Sunday, November 9, 2014

the last book I ever read (Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word, excerpt five)

from The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe:

Greenberg didn’t discover Pollock or even create his reputation, as was said so often later on. Damnable Uptown did that. Pick me! Peggy Guggenheim picked Pollock. He was a nameless down-and-out boho Cubist. She was the niece of Solomon (Guggenheim Museum) Guggenheim and the center of the most chic Uptown art circle in New York in the 1940s, a circle featuring famous Modern artists from Europe (including her husband, Max Ernst) who were fleeing the war, Uptown intellectuals such as Alfred Barr and James Johnson of the Museum of Modern Art, and young boho protégés such as two members of Pollock’s cénacle, Baziotes and Robert Motherwell. In a single year, 1943, Peggy Guggenheim met Pollock through Baziotes and Motherwell, gave him a monthly stipend, got him moving in the direction of Surrealist “automatic writing” (she loved Surrealism), set him up on Fifty-seventh Street—Uptown Street of Dreams!—with his first show—in the most chic Modernist salon in the history of New York, her own Art of This Century Gallery, with its marvelous Surrealist Room, where the pictures were mounted on baseball bats—got Sweeney to write the catalogue introduction, in prose that ranged from merely rosy to deep purple dreams—and Barr inducted one of the paintings, The She Wolf, into the Museum of Modern Art’s Permanent Collection—and Motherwell wrote a rave for Partisan Review—and Greenberg wrote a super-rave for The Nation … and, well, Greenberg was rather later getting into the loop, if anything. The Consummation was complete and Pollock was a Success before the last painting was hung and the doors were opened and the first Manhattan was poured (remember Manhattans?) on opening night. To that extent Greenberg was just an ordinary reporter bringing you the latest news.

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