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Kirk Varnedoe

ARRIVING WITH KIRK VARNEDOE at a museum was like showing up with a rock star about to play Madison Square Garden. Bypassing the public entrance, we would enter by an inconspicuous door next to the loading dock. Kirk would announce his name, I would say mine, and the bored security guard would phone upstairs. A few minutes later the museum director would appear, slightly out of breath, greet Kirk effusively, and lead us up to the galleries or down to the storage area, where we would study the paintings arrayed on racks under fluorescent lights like sides of beef in a butcher’s freezer.

When the pictures we wanted to see were in private homes, however, our reception was more various. Some collectors were glad to have Kirk visit and gave us a formal tour of the house. Others seemed merely to tolerate our presence. On one occasion, we were presented with tuna sandwiches in the kitchen while

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