What happens when an arts icon dies?
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“I wound up with this gift”
Doon Arbus, daughter of Diane Arbus, photographer (1923-1971). Portrait by Neil Selkirk
When Diane Arbus died in 1971 at the age of 48, she didn’t leave a will. It fell to her eldest daughter, the writer and novelist Doon Arbus, to deal with her still-emergent work as a pioneering photographer of postwar America. “I wound up with this gift,” she reflects, “or this responsibility.”
Born to a wealthy family in New York, Diane Arbus described her upbringing as “like being a princess in some loathsome movie”. To escape, she sought out other communities, from carnival performers to the developmentally disabled, whom she photographed with both tenderness and fascination.
She was by turns venerated and criticised for her vision – in the book On Photography, published in 1973, Susan Sontag questioned the limits of Arbus’s gaze, describing it as “based on distance, on privilege”. Arbus’s portraits continue to generate fierce debate. “Some would say, and they might be right, that her suicide was a big reason for the initial brouhaha,” says Doon of the furore around Arbus’ work in the years following her death. “But I think that clouds the fact that the work was, and in my opinion continues to be, revolutionary in its profundity.”
For more than five decades, Doon has kept a close watch over the many exhibitions and publications that have celebrated her mother. Although Arbus participated in MoMA’s groundbreaking New Documents exhibition in 1967, she never lived to stage a solo show. “Everything that exists of her work is dependent on decisions I have made since her death. It’s astonishing,” says Doon. “I’m a little cold-blooded about it. I realised I was going to have to stop thinking about what she would have wanted and just go ahead. It may be hard to separate the person from the pictures – but she’s not around and the pictures are, and they matter.”
The year after Arbus’s death, curator John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art mounted a major retrospective, which broke all attendance records for a one-person show at the museum. The exhibition was restaged last September by David Zwirner and Fraenkel galleries at Zwirner’s West 20th Street space in New York City. In between, international shows have included those at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2003; at the Jeu de Paume, Paris, in 2011; and The Met Breuer in New York City in 2016. “The goal throughout,” Doon explains, “has been to ensure that each picture is seen as an entity unto itself, and not part of an external narrative, because that is what I believe in.”
Doon’s memories of Arbus are fond. The two collaborated on several magazine assignments during the ’60s, with Doon as writer and Diane as photographer. On a story about Timothy Leary, the pair stayed in his compound on a rural New York estate. “We stole a box of peanut brittle, went into a room and shut the door, and spent the whole time in fits of giggles,” Doon recalls.
Doon’s first novel, The Caretaker, was published in 2020. In it, after the death of an eccentric collector, her protagonist is put in charge of the deceased’s museum of things, and safeguards his legacy. “I never thought of a connection between myself and the character of the caretaker,” she says, but agrees that the book raises themes that at times hold a surprising resonance.
“We kept an awful lot of her stuff – cameras, contact sheets and detritus – in deference to the sort of silent history that survives more or less intact in objects,” Doon remembers. Many of these items were displayed in the 2003 San Francisco show. In 2007, the estate donated the full archive to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “It was a burden,” Doon explains. “I wasn’t going to live forever and, theoretically, The Met will.”
What might Arbus have made of her daughter’s efforts to take care of her body of work? “I think she would have been very pleased, appreciative, embarrassed, and maybe a little, ‘Why did you bother?’” Doon laughs, before turning serious once more. “I would not be here, 50 years on, still doing this, if I didn’t think the work was extremely important and valuable.” She concludes: “I’m not doing this for my mother. I’m doing it for the world.”
Diane Arbus: Constellation is at LUMA Arles until 30 April 2024. Diane Arbus: A Box of Ten Photographs is at City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand, from 23 September until 14 January 2024. The Caretaker, by Doon Arbus, is published by New Directions. More information about the Estate of Diane Arbus can be found at davidzwirner.com, fraenkelgallery.com and metmuseum.org
“To be able to share the human side of Jimi is very important”
Janie Hendrix, step-sister of Jimi Hendrix, musician (1942-1970)
At the height of Jimi Hendrix’s fame in 1967, when his debut album, Are You Experienced, spent 33 weeks in the UK charts, the music star burned his guitar onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival – a moment immortalised in one of the most famous rock ’n’ roll photographs of all time. Hendrix’s outstretched hands summon the flames towards him as if conducting a spiritual ritual, a fitting image for a performer who generated an almost religious fervour among fans.
Three years later, he would die in London at the age of 27 in an incident that continues to fuel speculation to this day; the official cause of death was recorded as accidental barbiturate-related asphyxia. “There are a lot of conspiracy theories, which I’ve heard my whole life,” says Janie Hendrix, the adopted daughter of Jimi’s father Al Hendrix following his marriage to her mother in 1966, when she was five. “My dad would say: there’s nothing we can do to bring him back.” But, she emphasises, “I am 100 per cent committed to the mission of preserving and protecting [his] legacy.”
Control of the Hendrix estate, currently estimated to be worth around $175mn, was passed to Janie after Al’s death in 2002, a decision that was unsuccessfully contested by Hendrix’s brother Leon in a legal battle over his father’s will (the first in a string of legal challenges that have ensued between the siblings, and band members). “It is our father’s dream and the keeping of a promise Jimi and I made to always take care of each other,” says Janie.
