John Keefe (1942–2011)

John Keefe, a New Orleans Museum of Art curator who brought high amounts of knowledge and enthusiasm to exhibits he organized on such varied items as antique glass, Wedgwood china, Fabergé eggs, and extravagant perfume bottles, has died, writes John Pope in the Times-Picayune.

Keefe, the curator of the decorative arts since 1983, assembled about 110 exhibits at the City Park museum, said John Bullard, the museum’s director emeritus. Keefe also wrote articles and exhibit catalogs—all in longhand on yellow legal pads, according toWilliam Fagaly, the museum’s curator of African art.

“He was not a part of the Internet world,” Fagaly said. “I always have to insert and delete and rearrange. He didn’t. He just wrote it out.”

Keefe came to New Orleans after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University and holding curatorial positions at the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Besides being able to speak and write authoritatively about the finer points of paperweights, Libbey glass, and Vieux Paris porcelain, Keefe was an avid collector who haunted yard sales and auction houses in search of treasures that less discriminating observers might overlook.

“He loved the quest,” Fagaly said. “He had an incredible eye, so he was able to discern what many other people would pass over. He knew what it was.”