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Conversation with George Wein at MoMA

Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner, and George Wein c/o George & Joyce Wein Collection

For many years, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has showcased jazz and its connection to the visual arts, often through live concerts or as part of its various exhibitions. In that tradition, on Tuesday, October 6, the museum is including a discussion between festival presenter George Wein and the Senior Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Peter Reed, as part of its series Conversations: Among Friends. The conversation will focus on Wein’s festival production career and musical career, along with a broader discussion on the arts and Wein’s extensive personal art collection. Following the program, guests can continue the conversation and meet the participants at an intimate reception catered by Settepani Harlem in The Ronald S. and Jo Carole Lauder Lobby.

Knowledgaable jazz fans know all about Wein’s long career as a jazz impresario, but they may not know that Wein is also a big-time art collector, with an emphasis on African-American artists, including Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis and Jacob Lawrence. His wife Joyce Wein was his longtime partner in the collection process and, since her death in 2006, Wein has dedicated himself to promoting and sharing their collection with the fine art community. And, one piece from their collection is now a part of MoMA’s permanent collection: André Masson’s Pasiphae. 1942. Oil and sand on canvas, 19 7/8 x 25 1/8″ (50.5 x 63.8 cm).

The series is organized by The Friends of Education, an affiliate group of The Museum of Modern Art, the mission of which is to foster a greater appreciation of art created by African American artists and to encourage African American membership and participation in and throughout MoMA. Previous Conversations have included Jason Moran with Ben Ratliff, as well as sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett with artist and art historian David Driskell.

Marquita Pool-Eckert, former TV producer for CBS, is the program chair of the Friends of Education. She told JT that the group was organized back in 1993 for that two-fold purpose with the commonality of linkage between the museum and the African-American community. The group raises a sizeable amount of money to put towards the support of African-American art at MoMA, through acquisitions and programs. She said Wein was one of the group’s founders and that over the years he has been a big supporter of their efforts at connecting the museum with the community. “Every couple of years we’d have a benefit gala to raise money and it was George who suggested that we put on a concert and then have a dinner.” The Friends bi-annual gala fundraiser is called “The Jazz Interlude,” and Pool-Eckert said that both the concerts and results have been incredible. “George brought in great performers. People like Geri Allen, Jon Faddis, Wynton Marsalis and others. Bill Cosby also appeared twice as MC.” And as a result, the group was able to contribute towards the purchase of several important pieces for the museum.

Pool-Eckert says that the series grew because they wanted to demonstrate and promote cultural interchange. “It’s important for the museum to be at the intersection of all artistic forms,” she said. “George was a natural for this not only because of his life in jazz, but also because he’s built a world-class art collection.” Wein will discuss both areas of his life with Reed and will also play some piano. Pool-Eckert, who has known Wein for many years, noted that, “it’s not surprising that someone who is very involved with music would also be attracted to fine art.”

The event is open to the public and tickets for the event are $35 and can be purchased online at MOMA’s web site or at the Museum, which is located at 11 W. 53rd Street in New York City.

Originally Published