Miriam Cahn, watercolor on paper, at Kunstmuseum, Bern

“I no longer want to be represented in ‘this’ art museum in Zurich,” says Miriam Cahn, a septuagenarian Jewish artist. “I wish to remove all my works from the Zurich Art Museum. I will buy them back at the original sale price.”

The tempest appears to have arisen after Kunsthaus Zurich built a new wing to display the Bührle Collection, a mainly Impressionist trove amassed by industrialist Emil Georg Bührle.

Allegedly Bührle made his fortune selling weapons to Nazi Germany and benefited from Nazi-supplied slave labor.

Sold Materiél to British and French

However, according to the website for the Bührle Collection, Emil Bührle was a German-born manufacturer and Swiss citizen who initially supplied war materiel to the British and French armies in the Second World War, only later providing armaments to the Germans at the behest of the Swiss Government.

Emil and Charlotte Bührle visiting America in 1947.

Diversified Production

After the war, Emil Bührle’s business expanded into a diversified corporation with holdings in companies in Germany, Italy, India, Liechtenstein, and Chile. Anti-aircraft systems manufactured in Italy and Sweden by a subsidiary were deployed by NATO member states. The Pilatus aircraft factory in Stans developed a series of training aircraft for the Swiss Army.

The business  also had success with the manufacture of civilian products. Among these were braking systems, office equipment, textile machines and plastics.

According to ArtNews:

A feminist figurative artist, Cahn’s paintings are held in collections all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, among others. This is not the first time Cahn has withdrawn works in protest. In 1982, Cahn pulled her paintings from Documenta 7 because she felt she had been mistreated by Documenta’s artistic director at the time, Rudi Fuchs.


Postwar Propaganda

This is an old blog post from an old blog. I don’t want to point the common herd to the sensitive matters therein, so I’ll copypasta this whole thing instead.

May 4th, 2006

Monday night I was flying to JFK from Heathrow and exhausted my reading material before we passed Newfoundland. I found Caddyshack listed on the in-flight movie menu, but everytime I looked for it on the assigned channel I got a mid-80s Molly Ringwald turkey instead. And I’d already seen the Narnia movie and the documentary about the German submarine. So I idly scrolled through the channels and came to rest at I Love Lucy.

It was an old episode. No, I mean really old, one of the early ones from the first (1951-52) season…Lucy and Ricky (and Fred and Ethel) as the broadest of broad comic characters, before they got backstory and nuance and visited Hollywood and Europe.

In fact, it was THE classic episode, the first one that pops into your mind, the one where the men and women “switch jobs.” They don’t literally switch jobs (Ricky was the only character who had real employment anyway), rather they switch breadwinner-homemaker roles. Ricky and Fred cook in the kitchen while Lucy and Ethel get assembly-line jobs in a candy factory. I’d seen this a million times–well, a dozen–but this time was utterly fascinated by all the details and subtexts and social propaganda.

1. The appliances in the Ricardos’ kitchen are bright and obtrusive. They aren’t just mute background furniture (like the succession of Macintosh computers you see in Jerry Seinfeld’s place). There’s a matched washer-dryer pair, and neither looks ever to have been used. There’s the distinct air of a TV commercial for Maytag or RCA Whirlpool. Message: “If your kitchen doesn’t look like this, well for heaven’s sake make it so. You can buy them now, you know. War production’s been over for six or seven years.”

2. Elsewhere there’s a real postwar look to the whole thing. Everybody’s fifteen or twenty pounds overweight, and they’re all over-upholstered. Wide lapels, big shoulders and skirts. Showing off one’s bounty, you know. Now that the war’s over we can do that.

3. The effects of war on social roles are much in evidence. A man wears a suit and brings home the bacon, a woman wears frilly clothes and hangs out at home. Anything else is eccentric and laughable.

candy episode4. Women getting jobs means putting on waitress uniforms (like Mildred Pierce) and working on an assembly line (like Rosie the Riveter). Roz Russell career girls? Never heard of ‘em. If Ethel and Lucy got decent jobs, that would undercut the premise of the humor, which is that women in the workplace are pitiable fish out of water.

Results are in. Top three 21st Century painters are…

David Hockney, Bob Ross, and Jasper Johns!

But wait, that’s not all. You can still vote for someone else. Grace Slick and Yoko Ono are in the running! So’s Tom Kinkade!

