Los Angeles

“Mr. and Mrs. Gifford Phillips Collection”

UCLA Art Galleries

When a collector deigns to make his entire collection public, he places himself in the dangerous position of total exposure. He stands naked before a mob of stranger-experts and asks that he be examined and judged. At this moment, he joins the artist in his acceptance of the catharsis of exposure. Collectors who own only the “right” artists, or whose collections are composed entirely of masterpieces arouse suspicion. The “mistakes” are what give a collection its personality, and tell us something of the collector (as presumably they tell the collector something of himself).

This is not a connoisseur’s collection. There are many mistakes—minor works by important painters—and minor works by minor painters along with many major choices. This, though, in no way depreciates the entire effect of the show. The Phillips’ are not a museum. They are, rather, two people seriously involved in surrounding themselves with meaningful paintings and sculptures of their time and, more particularly, of their own generation. The continuity of taste, with few exceptions, is apparent. Unfortunately one feels that many purchases were determined by an interest in the personalities of the artists more than by a specific interest in the paintings themselves. Thus, the collection includes ten Diebenkorns, six Ynez Johnstons, ten Motherwells, six Mullicans and nine Woelffers, while it has but one De Kooning, one Kline, two Rothkos and no work by a number of other very important painters. The collection, though, does present an excellent cross-section of the vanguard art of the fifties in America. It will be interesting to see how and whether the collection progresses into the new decade of avant-garde explorations.

Donald Factor

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