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The Art of Collecting 

One of the theories of art making has to do with artists as collectors of experiences. Art happens when those experiences are processed into some sort of order of the artist's own design. Art collectors, by contrast, skip all the grunt work and just collect the finished products, which they then try to arrange in some sort of order of their own design. Beyond the parallels with art making, art collecting falls into two broad categories: specialized and eclectic. Both turn up in a couple of interesting shows about town.

Albert Moir, who taught at Newcomb before settling in at the University of California-Santa Barbara, is a specialist. Known for his scholarly tomes on Caravaggio and Van Dyke, he mostly, though not exclusively, collects Italian baroque art. That much is evident in this Master Drawings From the Collection of Alfred Moir show at Newcomb. Baroque art often employed florid, fleshy renderings of angels, foliage or drapery, typically fashioned into allegories. Moir's collection includes both sketches and finished drawings, though even the sketchiest of sketches can attest to an artist's virtuosity. In Baldassare Franceschini's Allegory of Fame Vanquished by Time, fame is a woman. Though loosely sketched -- the figure emerges from a maze of exploratory lines -- we can see that she's a party girl perhaps a tad past her prime as she reclines rather immodestly in her not-quite-concealing garment. Clutching her trumpet, she rolls her vaguely debauched eyes back in her head as if in reverie over past conquests. Messy but charming, it reveals much about the artist's methods.

A different view appears in Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's Fame in a Cloud of Putti, a vision of an airborne diva with a flock of Putti -- those little cherub-angels so prevalent in baroque art -- following in close pursuit. What's funny is the odd perspective, as fame and her angels flounce across the sky like so much underwear tumbling in the dryer. G.D. Tiepolo, a son of the more famous G.B. Tiepolo, may have been playing with perspective here, but it's an archetypal baroque scene, regardless. A bit more demure is Bernardion Poccetti's Modesty, a voluptuous, though not tarty, lady decked out in Greco-Roman goddess couture. Mythic in tone and precise in line and form, this is actually a preparatory study for an architectural flourish in the grand salon of the Palazzo Capponi in Florence. Surrounded by scenes from Capponi family history, Modesty is in fact a rather immodest tribute to a very rich and powerful clan. Somewhat further afield is Joseph Ducreux's 18th century Self Portrait Screaming in Terror, which lives up to its name, right down to the wild eyes, flared nostrils and bared teeth. Rendered in red chalk on paper, its curiously contemporary aura presages 20th century expressionism. For the most part, Master Drawings offers much insight into the florid, fleshy, allegorical world of baroque art while expressing the distinctly personal and Epicurean vision of a highly focused collector.

More eclectic is A Passion for Paper: Prints and Drawings From the Joel and John Weinstock Collection at NOMA. Joel Weinstock is a native and longtime resident of New Orleans, yet her life took a fateful turn in Paris during her student days at the Sorbonne, when she used the money her mother gave her to purchase French lingerie to buy a George Rouault print instead. She was hooked. Later, after her marriage to John Weinstock, she opened Prints International, selling work out of their home in Carrollton. There they bought, sold and collected together until his death in 1977, after which she closed Prints International, and has been a partner in Galerie Simonne Stern for many years hence.

Comprised mostly of 20th century European and American works, the Weinstock collection reflects a certain New Orleans regard for vividness, buoyancy and happenstance in contrast to Moir's laser focus on baroque themes. For instance, Paul Gauguin's pastel, Eva Bretonne, and Jean Dufy's watercolor, Promenade, reflect the colorfully sensual lucidity that is typical of the rather French tone of this collection. But Americans such as John Sloan and John Marin are also present, as are later Louisianians such as Robert Gordy, Ken Shaw and Ron Bechet. All of which suggests that the discerning eye and mind have an internal order that is all their own.

click to enlarge From the maze of exploratory lines comes Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's Fame in a Cloud of Putti, in which fame is a woman.
  • From the maze of exploratory lines comes Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's Fame in a Cloud of Putti, in which fame is a woman.
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