Just go to the 21st Century Painters site, and vote someone up! They don’t have to paint for you to vote!

Sackler Drug Lords Barred from Egyptian Temple at the Met

From ArtNews:

Two years after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York said it would stop taking donations from the Sacklers,  the institution announced plans to remove the family’s name from galleries within its walls. Among those galleries is the massive, airy space containing the Temple of Dendur, which has long bore the Sackler name.

The Sackler family is famous for popularizing OxyContin, a synthetic opiate, through its Purdue Pharma outfit. OxyContin has been responsible for millions and millions of deaths and ruined lives.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

In recent years, both the Louvre and the Serpentine Gallery have concealed or avoided the Sackler name.

A suggestion that Met members receive a free vial of OxyContin with their membership packet, was mooted by someone about ten years ago, but the Met did not follow up on it and it is unclear who proposed the idea.

Jeff Koons: Lost in America

In Qatar, of all places.

“The exhibition title is borrowed from a 1985 American satirical comedy film of the same name directed by Albert Brooks, about a 1980s yuppie couple in Los Angeles who are disgruntled by their bourgeois lifestyle. Koons wants viewers to draw their own interpretations of that title, as well as the intention or meaning of the works.”

As seen in Forbes.

Crime and Punishment at the Art Students League

(Originally published June 29, 2014)

Odd doings at the Voorhees-Rohr Mansion!

Our very own Mr. Ian Stuart Dowdy of the Art Students League likes to tell the tale of how he was responsible for the death of an old lady he was supposed to be taking care of. Old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr was often bedridden with a prolapsed colon and needed round-the-clock care. As no nurse or home-care-giver was available on a live-in basis (this was during the War), and the live-in maid did not wish to do this sort of work, Mrs. V-R had her attorney look for a young man or woman who could move into the spare bedroom down the hall.

A day or two later our own Ian Stuart Dowdy appeared and you can guess the rest.

A willowy, good-hearted young bit of artsy flotsam, Dowdy was very much an urban “type” of the era. Too snooty to be ribbon clerks at Bonwit Teller, young fellows of this breed very frequently found sinecures as caretakers of enfeebled old ladies and gentlemen or even the odd congenital idiot with a monied family who did not wish to shut him up in an institution.

The Voorhees-Rohr mansion on West End Avenue, one of the original houses in the neighborhood, was in a parlous state. Electricity had not been “laid on” until the mid-1920s, and that had been done so quickly and amateurishly, by the son of an Italian cobbler (who has now inherited his father’s shoe-repair shop on Amsterdam Avenue), that the fuses blew whenever you tried to run more than two appliances at once. Our Mr. Dowdy learned this the hard way.

A shocking circumstance

He was bathing old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s feet in the new electric footbath her sister had given her for Christmas 1933 (but which she had never opened), and thought some music might be pleasant. So he started up a Lawrence Tibbett recording on the plug-in Victrola, forgetting first to switch off the big Atwater-Kent radio because its volume had been turned down. Immediately the house was in darkness.

“The gas! The gas!” shouted old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr. It took a while for Ian Stuart Dowdy to figure out that she meant the gaslight sconces that hung on the walls and still functioned, most of them. Soon the room was bathed in that soft, ethereal glow that only gas can provide; and Mr. Dowdy headed for the stairwell to find the fusebox.

This was nearly a weekly routine at the Voorhees-Rohr residence, and helps to explain why old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had never had the gas lighting removed. There was the ever-present danger that gas would leak from an unlit, broken fixture; and indeed, one could detect a bit of gassy smell in some parts of the mansion; but Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had finessed that problem by leaving a window open in every room of the house. Mr. Dowdy did not understand this, and shut all the windows one cool night in October. Livid and hysterical the way only the old and disabled can be, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr screamed at the top of her lungs that Dowdy was trying to kill her. People in the neighboring houses heard this and sent the police over to remonstrate with the confused and by now very frightened young caregiver.

Nevertheless, when Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr met her extremely timely end, it was not because of a gas leak. Mr. Dowdy was forbearing and meticulous, and taught himself to disconnect all electrical devices that were not being used. A full month went by without blowing a fuse. Then one day when Mr. Dowdy was briefly out of the room, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr herself turned on the radio while running both the electric footbath and the plug-in Victrola. Patient as Job, Ian Stuart Dowdy headed on down to the under-stairs to check the fuses. While he did so, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr helpfully attempted to disconnect the footbath, the radio, and the Victrola. But her grasp of the plugs was uncertain. Just as Dowdy was screwing in a new fuse, she electrocuted herself.

