In spring of 2013, Hilton Asmus Contemporary held a private luncheon in celebration of Ani Afshar’s exhibition Weaving Gardens Casting Shadows. A lovely table was set for 12 very special guests including curators, collectors and friends. Ani’s show culminated in abounding success as we had numerous collectors fly in from all parts of the country to see her show and ultimately acquire the intricate silk & mohair weavings and tulle constructions.
It was at that time we met the grand dame of Chicago collectors, the generous supporter of artists, Ruth Horwich. She was 93 years old. Ruth was one of the founding members of the Museum of Contemporary Art, a generous supporter of the Art Institute, the Hyde Park Art Center and the Smart Museum. She had donated the 29 foot Jean Dubuffet sculpture, “Monument with a Standing Beast,” which guards the James Thompson Center, and donated her Calder collection to the MCA. She had one of the most fascinating art collections ranging from dada & surrealism to known, unknown, self taught and Chicago artists.
In addition to Ruth, our dear friends and collectors, Jimmy and Ginger Meyer, joined us along with their son, Scott, and daughter-in-law Christen. David Lade, Lisette Cortes, and curator & art historian, Rolf Achilles also attended. Since Ani was born in Istanbul, I decided to cook a few of our favorite Turkish dishes to celebrate the exhibition. Ruth was living history and we were humbled and thrilled to have her join our meal. She couldn’t walk easily to view the show, so we brought some of Ani’s tulle constructions to the table for her to see and feel. Ani’s works are so tactile, it is impossible to look at them without wanting to touch them!
Ruth ultimately selected two pieces, a lovely, purple beaded tulle construction and an assemblage made with Japanese printing paper. We thought she was just being kind because she had been a great supporter of Ani in years past. They knew each other from the Hyde Park Art Center where Ruth was president of the board for the last 40 years. Apparently, Ani had woven a special bedspread for her 20 years ago and it ended up being stolen from her home!
When our luncheon ended, Sven drove Ruth back to her Hyde Park home. She kindly offered a reciprocal invitation to lunch in her home when we were to deliver the two Afshar works. It was an exhilarating ending to a deeply satisfying and successful exhibition by one of our favorite artists.
The following week, Sven, Ani and I drove to Hyde Park for our much anticipated lunch. We were speechless at the magnitude of Ruth's art collection. Touring from room to room, we were face to face with the Chicago Imagists, European Surrealists, Outsider artists and an assortment of famous and not so famous names. It was far more interesting than any museum. This was art in its natural environment, where someone had lived and loved.
Seeing the immense collection, we had even more respect for the collector and greatly appreciated the opportunity to be part of this vast and extraordinary assemblage of art from around the world We were surprised (but shouldn’t have been!) that each one of Ani's pieces Ruth acquired had a specially designated spot. After the tour, we hung the two works on a wall around the corner from the living room. Ruth knew exactly where and how the two pieces would fit in with her already existing collection.
It was now time for Carol's delectable lunch. As we sat in the dining room, behind me loomed a large Dubuffet canvas, to my left "Jazz Wall" by Marisol, and in the corner of the room was a Matta. But staring at me with one eye resting above an ear, lips and two noses was the pièce de resistance, Rene Magritte’s 1937 “The White Race." I had never dined with a Magritte before. Nor had I met a collector of such inimitable spirit.
Little did I know that one year later, that same Magritte would be hanging in the Art Institute at the Magritte exhibit, “Mystery of the Ordinary.” Upon seeing it in its new setting, alone on a dark gray wall, I was quite taken aback. Tears began to well up inside my eyes with the memory of this painting we dined with resting on a white wall surrounded in natural light. How many years, I can't say. And then a flashback of the lovely meal and our perfect hostess, a kind and generous woman who had helped so many artists over a period of decades, known and unknown, gave them inspiration and made each person feel like they were the most important one in the room.
Being privy to Ruth's personal world was a very special day in the life of a gallerist and artist. It really is people like her who make this world a better place for having been here. The last photo I took that day was of Ruth dressed in her leopard blouse in her dining room sitting in front of "Jazz Wall" by Marisol. She passed away in July 2014. She was 94 years old. When I saw the booklet in memory of Ruth Horwich's life, I was so touched to find that same photo was included in her memorium......
Ani Afshar's next exhibition "NEW WORKS –– A DIALOGUE" opens at Hilton Asmus Contemporary on Friday, November 7.