Published: January 23, 2018
By W.A. Demers
NEW YORK CITY – The Wunsch Americana Foundation honored American furniture artist Wendell Castle (1932-2018) and noted Outsider art collector Audrey B. Heckler, the 2018 recipients of the Eric M. Wunsch Award for Excellence in the American Arts. The winners were honored at a reception at Christie’s Rockefeller Center on January 17 during Antiques Week in New York. The award, bestowed annually, honors the memory of Martin Wunsch, a collector of American decorative arts and Old Masters paintings.
Castle, often referred to as the “father of the art furniture movement,” for more than four decades influenced the design world with sculptures, designs and furniture at the intersection of form, function and art. His award, accepted by his daughter Alison, came just three days before he passed away at his home in Scottsville, N.Y., where he was an artist in residence at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
Born and educated in Kansas, Castle moved to Rochester, N.Y., in 1961 and taught at the School for American Craftsmen. An artist-in-residence at RIT, he maintained his art studio in nearby Scottsville. His whimsical sculptural vocabulary is said to have been the result of a catalyzing encounter with the stacked wood vernacular inherent in duck decoys, which is certainly within the DNA of Americana. This is the first year, however, in the award’s six-year history that an artist has been chosen as a recipient.
Speaking to the assembled audience in Christie’s auction saleroom, foundation president Peter Wunsch pointed out that the foundation is exploring new pathways of Americana in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. His son Eric also emphasized in his remarks the move to reach new and younger audiences and gave a “call to arms” to collectors to passionately share objects, knowledge and enthusiasm.
That passion was kindled in award recipient Heckler in 1993, she recalled, when she saw a sign for the Outsider Art Fair, walked in and began talking with the show’s dealers. “I’ve always liked art,” she said, “and acquired what I liked.” Artworks created by so-called Outsider, Art Brut and self-taught artists that entered Heckler’s collection in the ensuing quarter century are chronicled in The Hidden Art (Skira Rizzoli, 2017).
Directed by Peter Wunsch and his sons Eric and Noah, the Wunsch Americana Foundation funds educational and preservation initiatives in the American arts. Objects from the Wunsch Collection are displayed at partner museums and institutions around the United States.
Past recipients of the Eric M. Wunsch Award for Excellence in the American Arts are Brock Jobe, Leroy Graves, Patricia E. Kane, Linda H. Kaufman and the late George M. Kaufman, Richard H. Jenrette, Chipstone Foundation, Arnold Lehman, Morrison H. Heckscher and Peter M. Kenny.
For more information on the New York City-based Wunsch Americana Foundation, visit www.wunschcollection.com.
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