Tragedy and controversy

“She should never have had electricity put in in the first place,” was the opinion of old Mr. Burnington, the sexton from Blessed Sacrament Church on West 71st St. He had an old carriage house on the other side of Amsterdam that would remain the last non-electric holdout in the neighborhood until he passed on in 1959.

Regardless, most people believed that Ian Stuart Dowdy was somewhat to blame for Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s death. Neighbors rejoiced when it was reported in the Herald-Tribune that the dowager had left her caregiver absolutely nothing in her will.

It was 1950 before the Voorhees-Rohr heirs were able to evict Mr. Dowdy from the mansion with the help of a $10,000 bribe. By this time they were so sick of the old house that they decided to have it torn down and replaced with one of those ugly brick apartment buildings that were just coming into vogue. Mr. Dowdy meanwhile embellished his tale through many retellings, so that today he himself half-believes that he killed the old lady, and that it was a clear case of justifiable euthanasia.

Ask the Family Doctor: Taming the Bed-Wetters

Dr. Molmar

with Ferenc Molmar, MD

Q. My youngest child, now 13, still wets his bed and I would like to cure him before he goes off to boarding school. I remember many years ago when you used to appear on the old Today Show with Jack Lescoulie and you demonstrated a sort of harness that could be used to cure bed-wetting, by strapping the children in at night. Do they still make this, or do you still use this?

A. To be honest, I have no idea what you are talking about. After the passage of many decades, even the great Jack Lescoulie is but a dim memory. As for the harness contraption you mention, I recall a restraining device that was popular at the time, for the prevention of self-abuse. It pinned the child’s arms to his sides so wayward young hands would not inadvertently find their way to the genital area.


I cannot imagine this would be of much use in curing enuresis—the official name for bed-wetting—although if you can find one it might be worth a try. Bed-wetting and self-abuse are a deadly combination in a young person and should be eliminated as early as possible, as they often lead to sex perversion. Incidentally I don’t remember demonstrating such a device on the Today Show. You may be thinking of Cleveland Amory.


Q. My wife and I have long debated the pros and cons of getting our children vaccinated. As you know, vaccination of newborns is a leading cause of autism. However, I have also read on one of the online doctor websites that children who are vaccinated as infants are much less likely to wet the bed. So there seems to be a trade-off here, between having an autistic child or one who wets the bed. Do you have any opinions on the matter?

caduceusA. You really should not read those “online doctor websites” as they are compost heaps of misinformation. They are the number-one cause of hypochondria and medical conspiracy theories. This anti-vaccination kookery, for example. I don’t know where that started, but as the old saying goes, a conspiracy theory can go around the world before an honest physician has time to put his galoshes on.

Even if vaccination did cause autism, I don’t see that as such a big deal. So what if 1 out of 20 or even 1 out of ten children become autistic? I’d rather have an autistic child than a homosexual.

Do You Make These Mistakes in English?

Poor grammar not only makes you look stupid—it can get in the way of your career!

Don’t do it!

Even highly intelligent people with a lot of “horse sense” get mistaken for Big Dummies when they say things like this:

“Between you and I, Aunt Fanny’s gotten a lot more fatter since last picnic.”

“I am quite adversed to money matters and business, in fact I’m quite financial indeed.”

“I never seen a girl get ruined by a book.”

“All my children are real eager to rake the yard every Fall, but somehow Sally always gets less leaves than Bob and Sue.”

Chances are—you’ve said things just like this, every day, and had no idea people were laughing at you behind your back!

But there’s no need any more for your bad language skills to hold you back. In just 30 days I can teach how to talk like a college professor.

Of course I mean a college professor in the old days, when that was a job that meant something, and not just a hideout for freaks and mutants! The old professors were the best.

So let me be your old professor! Send just $10.99 in cash or money order (no stamps, please) to:

Professor John’s E-Z Grammar Institute
4046 South Michigan Avenue
Department GN
Chicago 21, Illinois

The Whitney Is a Dawg. So Is Hudson Yards.

