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img895This doodle is on the front cover of a very minimal catalog for an exhibition of Jean Dubuffet’s work in New York at the World House Galleries in 1964. img896Opening the two page catalog,  we find a list of paintings, but also some inks on paper titled “Personnage” dated 1960 and you wonder if the figure on the cover is one of those “persons”? The story of the World House Galleries is an amazing one to say the least, the company and its founder were always on the forefront of major and minor Avant garde Art during the short time of its existence, from 1953-1968.

The following biography and description is from the Archives of American Art.

“Herbert Mayer (circa 1911-1993) was a lawyer, businessman and owner of the World House Galleries in New York City. He attended Colgate University in Hamilton, New York where he majored in English and graduated in 1929. After graduation, he traveled through Europe with Colgate English Professor Russell Speirs and the four months he spent in Paris studying art at the Louvre was a formative experience for Mayer. He went on to attend law school at the University of Wisconsin. He was lawyer in New York until the early 1940s, then began selling television sets which were more familiar to the U.S. public after the 1939 World’s Fair. In 1944, Mayer stopped practicing law and became a television magnate. He founded the Empire Coil Company, which manufactured radio frequency coils for television sets and stations. From 1949 through 1952, Mayer launched television stations in Cleveland, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; and Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1953, Mayer bid farewell to the world of television and founded the World House Galleries. The gallery was located on Madison Avenue in New York City’s Carlyle Hotel, occupying a total of 6,900 square feet on two floors. Architect Frederick Kiesler was commissioned to design the space. Mayer’s goal was to attract a wider audience to contemporary international art and, in his words, “express the thinking and feeling of contemporary artists everywhere — wherever unusual talent is discovered.” Mayer worked closely with Colgate Professor Alfred Krakusin, who became the gallery advisor, and the two frequently traveled together in search of new art. On his trips abroad, Mayer also purchased art for his personal collection.

World House Galleries represented an eclectic group of European artists such as Jean Dubuffet, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee and Georgio Morandi in addition to lesser known artists. World House Galleries exhibitions included art for sale within the gallery, as well as art loaned from private collections and museums. The gallery represented an eclectic group of artists from Austria, France, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Mayer and Krakusin also collaborated on Sculptura, a business which created bronze casts of statues and plaques to be sold at the gallery.

World House Galleries had strong ties with Colgate University and Mayer arranged numerous exhibitions at his alma mater between 1956 and 1962. The exhibitions were held in the basement of Lawrence Hall and showcased art from World House Galleries and Mayer’s personal collection. In 1958, Mayer donated the first of many gifts of art to Colgate University. His largest gift of almost 2000 paintings, sculptures, and drawings occurred in 1967 and became the core collection for what is now known as Colgate’s Picker Art Gallery.

After World House Galleries closed in 1968 Herbert Mayer continued to sell art through auction houses and galleries as well as make donations to Colgate and various other organizations through the 1980s. In early 1971, Mayer contacted Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc. to arrange an auction of artwork from his personal collection. The bulk of his collection was sold through Parke-Bernet in 1984.

Mayer died in 1991, survived by his wife, Bet, and their five children. Through exhibitions which showcased art from different countries, World House Galleries exposed the New York art world to a more diverse vision of international modernism.” – (end bio) More on the collection at Colgate  in the Pdf file here.

The World House gallery also edited large art volumes on the art of some of the artists they represented. Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) is an icon of French Art and much more than just a practitioner of the  “Art Brut” a term coined by him would imply. A visit to the official Dubuffet foundation’s website is very much worthwhile and linked here.

Best of all was that the World House gallery space on Madison Avenue was designed by the Austrian/American born, very important modernist architect and visionary Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965) with an extravagant staircase in a contemporary design.A detailed description of the gallery project but without the photographs can be found in the 1989 Frederick Kiesler Exhibition catalog by the Whitney Museum of Modern Art.(from archive.org)

There are several YouTube video’s about Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) and I have selected a short one with an artist interview. Absolutely amazing what comes together in a bit of research about a small exhibition catalog.

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