Published: January 22, 2019
NEW YORK CITY – Casting an appraising eye around a salesroom filled with Americana enthusiasts, Christie’s deputy chairman John Hays welcomed guests to the annual presentation of the Wunsch Award for Excellence in the American Arts on the evening of Wednesday, January 16. “We have here tonight a huge gathering of the decorative arts community,” Hays said approvingly, adding, “We should remember who is not here. It’s on their broad shoulders the field is built.”
Coinciding with Christie’s cocktail preview for its January Americana sales, the Wunsch Award – named for Eric Martin Wunsch and administered by the late collector’s son, Peter, and grandsons, Eric and Noah – honors the past while charting a future for the field. This year’s honorees, interior decorator Thomas Jayne and the not-for-profit Decorative Arts Trust, directed by Matthew Thurlow, are notable for their efforts to broaden and perpetuate scholarship and the marketplace by reaching new audiences and developing younger scholars and collectors.
“Three years ago, I stood at this podium and, much to my brother’s chagrin, said I didn’t know much about design. I can now say that Tom Jayne and the Decorative Arts Trust have been key contributors to my education,” Noah Wunsch, noting Jayne’s talent for mixing historic and contemporary design, said from the podium.
Carol B. Cadou, Winterthur’s new director and CEO, took the stage to recall meeting Jayne in 1995. “I was a Winterthur Fellow, and Tom led us through the museum. He encouraged us to see Winterthur as an expression of Twentieth Century design. This was truly revelatory.” She added, “Tom sees himself as a scholar-decorator. That was very much how Henry Francis DuPont saw the ideal curator.” Cadou cited Jayne’s latest book, an homage to Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, as an example of his ability to make American design history accessible to all.
Accepting the award, Jayne recalled his friendships with Martin Wunsch, editor Wendell Garrett and decorator Albert Hadley, among others. Each introduced Jayne to “people in a world of shared sensibilities.” Jayne stressed the primacy of enduring friendship over material satisfaction and thanked his husband, Rick Ellis, “who over 30 years ago vicariously attended Winterthur with me.”
“We are all as a field grateful for what the Wunsch family has done. This night in New York City has become a major event. On behalf of the Decorative Arts Trust, we thank you,” said Robert Leath, vice president and chief curator at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Speaking on behalf of the Decorative Arts Trust, where he is a governor, Leath offered insight into the trust’s evolution since its founding 40 years ago, saying, “In recent years, we really retooled to think about how we as an organization want to move forward. Under trust executive director Matthew Thurlow, we’ve put our energy into our Emerging Scholars program. Every year, we are sponsoring people who will be the next generation of leaders in our field.”
“They told me to keep it short and say something profound,” Thurlow quipped as he took the stage. Accepting the award on behalf of the trust, he noted, “We are an unusual group in that we neither collect nor display art. We collaborate with those who do. The trust has been likened to a community foundation. Education and mentorship are two of three pillars of our program. Here with us tonight are Jason Busch, director of the American Folk Art Museum, and Winterthur’s Carol Cadou. They are among the hundreds of individuals who have received support from the Decorative Arts Trust over the years.”
For more on the Wunsch Collection and the Wunsch Americana Foundation, go to www.wunschcollection.com.
December 7, 2021
February 4, 2020
November 5, 2019
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm