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May 31, 2015 - 02:00 pm to 04:00 pm
America's Pop Collector
Robert C. Scull—Contemporary Art At Auction
Directed by John Schott and E.J. Vaughn
FREE & Open to the Public
Parking is only $4, FREE for Art Museum Members
As part of the Art Museum's ongoing Moving Pictures film series, please join us on Sunday, May 31, for a rare public screening of a classic art-world documentary.
Schott and Vaughn’s vérité account centers on the historic 1973 auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet of fifty works from the private collection of New York taxi tycoon Robert C. Scull, who had been buying pieces from living artists like John Chamberlain, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol since the 1950s. This was the first auction of contemporary art from a single private collection, coming at a time when movements like Pop and Minimalism were still regularly ridiculed in the press. The unprecedented prices that Scull’s collection would bring—over $2.2 million, or roughly $11 million today, amounts previously reserved for Old Masters—dramatically transformed the market for contemporary art.
Shot and recorded by Alan and Susan Raymond (the filmmakers behind the pioneering documentary series An American Family), America’s Pop Collector portrays Scull’s interactions with dealer Leo Castelli, collector Sam Wagstaff, as well as artists like Rauschenberg and a young Robert Mapplethorpe. Beginning with the intense media scrutiny that preceded the event, the film chronicles the inner workings of the auction house during preparations, Scull’s daily life running his cab company, protests from feminists and labor groups, and the packed auction itself.
The filmmakers’ fly-on-the-wall approach lends an anthropological air to its portrait of the New York art world at a pivotal moment of change; Schott has written that the film was intended as “an experiment in ‘writing art history with a camera.’”
Sober in its analysis yet also tender and searching in relation to its subjects, America's Pop Collector feels prescient when viewed today. More than a mere snapshot, the film allows us to see how contemporary art and its exchange first became theatricalized in the public imagination, and augurs our present situation.