by Stephen Pulvirent
Last night saw two compelling openings at NYC's Neue Galerie, a museum dedicated to German and Austrian art and design from the early 20 century. Highlights from collector Harry C. Sigman's recent gift to Neue—which total more than 100 works representing the very best of the Jugendstil period of German design—are now on display, along with the museum's major display of German Expressionism masterpieces.
In the center of a wood-paneled room, complete with brass long-case clock and marble fireplace, four long glass cases hold highlights from Sigman's decades of collecting. Neatly arranged in this perfect setting, with elegant portraits gazing down nonchalantly from the walls, the collection of glazed porcelain teacups and richly colored glass vases by the likes of Peter Behrens and Josef Hoffmann looks like it has finally returned home.
Getting Sigman's gifts to the gallery wasn't easy. "When looking at this display, I think many people do not immediately realize how many years it takes to assemble all of the pieces composing, for example, a full set of of dinner service," said Sigman when we asked him about his collecting methods. "Rarely can you find an entire collection available for sale all at once—rather, each discrete piece marks a past trip to Europe, a unique discovery at a gallery or shop, and one step forward in painting a more vivid picture of design culture during the early 20th century."
Complementing the vision Sigman describes is the exhibition "German Expressionism 1900-1930: Masterpieces from the Neue Galerie Collection," just a short trip up a marble staircase leading to a room dedicated to the emergence of the Bauhaus. Organic motifs and delicate ceramic give way to polished metal and sharp angles, a style that has undergone quite a resurgence over the past few years. Having superlative (if small) collections from both schools under one roof is something not to miss.
Plus, as an added bonus, the Neue's design store has the exclusive rights to reproduce replicas of a few of the objects on display. So while that original Koloman Moser Tondi Cup probably won't be holding your morning coffee anytime soon, you can have something quite close as the next best thing.
"German and Austrian Decorative Arts from Jugendstil to the Bauhaus: Gifts of Harry C. Sigman" and "German Expressionism 1900-1930: Masterpieces from the Neue Galerie Collection" will be on display through 22 April 2013.
Images courtesy of Neue Galerie and Stephen Pulvirent