Litchfield, Connecticut has become the art world’s secret hub – – 71Bait

The opening of the Beecher Residency in Litchfield is the latest evidence that Northwest Connecticut has become the unsung epicenter of the contemporary art world.

During the unending hustle and bustle at the start of the 2020 pandemic over how all galleries were now relocating to the Long Island and Florida shores, the lucky collectors, curators, critics, and most importantly artists of Litchfield County just kept swimming merrily across Cream Hill Lake, never doubted they were in “the great good place,” as author James Thurber, a longtime resident, put it.

Thurber was just one of the many earlier artists in this blessed corner of New England, not least the most prolific being such colleagues as Marc Simont, Robert Andrew Parker and Arthur Getz New Yorker Cover artist of all time. Getz spent his final decades in the particularly beautiful village of Sharon, as did Katharine Rhoades, the feminist painter-poet.

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There was also Clarence Meier, the Cornish postmaster and muralist, William Robinson Leigh’s paintings of Kent Falls and historic landscape works by Ben Foster and Theodore van Soelen. More recently, Cleve Gray’s abstractions have been added.

Perhaps the archetypal Litchfield artist was Gray’s father-in-law, the powerful Alexander Liberman. Liberman was famous and feared as the longtime editor of Conde Nast, as well as the photographer of his many artist friends – including Alexander Calder of nearby Roxbury – and the creator of monumental sculptures.

It must be admitted that artists in this fortunate part of the world, like Liberman, are often delicious’sophisticated – although of course he always denies this – and is infinitely well connected to the world of fashion, film or high finance. Another example might be heiress Charlotte Bronson Hunnewell, who built ‘The Castle’ in Cornwall while also being a writer and patron, and even made her own pottery workshop, employing Vincenzo Rondinone as her resident artist

Cornwall, Connecticut, USA A Housatonic Railroad locomotive on the Berkshire line.  - 2019 |  usage worldwide Photo by: Alexander Farnsworth/Picture-Alliance/dpa/AP Images

A Housatonic Railroad locomotive on the Berkshire Line in Cornwall, Connecticut.
Alexander Farnsworth/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

The Beecher residency, which began in May, is located in the Stillman House, a complex designed by Marcel Breuer between 1950 and 1953. It is now owned by two top collectors, art consultant Ed Tang and John Auerbach (recently appointed CEO of the art storage giant). UOVO), who generously carved this creative oasis into their modernist masterpiece. The eponymous original owners, Rufus and Leslie Stillman, were heavily involved in the contemporary art of their time and not least invited their friend and neighbor Calder to design the pool mural that survives today.

The Beecher Residency offers an eight-week residency twice a year for an artist and is matched only by the ambitious plans of the area’s foremost living artist, Jasper Johns. Johns, a longtime resident of Sharon in the NW corner of this NW corner state, has proposed setting up an artist retreat that will serve about 18 to 24 artists at a time, like a new McDowell or Yaddo, all housed on its sprawling Assets.

Johns has his own loyal local team of friends and supporters, foremost among them Scott Rothkopf, Whitney’s Senior Curator and Senior Associate Director, who orchestrated this highly exemplary Johns double-museum retrospective. Johns and Rothkopf form the ultimate power trio with revered patron and collector Agnes Gund, whose 100-acre estate is littered with fame.

Nearby are artist Julian Lethbridge and his longtime partner, the late Anne Bass, whose select masterpiece sales at Christie’s in May raised $363 million for works by Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Mark Rothko, among others. Aside from the stunning sales figures, the auction gave a glimpse into her life as a collector, dance historian and gardener.

This August 27, 2013 photo shows the entrance to "Sculpturedale" in Kent, Connecticut, where artist Denis Curtiss creates giant steel beasts—panthers, elephants and giraffes—towering among the trees along his Route 7 property.  Curtiss has been making Cubist-style sculptures for decades.  (AP Photo/Helen O'Neill)

The entrance to Sculpturedale in Kent, Connecticut, where artist Denis Curtiss creates giant steel animals – panthers, elephants and giraffes – that tower between the trees along his Route 7 property.

