Category Archives: Art Collecting

EXPO Chicago: A KMAC Donors’ Field Trip

KMAC ‘s Donors Circle brought a hale and hearty group of 14 to EXPO Chicago a week and a half ago. We spent our days cruising the contemporary art offerings out on the Navy Pier. In the afternoon, we enjoyed Kentucky hospitality in the form of tastings of Old Forester provided by Brown-Forman happening at the KMAC booth, which featured selections from recent museum exhibitions: Denise Burge, Matthew Ronay, Elijah Pierce and more.

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Outside the art fair, we had the opportunity to visit some outstanding private collections including those of Paul and De Gray, Gary Metzner and Scott Johnson, Richard and Ellen Sandor, and Susan Goodman and Rod Lubeznik.

On Friday, September 19th, Richard and Ellen Sandor impressed us with their extensive body of photography and related objects (over 2,000 pieces from the 1840s to the present) and awed with their encyclopedic knowledge of the contexts in which their historical images were conceived. I especially admired a photo of poet Marianne Moore in her tricorn hat/George Washington getup. The couple’s “Outsider Café”features well-known naïve and intuitive artists Lee Godie, Martin Ramirez, Sharon Scott, and Bill Traylor.


On Friday night, we attended gallery openings at Kavi Gupta’s two spaces. I particularly enjoyed watching a documentary that Mickalene Thomas created in memory of her mother, who many will recognize as the principal subject of her work. The film plays continuously in a family room setting, complete with wood paneling, a sofa, and coffee table. That night, Kavi Gupta graciously included us in a party at his place, where we mingled with art stars like Jessica Stockholder. Kavi put a picture of Martha Slaughter and Henry Heuser on Instagram!

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On Saturday morning, we ventured to the Gold Coast—where we took in magnificent panoramic views of Lake Michigan at the home of Susan Goodman and Rod Lubeznik. Our group took note of a ceramic portrait bust by Klara Kristalova and a felt piece (resembling a Matisse paper cut-out) by William J. O’Brien. In the bathroom sits a humorous multi-media sculpture by Tokyo-based artist Ken Kagami.

On our final morning in Chicago, we stopped at the warehouse studio of Tony Tasset (husband of well-known Chicago painter Judy Ledgerwood) who manipulates quintessential American imagery in bold colors. He chooses to work in a vernacular of existing genres to communicate with simple signs. His egalitarian, open system of meaning resembles a love letter to 70s super graphic art (such as Robert Indiana).

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We had an absolute blast in Chicago. And I am now rested enough to say that I enthusiastically anticipate the next Donors’ Circle trip—to New York City in March! I hope you can join us.

–Leslie Millar, KMAC Donor Circle Member

Living Like a Mad Man- Saarinen’s Residential Design

The KMAC Radio Hour on ArtxFm ( will be hosted by KMAC’s Communications Director Julie Gross and she’ll be discussing Living Like a Mad Man- 1950s Residential Design. Tune in to the live show on Monday from 11am to 12p and stream it from your computer when you click PLAY on the embedded player located in the upper left corner of the website.

From the end of World War II until the mid-1960s, American architecture went through some very dramatic and exciting changes and the architects who were a part of this creative boom held a certain celebrity status. The now defunct American journal, Arts & Architecture, was a well respected publication that featured the era’s greatest architects, and Saarinen was one of them.


When World War II ended and the United States experienced a residential housing boom from the millions of soldiers who returned home. Houses were needed quickly, efficiently and with low material cost. Thus, the Case Study Houses were born. The Case Study Houses were experiments in American residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine, which commissioned major architects of the day, including Eero Saarinen, to build inexpensive and efficient model homes. John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture Magazine wanted the architects to create houses that would capture the public’s imagination by introducing new ideas about how they might live in the future.

Case Study House No.9 or the Entenza House was designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen for John Entenza (1949) and is still located in Pacific Palisades, CA. For details of the house and design, read the original article from A&A magazine HERE.