In my life I think I’ve enjoyed exactly two exhibitions at the Whitney Museum, and both were traveling shows for Grant Wood. Otherwise the Whitney was enjoyable mainly for its Permanent Collection, full of familiar figurative paintings by the likes of George Tooker and Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton. Also one or two Gerald Murphy collages, which don’t seem to be on display anymore, according to the website.

Looking through the list of Events and Exhibitions, I gather that the Whitney currently specializes in a) chaotic smudges, and b) photographs of negroes.

It should be recalled that the primary purpose of the Whitney was never to display or warehouse art, in the manner of the Metropolitan Museum or the Musée d’Orsay. No, the Whitney functioned primarily as a meeting point. Kids would come home from prep school or college for the holidays, and the Whitney Museum at Madison Avenue and 74th Street was a convenient, centrally located venue.

The Met wasn’t any good for that because it was too damn big. With the Whitney, you could just say, we’ll meet at the Calder Circus in the lobby at noon, and nobody got lost.

But that was then. For some reason the Whitney organization decided it had to move to a vast, brutalist-modern box in the Meat Market neighborhood. Because the Meat Market was now Artsy-hip Central, and the new Whitney would be hard by the High Line, the pedestrian promenade that used to be an elevated freight railroad.

Perfectly understandable, but as a result the museum is no longer a meeting point. It’s a destination that’s rather difficult to get to even if you’re coming from Chelsea or the Village. (The old Whitney is now an annex of the Met.)

As a colossal mistake, the new Whitney resembles that other showy development on the West Side, the Hudson Yards. A couple of years ago we saw the opening of the world’s biggest and glitziest shopping mall (“The Shops at Hudson Yards”), 7 storeys of upscale chain stores and overpriced restaurants and gin joints. The trouble was, it was difficult to get to, mainly dependent on a new subway terminus that had just opened at 34th Street and 11th Avenue. The neighborhood was historically a dismal spread of warehouses and stables, slaughterhouses and trolley barns. Not a residential neighborhood at all. So even though the Hudson Yards developers were erecting thousands of new apartments and multi-million-dollar condos, the area wouldn’t be an established, stable residential neighborhood for another five or ten years.

And then, before the shopping mall had been open for a year, the Covid-19 lockdown began, and the public had even more reasons to stay away. Retail tenants closed and canceled leases right and left. “Eerily deserted,” said the New York Times. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

There is an upside to all this, but it’s going to be a long time coming. At the end of a era of overdevelopment and senseless expansion, the weakest members of the herd get sick and die off. Projects go bankrupt, while investors and residents refocus their attention on safe investments in tried-and-true localities. Exactly how this can benefit the Whitney is puzzle, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the directors attempt to buy their old building back from Met, and unload their crazy Big Box on a Greater Fool. Why not The New School?

Ask the Family Doctor: Race and Sex in Disposable Diapers

with Ferenc Molmar, MD

Dr. Molmar

Q. Dear Dr. Molmar, I have a little adoptive baby who you might say has a “touch of the tarbrush.” According to rumor his grandmother was part-Filipino, or Filipina, you might say. This creates a dilemma when it comes to shopping for disposable diapers at the supermarket. You see, they have Pampers and Huggies for white babies and negro babies and oriental babies of various sexes, but I do not see any for this new baby’s situation. Should I buy the white-baby diapers, or would the oriental-baby diapers be okay? Incidentally I have noticed that the Floogies brand do not seem to be designed for any particular race or sex and simply have a stick-figure baby on the box. Are these healthy to use, do you think?

A. Whoa, whoa. First of all, it’s probably not a good idea to adopt outside your own race and class, most especially if you are uncertain of the whelp’s antecedents. “According to rumor” is not a legend I would want on the family escutcheon! Furthermore, I frown on disposable diapers simply on principle, since we always found it more convenient to use cloth diapers and have the Happy Nappy deliveryman drop by every day or two.

However, what is done is done, and I’m not here to give lectures.

Huggies for Orientals

I was unfamiliar with the Floogies brand, but it sounds very sensible to have a one-size-fits-all disposable diaper, ready to be used by any sex or race. It probably won’t be as neat and tidy as a wrapping designed specifically for a quarter-Filipino, but we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. What is most important is that you never use disposable diapers designed for the opposite sex, as that is a leading cause of homosexuality.