Episode 163 – David Leopold

Virtual Memories Show #163:
David Leopold

“Hirschfeld is an artist who discovered what he wanted to do early on, and works at it his whole life and gets better and better at it.”

218_Leop_9781101874974_art_r1David Leopold, author of The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age (Knopf), joins the show to talk about the thirteen years he spent working with the great artist Al Hirschfeld, how he wound up running the Ben Solowey Studio, his career curating museum exhibitions, what he learned from following The Grateful Dead, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy The Hirschfeld Century!

“I don’t collect art; I collect artists.”

We also talk the trip that led Hirschfeld from painting to line art, the way MGM’s costume department started making the Marx Brothers look more like Hirschfeld’s drawings of them, one of David’s biggest regrets (not bringing Al Hirschfeld and Jerry Garcia together), Billy Rose’s plan to buy Ellis Island and make it a retirement home for millionaires, the fleetingness of artistic reputation, the goals of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, and the wonderful history of the Ben Solowey Studio. BONUS: You get to hear me discuss how I almost quit doing the podcast last week! Go listen!

“Every day, he was faced with a white board that couldn’t care less about what he’d accomplished.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

dleopoldDavid Leopold is an author and curator who has organized exhibitions for institutions around the country including the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, and the Field Museum in Chicago. Internationally, he has curated shows for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Filmmuseum in Frankfurt and Berlin. He organized the archive of Al Hirschfeld’s work for the artist, visiting Hirschfeld in his studio at least once a week for thirteen years until the artist’s death in 2003. He is now the Creative Director for the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. His latest book, The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age, published by Alfred A. Knopf to coincide with a major retrospective that Leopold curated for the New York Historical Society has won universal acclaim. The Washington Post called it an “instant classic,” and Amazon selected it for its “Top Books of 2015.” His other books include David Levine’s American Presidents (Fantagraphics, 2008); Irving Berlin’s Show Business: Broadway – Hollywood – AmericaHirschfeld’s Hollywood (Abrams, 2001). He also authored a number of monographs on underappreciated artists for various museums.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Studio of Ben Solowey in Bedminster, PA on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of David by me. Hirschfeld drawing of Carol Channing via Knopf’s publicity page for The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age.

Under the Sun

Barring a major investor jumping in during a time of financial panic, it looks like the Official Newspaper of Gil Roth will be shutting down in a week. How’s today’s Arts+ section looking?

  1. Victor Davis Hanson reviews Martin Creveld’s The Culture of War: “he presents himself as a Thucydidean”!
  2. Steven Nadler reviews Joel Kramer’s biography on the Great RaMBaM: “From Moses to Moses, there was no one like Moses”!
  3. Eric Ormsby reviews Fernandoz Baez’ history of the destruction of books: “Unlike Borges, who delighted in inventing titles which don’t exist (but should), Mr. Báez describes books and whole libraries that fell prey not only to fire and flood but to sheer human malevolence”. . .
  4. And speaking of Borges, Alberto Manguel reviews William Goldbloom Bloch’s The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel: “Mr. Bloch notes in his preface that the ideal reader of his book is Umberto Eco”!?
  5. Paula Deitz writes up the Venice Biennale of Architecture: “Two different exhibitions featured walls of refrigerators as stand-ins for enclosed spaces”?!
  6. In a rare disappointment for me, it turned out that Valerie Gladstone’s Bacon and Rothko in London does not actually involve pork products: “‘What I find amazing,’ Mr. Gale said, ‘is that even after all the preparation for this exhibition, looking at Bacon’s paintings still makes my spine tingle. I never stop being overwhelmed.'”

And a bonus! This weekend, the New York Times wrote about the Sun’s plight! While it can’t be bothered to mention the Sun’s top-notch arts coverage until a passing ref. 6 paragraphs from the end — presumably because it puts the Times’ coverage to shame — it does manage to include a quote from a writer at The Nation who called the Sun “a paper that functions as a journalistic SWAT team against individuals and institutions seen as hostile to Israel and Jews”! Awesome! Now I can miss it even more. . .