Bass was also a generous friend of everyone’s favorite critics, Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz, who may have been spotted up here parading anti-Trump signs on High Street in Kent. Nearby in West Cornwall lived two popular Saltz artists, sculptor Carl D’Alvia and abstract painter Jackie Saccoccio, who have recently built their own country home and studio together. Tragically, Saccoccio died in December 2020, just as her new home was being completed, and her heartbreakingly early funeral, despite its apparent solemnity, proved a true who’s who of the entire Litchfield scene.

West Cornwall is also home to painter, draftsman, diarist and underground film star Duncan Hannah who, like a surprising number in the area, used to roam the Warhol world while maintaining an unshakable Anglophilia.

Litchfield has no shortage of Brits and evokes a thoroughly English idyll, be it the aforementioned Lethbridge, the occasional Jamie Nares or the Welsh mountainman Millree Hughes hiding above Salisbury. It also boasts Sir John Richardson, who created an estate near New Milford, complete with a Schinkel-style library pavilion. Fittingly, this scandalously tasty property is now owned by international collector Stavros Niarchos, who owns a rich Warhol fund, among other things.

These diverse villages known as ‘Cornwall’ may not look like their wild and boisterous British namesake, but they are home to a veritable artist colony, from leading figures such as Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons to the impressive studios of Philip Taaffe. You’ll also find Greg Goldberg and his wife, Artnet News senior reporter Katya Kazakina, writer and collector Robert Becker, and celebrity photographers Todd Eberle and Judith Belzer, all living on a delightful two-acre farm. Even ARTnews Editor-in-Chief Sarah Douglas can be found nearby.

Just a little further afield is the late writer and Warhol acolyte Glenn O’Brien’s modernist mansion, still occupied by his widow, the fabled PR Gina Nanni, and a vibrant hub of much art-world fun. And nearby is the mysterious “Yelping Hill,” a colony founded a hundred years ago by Ivy League academics and luminaries as diverse as Elisabeth Cunnick, founder of A/D artist furniture design, and our #1 post-conceptualist , Seth Price, hosts .

Cornwall, Connecticut, USA The view over the Berkshire Hills from Mohawk Mountain.  - 2019 |  usage worldwide Photo by: Alexander Farnsworth/Picture-Alliance/dpa/AP Images

The view over the Berkshire Hills from Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall, Conn.
Alexander Farnsworth/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

In fact, there are so many creative people hiding in these rolling hills that it’s tempting to list them all Everyone just for the pleasure of completion; whether the much-loved kinetic sculptor Tom Prentice, the painter and Shelley expert Jeff Joyce, Gary Komarin in Roxbury, or Nathan Kernan of the Resnick Foundation, who maintains a beautiful garden with his partner, the book designer Thomas Whitridge. Photography is also well represented, whether by David Strettell of Dashwood Books or Gerald Incandela, who has set up his studio in a massive converted building in Torrington. The same city is hosting the upcoming one Torrington Project where conceptual artist Tom Burr has taken over a sprawling former factory and arranged examples from all phases of his creative work in a fluid, ongoing process.

Van Doren’s famous Litchfield family includes both John, the veteran dealer, and his brother Adam, a respected watercolor painter who also directed a documentary about this legendary old Thurber. Film painter Judith Eisler divides her time between Vienna and Warren, while for the extreme contrast one might mention Emily Buchanan, who created the White House Christmas card.

Surprisingly, there are few real galleries here, apart from a small group in Kent, notably James Barron, who exhibits the work of his wife, the well-known photographer Jeannette Montgomery Barron, and who ran a landmark 2015 survey exhibition ‘Cornwall Bohemia’. There are also regular exhibitions at the reputable local libraries with a seal of approval unimaginable in Manhattan.

NW CT has become a secret hub of the arts thanks to its truly beautiful scenery, relative proximity to New York, and tradition of weekend bohos, many of whom are making the inevitable, enviable transition to full-time residents.

But maybe part of Litchfield’s appeal lies precisely in that defect of galleries and museums, the elimination of any obligation to view art in favor of your full concentration on your latest canvas, studio doors wide open to the swaying green majesty beyond.

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