My mother mentioned a family by the name of Kerker in her memoirs. They were gardeners at the estate where she grew up. One of the sons emigrated to the US, and I remember my mother telling me that he became a gardener at an estate that was so large that he had to drive a truck to get around. It reminds me of a Texan who boasted that his property was so large that it took him a day to get from one side to the other. His listener remarked that he once also had such a bad car.
When I came to this country I met the emigrated Kerker’s nephew and asked him where in the US his uncle had lived. To my surprise, he pointed out of the window at a large wooded area in the distance, “over there”. It was the property of the Manhasset Whitney family. In 2005 the Whitneys were in the news. They had sold a Picasso, “Boy with a Pipe” for $113 million – an auction record for a painting.
Today’s Wall Street Journal weekend issue carries a story about Picasso’s famous “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” painting being 100 years old. Like my favorite communist, Berthold Brecht, Picasso was an art revolutionary who protested against all conventions – a typical theme was prostitutes wearing masks.
When I moved to Manhattan in 1962, I had to decorate my new apartment and bought among other things, an African mask. Ever since then I look with wonderment at that mask. I never figured out what it was… just pure fascination.
Picasso claimed he was not influenced by the masks he had seen, but suggested it was an exorcism painting, a primal confrontation.
Just a few days ago on the 19th, it was 70 years that an exhibit opened in Munich: “Degenerated Art”. The political left and right clashed. Inadvertently the Nazis put the controversial painters on the map. A Gustav Klimt painting was bought for $135 million (another new high) by Long Island entrepreneur Lauder, of Esteé Lauder fame for the Neue Galerie in New York City. One got used to frivolous art. Now it is the obscene price that is so shocking.