The Miller House

Joseph Irwin Miller (1909-2004) was born into a prominent Columbus, Indiana family with business interests in banking and industry. He was also a philanthropist and a patron of architecture where as chairman of the Cummins Engine Company, a leading maker of diesel engines, he established a foundation that fostered new building designs from leading architects turning the small city of Columbus, IN into a modern architectural showcase. So, how did Eero Saarinen come to design the private home and garden for Miller, his wife, Xenia, and their five children?

The Miller family in the "conversation pit", 1961. Photo: Frank Scherschel
The Miller family in the “conversation pit”, 1961. Photo: Frank Scherschel

Eliel Saarinen -> Builds First Christian Church 1942 in Columbus -> J. Irwin Miller hires Eero Saarinen to build Irwin Union Bank & Trust 1950, Completed 1954 -> J. Irwin Miller hires Eero to build private home, The Miller House 1953, Completed 1957.

Photo: Leslie Williamson for
Photo: Leslie Williamson for

It took four years (1953-1957) to design and build the 6,838 square foot home, which sits on 13.5 acres in Columbus, Indiana. The super powers behind this project were architect Eero Saarinen, landscape designer Dan Kiley, and textile designer and architect Alexander Girard.

Structurally, the entire weight of the roof is supported by 16 free-standing cruciform steel columns which defines the 9-square grid of the floorplan.


An intricate continuous skylight system forms a grid pattern throughout the house meeting at the columns. The skylight system also has  hidden artificial lighting fixtures to illuminate the interior and exterior of the house at night.


The Living area has a circular fireplace designed by Balthazar Korab, which was reportedly  his only assignment during the 2 years he spent with the Saarinen office.

Photo: Leslie Williamson for
Photo: Leslie Williamson for

The 50-foot long rosewood and glass storage wall was designed by Girard to be used for books, display of art objects and as concealed storage for the television, stereo, bar and other items. Girard used patterned backgrounds and art objects inter-spaced with the family book collection giving the wall the appearance of a 3-dimensional mural.

1961. Photo: Frank Scherschel
1961. Photo: Frank Scherschel
Courtesy of Indy Star
Courtesy of Indy Star

One trademark feature is the sunken living room (or conversation pit) which holds a square sectional sofa with a multitude of accent pillows. Most of the pillow fabrics were designed or selected by Alexander Girard. The sofa cushions were made in both red and white and would be changed around several times a year. This “pit” was Saarinen’s solution to the “inevitable slum of legs” created by a room filled with furniture.

The dining room which can be closed off with a curtain for food preparation or opened when dinner is served. One of the only interior Saarinen furnishings in the original configuration is the built-in dining table. It has a terrazzo base and a round marble top resembling the pedestal table series. It is lit from below and features a bubbling fountain in the center.

Photo: Leslie Williamson for
Photo: Leslie Williamson for

Seat cushions for the Saarinen pedestal chairs were designed by Girard and Xenia Miller with the help of her bridge club did the embroidery.

Each family members initials can be found inside the cushion designs. Photo: Indy Star
Each family members initials can be found inside the cushion designs. Photo: Indy Star

The Miller House and Garden is owned and maintained by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and daily tours are available. Go to for info.

KMAC Donors Tour Mayor Jim Gray’s Art Collection

In November, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft Donor’s Circle visited the magnificent art collection of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.  Mayor Gray’s home is situated in the Gratz Park Historic District, one of the most beautiful areas of Lexington, Kentucky.

Lexington Artist Louis Zoellar Bickett offered us a tour through Mayor Gray’s well-appointed rooms, several of which feature Bickett’s assemblages and containers.  In the entrance hall, we admired a large black-and-white piece entitled Welsh Oaks (#3) (1998) by Vancouver School photographer Rodney Graham.


Our group especially enjoyed becoming acquainted with the work of Lexington-area artist Mark Goodlett, who assembles ornate picture-boxes out of wadded paper while lying in bed.

Mayor Gray’s residence houses work by many world-renowned contemporary artists, such as Joseph Kosuth, Yinka Shonibare, Kara Walker, Richard Long, Vik Muniz , Claes Oldenburg, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gerhard Richter, and Fred Tomaselli.  Bickett informed us that Mayor Gray regularly rotates pieces in the house with others from his vast collection.

