Like all creative types, artists often benefit from the largesse of others. Genuine patrons of the arts, though, are scarce these days. The N.E.A., charitable foundations and corporate grants have largely replaced benefactors of earlier times like collector Peggy Guggenheim or new music doyenne Betty Freeman.
One of the most celebrated artists' champions, Joan Agajanian Quinn, is the subject of a far-ranging portrait show at the Brand Resource Library in Glendale. Known for her journalism, commentary, broadcasting and support of the arts, she has received many artist tributes over the years. The Brand Library's "Joan Quinn: Captured" (through Aug. 1) surveys creative offerings to a life spent encouraging the arts.
She championed the Ferus Gallery artists of the late 1960s, represented in the show by works of Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell and Billy Al Bengston. She spread the word of the quirky, original Los Angeles art and built bridges to the New York art world. Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jean-Michel Basquiat are also represented.
Chief curator Laura Whitcomb assembled the work for public viewing. "Joan didn't commission them," Whitcomb says. "She and her husband are collectors, but these pieces were gifted to her by artists."
The art world has plenty of big egos, turf wars, petty jealousies, and blood feuds. Money and resources are finite; projects often die on the vine without the intervention of a facilitator. Quinn has the rare ability to effectively interact with galleries, museums, patrons and foundations on behalf of the people who make art.
"It's a very competitive and difficult industry," Whitcomb states. "You have to be hard-as-nails to navigate through it all. But Joan is very determined, and it's that tenacious quality that enabled the L.A. art scene to grow into an internationally known entity."
"Joan has an innate sense of style," Whitcomb holds, "and that includes film, culture and fashion. She really has a sense of what will be the next chapter."
New York's Studio 54 in the '70s was a palace of excess that drew the beautiful, the talented, the well-heeled and the wannabes from across the creative spectrum. If Studio 54 had a Bible, it was Andy Warhol's Interview magazine; Quinn was the West Coast editor.
One artist whose stock rose from the magazine's clout was Antonio Lopez (1943-87), just "Antonio" to his fans. His stylish, splashy fashion illustrations captured the moment, portraying models like Tina Chow, Jerry Hall, Marisa Berenson and Pat Cleveland. Antonio's vibrant pastels adorned album covers, magazines and designer advertisements, but Interview was his playground. Lopez, who is represented in the portrait show, interacted with Quinn at several settings.
"Andy thought he was a genius," Quinn says, speaking from her Beverly Hills home. "We were fashion show friends; we saw each other at Paris shows and the chic clubs. We hung out at his studio on the square by Andy's Factory — that's where he and Juan Ramos lived. He always had a bevy of models around him."
Whitcomb was born in Glendale and she studied fashion history in Europe before spending 15 years in New York City. Her resume includes working with the Dalí Museum in Spain on an exhibition that explores the famed Surrealist's connection to fashion and theater. Whitcomb's gratified at the support that has come for the show from many different quarters. "The city of Glendale has been very supportive," she points out, "especially Councilwoman Laura Friedman. Businesses like Whole Foods and La Cañada Framers donated goods and services to us. They recognize the amazing potential for creativity at the Brand and they want us to succeed."
She thinks the show portends something significant for the city of Glendale. "We're already receiving requests from major museums and galleries for the show, and this could take the Brand Library in a new direction."
What: "Joan Quinn: Captured"
Where: Brand Resource Library, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale
When: Through Aug. 1. Closed Monday.
More info: (818) 548-2051, brandlibrary.org
KIRK SILSBEE writes about jazz and culture for Marquee.