Dorothy Miller, Curator of Modern Art, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC

 

Visit to Novak's Studio

 

1980 while on a visit to New York, Novak received a phone call from Dorothy Miller in regard to his sculpture “ Links”, in the New York State Art Collection at Albany. Cataloguing the collection, Dorothy asked for information, as Novak read to her from “Blueprints”, all pertinent details, Dorothy stated: “In my entire life in the art world I have never once experienced such instant information”. Ms. Miller, as the Museum of Modern Art curator, was for decades, the world’s single most influential person in the field of modern art.

Dorothy expressed in brief her great admiration for the “Links” sculpture, then Novak invited her to one day visit his studio, “I am no longer having any influence since I retired from Museum”, she said. In response, Novak said: “since 1964 and my first showing in Pace Gallery, I had hoped for you to see my work”. It took almost one year of Novak’s persisting, polite and hopeful calling, until finally an appointment was set for Dorothy to come. Novak chose to show two sculptures and four paintings in his showroom, later in his studio, one single painting was to be unveiled.

As Dorothy entered and Novak took her raincoat and umbrella, in kindness she said: “please do not worry in showing me your work, as I have looked at art all my life, you can show me paintings covered in plastic sheets and that is ok”. Novak response was: “I’m not worried at all”, then Dorothy turned toward the room, being twenty five feet from the six large works facing her.
She lunged forward, moving swiftly from one to the other, and back again in twenty seconds, then turned to Novak to say in great intensity: “ You are at the top! Absolutely at the top! How come I have never heard of you?” Novak’s response: “I tried hard for many years to meet you, you were very well protected in the Museum of Modern Art”. She didn’t respond to that comment, but went on to inquire in great intensity, whether any of the top dozen art dealers in New York had seen Novak’s work. “All of them and a few more”, said Novak....... “What the hell is going on?”, said Dorothy, to which Novak answered: “I had hoped that finally once you see my work, you would have the answer”.

Dorothy lingered on, looking at the four paintings and two sculptures, each representing a distinctly different group of works, then Novak showed her to his large studio where not one single art work was on view. Positioning Dorothy in front of the last painting of his choice to be shown, he unveiled it. Dorothy stood still, transfixed in silence, for what seemed forever, then turned to Novak and said: “ this is a masterpiece!....... I said it very few times in my life......this is a masterpiece!”

 

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About Novak's Artwork

Hans Van Werengrick for The Jewish Museum | Paul Jenkins, Artist | Tiffany Bell for The Empire State Collection

Gordon Washburn, Director of Asia House, Art Exhibitions | Dorothy Miller, Curator of Modern Art, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Arthur Drexler, Director Dept. of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Barnett Glimpsher, The Pace Gallery | Barnett Newman, Artist

 

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