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  Topic: The Curator Vanishes: Period
Room as Crime Scene
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The Curator Vanishes: Period
Room as Crime Scene

ARTnews, by Robin Cembalest

Original Article

Posted By:PageTurner, 2/28/2013 3:27:37 PM

On March 27, 1954, Barton Kestle, first curator of modern art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, boarded a train for Washington, D.C., and was never seen again. A shy specialist in the Soviet Avant-Garde, Dada, and Surrealism, Kestle had usually worked late into the night at the museum’s grand McKim, Mead, & White building, his office placed near the front entrance so he wouldn’t trip up alarms. This explains how staff came to accidentally seal and paint over his door during a rushed construction job some time in the ’50s.

Trade journal posted with special permission of LComStaff.

Fascinating story - the Madmen Era (or well the decade before) brought to living color. Dig that old fashioned technology - though that stapler is still around I believe. Dig that overflowing liquor cart at the side! People did things differently in 1954.


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Reply 1 - Posted by: earlybird, 2/28/2013 3:54:44 PM     (No. 9201405)

Glad OP corrected that "Madmen" bit. Definitely 50s, which were basically an extension of the post-war 40s with an attempt to look "moderne".

That stapler is still around because many hung on to it - it would use heavy-duty staples to go through 20 pages or so without flinching.

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Reply 2 - Posted by: earlybird, 2/28/2013 3:56:40 PM     (No. 9201408)

I should have added that this guy was not ready for too much modernity in his daily life. Plus office gear was made to last forever and many people liked it that way. Hung on to it forever rather than go on to less sturdy, less utilitarian stuff.

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Reply 3 - Posted by: farmwife, 2/28/2013 3:57:10 PM     (No. 9201410)

´ People did things differently in 1954.´

Indeed they did. It was an age when people had freedom to do what they liked.

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Reply 4 - Posted by: bona fides, 2/28/2013 4:18:42 PM     (No. 9201425)

This is not a stapler. It is a corporate seal, personal embosser or ex Libris library embosser to press images into paper.

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Reply 5 - Posted by: bona fides, 2/28/2013 4:19:57 PM     (No. 9201427)

oops, the item on the bookshelf, the desk item is a stapler

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Reply 6 - Posted by: wws, 2/28/2013 4:22:21 PM     (No. 9201429)

If you´ll read the article carefully, you´ll find that this is a cleverly constructed stunt by artist Mark Dion.

This is a fascinating exhibit, but there was no "Barton Kestle" who dissapeared one day, there was no office that was "accidentally lost". It´s all part of the "Art in the Age of Truthiness" exhibit, or as an earlier showman put it, "There´s a sucker born every minute."

(If he really vanished on a train, what´s his luggage doing there?)

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Reply 7 - Posted by: 4Justice, 2/28/2013 4:46:01 PM     (No. 9201453)

I like looking at that old stuff...it brings back memories of my childhood (even though I was born in 1962, my parents still kept a lot of older items in the house)

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Reply 8 - Posted by: Rafter, 2/28/2013 4:54:04 PM     (No. 9201463)

#6, thanks for taking more time on the article than I was willing.

I sensed a red herring the moment I saw the sentence mentioning...
"This explains how staff came to accidentally (sic) seal and paint over his door during a rushed construction job... "

How stupid do they think we are.
Sounded bogus from the git-go.
Thank you for detailing that for us.

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Reply 9 - Posted by: Ribicon, 2/28/2013 4:58:22 PM     (No. 9201469)

Always interesting to look at things from the past. Antique stores are useful for such nostalgia.

True to stereotype, the "art" types can´t shake their afflictions and obsessions. Naturally, their composite character was a closeted communist homosexual, and thus fell victim to the Vast Right Wing Hate Machine that threatens them still.

FTA: "Collectively, they created a portrait of a New England-born, Ivy educated, left-leaning bachelor, with no close family or friends. He was well-traveled. He was an acolyte of Alfred Barr. And for some reason he’d attracted the attention of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which had sent him a summons shortly before he vanished. Under this context (not to mention the real-life example of double agent Anthony Blunt) the items in his office become more suggestive."

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Reply 10 - Posted by: Ribicon, 2/28/2013 5:00:14 PM     (No. 9201473)

Oh, and that Scotch tape in the dispenser on the desk would have yellowed with age. All part of the conspiracy!

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Reply 11 - Posted by: pearlyjo, 2/28/2013 5:18:24 PM     (No. 9201497)

I thought the same thing #7. It reminded me of my dad´s home office in the late 60´s/early 70´s. He would bring home items that the oil company he worked for was getting rid of. Even the chair is similar to a chair he still has.
Good memories.

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Reply 12 - Posted by: Zarin, 2/28/2013 6:45:34 PM     (No. 9201611)

The article is so poorly written that it is difficult to figure out what is going on. But is ti fun to see what the ´artist´ did collecting all the 60 years old tech.

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Reply 13 - Posted by: BarryNo, 2/28/2013 7:33:45 PM     (No. 9201676)

Is it just me? Or was this guy set up perfectly to be a spy - for either side.

Soviet Avaunt-garde... He probably had a lot of access and reasons to travel to all sorts of places. His disappearance makes more sense if one side or the other decided he had outlived his usefulness.

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