of art is also a funny one. I was recently in the home of a collector who took me, a couple, to their bedroom, which is often embarrassing as a phenomenon because it tells you more about them that you want to know. Their bedroom, the ceiling was tiled with mirrors.

MS. HADLER: [Laughs.]

MR. EMMERICH: The walls were tiled with Picasso erotic prints, and the entrance tiled, and I mean tiled, with Helmut Newton photographs. Well, I think Picasso’s prints are wonderful, including the loving ones, the ones that deal clearly with erotica, if you will. But used that way, I was uncomfortable.

MS. HADLER: Yes. I can understand. [Laughs.]

MR. EMMERICH: I mean, you know, I was uncomfortable.

MS. HADLER: Did you know Picasso? Did you meet him over the years?

MR. EMMERICH: No. The insensitivity of people to art. I remember one collector showing me his home. He was a swinging bachelor in those days – this is ten years ago – and he had a round bed on an elevated platform. And next to the bed, he had a John DeAndrea nude girl, but not one of those happily free-standing nudes, but a poor, shivering creature holding a towel in front of herself. He bought it, I’m certain, because she was “decent.”

Read the whole interview transcript here.

(Image courtesy East Tennessee State University)