At Nancy Hoffman, Viola Frey’s Estate-Planning Rivals Her Porcelains

THE DAILY PIC: Cups that drip paint; a foundation that tends artists' legacies.

THE DAILY PIC (#1319): Viola Frey made this  cup in 1988, during a residency at the Sèvres porcelain works, near Paris, that pushed her beyond her trademark funky ceramics. It’s now on view in her mini-retrospective at Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York.

I’m particularly fond of how its golden drips serve as a reminder of how all glazes, on all ceramics – even pristine porcelains from Sèvres – can in fact be considered part of the painting tradition. That was a tradition that Frey belonged to in her many canvases, but also in all her clay work.

I have to admit that, much as I like the Sèvres cup, my visit to Hoffman left me just as intrigued by another, more immaterial creation of Frey’s: the Artists’ Legacy Foundation that she helped found before her death, and helped fund posthumously through a bequest. Its goal is to gather a number of talented artists’ estates under a single umbrella, streamlining and professionalizing the storage and administration and “placement” of all the works and papers its artists leave behind. That’s less of an issue for the big names of art (although even some of their estates and foundations can be nightmares of dysfunction). But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of excellent creators who never had the kind of success that could guarantee the care of their legacies. I regularly come across older artists wondering what will happen to a lifetime of production, or the families of dead ones who aren’t up to the task of managing an estate. If the Artists’ Legacy Foundation finds a way to grow to fill this vital need, and empty niche, in the artistic ecosystem, it could turn into a major force. (© Artists’ Legacy Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York)

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