The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings
Collection, acquired by the Museum in 2005, is an extraordinary
collection of over 2,500 contemporary works on paper. Through a
selection of more than three hundred works, this first comprehensive
presentation of the gift surveys the various methods and materials
within the styles of gestural and geometric abstraction, representation
and figuration, and systems-based and conceptual drawings. The exhibition
brings together historical works by Tom of Finland, Lee Bontecou
and Joseph Beuys; Minimalist and Conceptual works by Donald Judd
and Hanne Darboven; detailed narrative drawings by Elizabeth Peyton
and John Currin; collages by Amelie von Wulffen, Mona Hatoum, Lucy
McKenzie and Paulina Olowska; and large-scale installations by Nate
Lowman and Ján Mancuska, to name just a few. In its exploration
of diverse artistic tendencies at the turn of the twenty-first century,
this exhibition proudly celebrates the panoramic state of drawing
Organized by Christian Rattemeyer, The Harvey S. Shipley Miller
Associate Curator of Drawings, with Cornelia H. Butler, The Robert
Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings.
Note from Durk Dehner,
ToFF president and cofounder
The Judith Rothschild Foundation is the current
owner of #79-18, also known as “Tom’s Masterwork”.
This drawing had previously been in the possession of Robert Mapplethorpe
and eventually was sold in his estate auction at Christie’s,
yet is still unclear if Mapplethorpe actually paid for the drawing.
It had been included in a solo exhibition at the Robert Samuel Gallery
in NYC from which many of the works either went missing or for which
payment was never received. It was some time later when I discovered
that the Robert Samuel Gallery had a silent partner: Robert Mapplethorpe.
I interviewed Mapplethorpe just before his death, let him know how
Tom of Finland felt about the experience and he stated that he didn’t
know at the time of his partner’s unethical business practices.
I encouraged him to do what he could to correct the situation, as
it was very destructive in the area of artist/dealer relationships.
In the end, Mapplethorpe never approached Tom with any apology or
Harvey Shipley Miller, trustee of The Judith Rothschild Foundation,
called this drawing a masterwork. He also said that Tom did several
masterworks in his lifetime and few artists ever do any. Miller
stated, “That as an artist, Tom was superb; as an influence,
he was transcendent.” Miller went on to explain how Tom’s
influence was so evident in the expression of culture and how Tom
opened a pathway for other artists in approaching and dealing with
the subject of sexual response. Yes, Tom of Finland has been absorbed
into the culture and it is exemplified in how that culture expresses
itself — its music, its fashion and its artwork.
The Judith Rothschild Foundation acquired this drawing with the
intent of donating it, along with other Tom of Finland pieces, to
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. As the time drew closer, Miller
realized that MoMA wasn’t ready to receive such a work, as
they would have difficulties with the subject matter. Still pledging
to fulfill its destiny, Miller revealed, that they were going to
wait until the museum was ready for such an important work, “
So we shall wait till that time is right, for timing is everything,
and until then it is hanging on the wall in my bedroom.”
“Tom’s Masterwork” and all of its preliminary
sketches are very personal to me. They invoke a passion that inspires
and gives me the fortitude to go that extra mile in keeping Tom’s
message alive in popular culture. Tom’s work is still finding
new audiences 19 years after his passing.
The Coming of Age graphic shows the five Tom of Finland works that
are part of the The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings
Collection. The Collection was formed by Miller, donated to MoMA
in 2005 and was conceived to be the widest possible cross-section
of contemporary drawing made primarily within the past 20 years.
It includes artists from 30 countries around the world.
I have been working with Tom’s art for 30 years and I scratch
my head — will society ever be ready to just accept and enjoy
who we are as Queers? Is it our time?
— Durk Dehner