Great favorites amongst this art loving group were two pieces by English artist and Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread.  While viewers may be familiar with Whiteread’s plaster casts of vacant/negative spaces, the sculpture Untitled (Trafalgar Square Plinth) (1999) surprises with its use of resin to create a ghostly double.


Another of Whiteread’s works, “Switch” (1994), creates a more subtle, playful effect.

On that perfect fall day, the group ventured on to galleries around town.  We are grateful to Mayor Gray and to Bickett for their hospitality.  Please join us on a future trip!

–Leslie Millar
KMAC Board Member
photos courtesy of Jody Howard

A Donor’s Perspective of Chicago EXPO

The recent Donors’ Circle trip to EXPO Chicago was inspiring and stimulating. It was quite extraordinary to get personal home tours from esteemed art collectors, private viewings of new gallery exhibitions, invitation-only after parties and all the contemporary art Chicago’s Navy Pier could handle.

KMAC Donors’ Circle member Leslie Millar wrote a brief synopsis of the week-end in case you couldn’t join us.
The Highlights of EXPO Chicago September 2013 
A group of about fifteen members of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft Donor’s Circle ventured north for a fast-paced weekend in the Windy City.  Upon our return, we feel briefly sated with new and familiar works of contemporary art.  This “food” will keep our minds and imaginations energized until our next trip, to Art Basel Miami!  Here are a few morsels from our trip for your delectation:
The Guffman Home
The Guthman Home
The Guffman Home
The Guthman Home
Friday, September 20, 2013
We started the morning by touring the private collection of Jack and Sandy Guthman. Their immaculately restored five-story home includes a canvas thread piece by Tom Friedman, an installation by Sarah Sze, and video by Kate Gilmore.  We admired a FedEx shipping box of Walead Beshty and bundles assembled by Shinique Smith.  The wide-reaching collection revolves around a strong center of photography and some Chicago artists, including painter Judy Ledgerwood. During the afternoon, we toured galleries and met with artists and curators who were buzzing about the EXPO and accompanying Gallery Weekend Chicago. That evening the KMAC group was invited for cocktails at Kavi Gupta for the opening of Roxy Paine’s Apparatus.
Roxy Paine
Roxy Paine
This diorama show offers a radical departure from the sculpture that viewers have come to associate with the artist.  Two room-sized installations replicate, in unvarnished wood, a control room and a fast food counter, right down to the straw dispensers and fry basket. We finished the night with a raucous party at gallerist Monique Meloche’s house.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
The Donor’s Circle dined on a hearty breakfast on the patio at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.  Downstairs, we enjoyed a photo show from the museum’s collection.  Upstairs, the MCA showcases a retrospective by Chicago-born cartoonist Daniel Clowes.  On the third floor, an exhibition of installations called Homebodies features a walk-through Victorian house fabricated in nylon by Do Ho Suh.  The Donor’s Circle took particular note of constructions and video by Chicago resident Theaster Gates, as we recently exhibited one of Gates’ shoe-shine stands at KMAC during the Storytelling as Craft. Next we visited the private Collection of Howard and Donna Stone, which centers around 60s and 70s Minimalist and Conceptualist work, including:  a double-portrait wall drawing by Jim Hodges, pieces made of yarn and elastic thread by Fred Sandbach, a candy pile by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and an installation by Sarah Sze. We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling through Chicago EXPO, on the Navy Pier viewing works by established artists like Fred Tomaselli and Leon Ferrari and site specific ampersands by emerging artist Karl Haendel.  Some revelers continued on to Late Night at the Wright Auction House.
Leon Ferrari
Leon Ferrari

Sunday, September 22, 3013
We finished our Chicago weekend with a brunch at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, where we saw Spencer Finch’s color-swatch watercolor paintings and light boxes and took in Judy Ledgerwood’s dense oil paintings.

Many thanks go to the collectors, curators, and gallerists who shared their gracious hospitality.  Even greater thanks to KMAC Director Aldy Milliken and Development Director Angela Hagan for their tireless efforts of organizing the trip and shepherding the members of the Donor’s Circle around the city. We hope that you will join the KMAC Donor’s Circle on another of these intellectually invigorating art outings!

Leslie Millar

Jody Howard, Martha Slaughter and Leslie Millar
Jody Howard, Martha Slaughter and Leslie Millar