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Art’scool Docent Stories: Mary Therrien
Expect the Unexpected
The Albright-Knox’s motto is “Expect the unexpected.” That certainly happened to me on a recent third grade tour.
Before starting the tour, I took my third grade group to the little alcove by the gift shop to talk about museum rules and the theme of their tour. I ended by saying, “If you see something you like, stop and ask me about it, and we’ll talk about it.”
A little boy raised his hand and said, “I like this a lot.” He was pointing at a green Dale Chihuly vase that was for sale in the case right in front of him! I asked the rest of the group if they liked any of the vases. All of them raised their hands. Each of them told me which of the four he or she liked best, and why. We spent ten minutes talking about glass blowing, Dale Chilhuly as an artist, what types of glass works he creates, and the Corning Glass Museum. Every single child wanted the piece he or she chose in their bedrooms.
Finally, the first boy raised his hand again and asked, “How much does it [the vase he chose] cost?” I said, “Several thousand dollars—somewhere around six thousand dollars.” I could see he was trying to process what that meant. So I said to the group, “Are you ready to go outside and meet a very big lady?” [Jaume Plensa’s Laura, located on the museum’s grounds.]
"Yes!" they all said. We started out for Laura.
Another boy said, “I really like the boats [Nancy Rubins’s Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Monochrome I, Built To Live Anywhere, At Home Here, also located on the museum’s grounds], could we see them?”
"Let’s go!" I said to the group. We never made it to Laura. Expect the unexpected (and the delightful)—indeed!
Monuments Men at the Gallery: Recovering the Lost History of Edgar Degas’ Mlle. Fiocre dans le ballet de “La Source”
The forthcoming release of the film Monuments Men, based on the book of the same title that traces the activities of members of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Allied Forces as they located, protected, and returned artworks confiscated by the Nazis during World War II, is especially timely given the recent revelation that in 2012, German officials discovered over 1400 artworks in the dingy Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of collaborationist art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt.
The Albright-Knox recently had a discovery of its own regarding the fate of one our paintings during the war—albeit one with a much happier ending, in which the artwork was long ago restored to its rightful owner. While working on a project to make more information about the Gallery’s art works accessible through MIMSY, our collection database, the art collection cataloger needed to gather some biographical information about Alphonse Kann, a former owner of Edgar Degas’ Mlle. Fiocre dans le ballet de “La Source” in order to improve the record for him in the database.
She learned that though Kann, a French Jewish art dealer, was listed in the Gallery’s documentation as owning the painting until his death in 1948, he had in fact fled Paris in 1938 or 1940, leaving behind his art collection, which was seized by the Germans in 1940.