She and her father received early guidance from the family of Elvis Presley – “some good, some bad, with notes in there to guide us like a map”, says Janie. As well as the music, there was the rich seam of licensing: “I remember asking, ‘Why would you let Elvis’s face appear on toilet paper?’ We have always been careful to stay away from anything inappropriate. We’re very selective.”
As full-time president and CEO of the estate, Janie now runs two companies. Experience Hendrix oversees posthumous releases, CDs and documentaries, alongside music licensing. Authentic Hendrix manages the licensing for merchandise, posters and collectibles – from clothing and homewares to guitar accessories, sold directly via their website. Janie personally monitors each request. “There are rules,” she explains. “Music really can imprint a certain feeling onto you, so if someone is being murdered in a movie or dies of an overdose, we won’t allow Jimi’s music to be used in that scene.”
Janie has also been keen to honour Hendrix’s personal side and Seattle roots, and the Jimi Hendrix Park, located in the city’s Central District near where the musician grew up, was opened in 2017 with the support of the estate. And to celebrate what would have been Hendrix’s 80th birthday in 2022, a book shared early memories, including childhood drawings and poems, family photographs and handwritten lyrics. “When Jimi passed, he was called the greatest guitarist to have ever lived,” Janie reflects. “But for us, we lost a family member, and to be able to share the human side of him is very important. Jimi was in his 20s and he was still a kid at heart. He would make little daisy-chain flower necklaces for me and draw pictures of himself on my hand like a tattoo. He had a wonderful sense of humour and liked to make fun of himself.”
Next, she hopes to extend this through the development of an immersive exhibition and film, inspired by a visit to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. “Technology has finally caught up to Jimi,” she smiles. In the meantime, the recreation of the London flat he lived in from 1968 to 1969 reopened this year following an extensive renovation project.
“I have a sense that he would be very proud,” she says of her decades at the helm of Hendrix’s estate. “He would be glad that we’re keeping his legacy alive.” But, she adds, “there are a lot of battles that we still have to fight”.
“We didn’t really have a plan”
Dorothy Lichtenstein, wife of Roy Lichtenstein, artist (1923-1997)
It’s still easy to think that maybe he’s just on a trip somewhere for an exhibition,” Dorothy Lichtenstein, 83, says with a half-smile. She is speaking from her home in Southampton, Long Island, where she lived with her husband, the artist Roy Lichtenstein. The two were married for 30 years before his death from pneumonia in 1997, four weeks before his 74th birthday. “We didn’t really have a plan,” Dorothy admits. She now presides over the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, established in 1999, which until this year functioned out of the artist’s former studio at 741/745 Washington Street, New York.
Born to a wealthy German-Jewish family in New York in 1923, Lichtenstein found himself amid the city’s milieu of emerging artists during the 1950s and ’60s. His immediately recognisable dot paintings were inspired by comic-book sketches and satirised popular advertising. “When he did his first cartoon painting, he said it didn’t even look like art to him,” Dorothy laughs. “He had to first get beyond the level of his own taste, but then he could not go back.”
His reputation has only grown in the years following his death, with major exhibitions staged at the Hayward Gallery in London (2004), Art Institute of Chicago (2012), Centre Pompidou in Paris (2013) and the Whitney in New York (2019-2020). Museums typically contact the Foundation directly, Dorothy explains. “It’s much more interesting to see the ideas of art historians and curators,” she says.
This October marks Lichtenstein’s centennial, celebrated in a display of his prints at London’s Tate Modern. This will be followed by major exhibitions at the Albertina Museum, Vienna next year, and the Whitney in 2026. The US Postal Service has also released five new stamps honouring Lichtenstein’s work.
Dorothy has now managed the estate, which handles copyright, and served as president of the Foundation, which oversees scholarly publications and exhibitions, for more than two decades. “I try to think, what would Roy have done, in all things,” she says. “While we generally work only with institutions, granting them fair use, a few commercial requests are tempting. We have the same person handling copyright as when Roy was alive. We feel that if the products are done by good companies, it’s a nice way to keep Roy’s work accessible.”
Yet over the next five years, the Foundation will wind operations down. “We don’t have the resources to keep it going forever,” Dorothy says frankly. “As the sole supporter, 26 years after his death, our resources are diminished,” Instead, the Foundation is looking to find permanent homes for Lichtenstein’s work, where it can continue to be celebrated and seen by as many people as possible.
Dorothy emphasises that her ambition is not only to further the legacy of Lichtenstein himself but “to help with an understanding of the art of Roy’s time”. To this end, the Foundation acquired the photographic archive of Shunk-Kender, which evocatively captures Lichtenstein and the New York art crowd from the 1960s through to the end of the 20th century. The work and copyright was gifted in 2014 to five museums around the world.
The team are currently finalising Lichtenstein’s catalogue raisonné, and will digitise his archives, which are held in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art following the Foundation’s donation in 2018. “It is a repository of America’s cultural history,” Dorothy says. “The board and I felt this would be the best place for Roy’s history, and I agreed that Roy would have approved.” Both the catalogue and the archive will be made freely available online. It is reflective of a generous attitude that saw the Foundation donate around 400 works to the Whitney that same year, one of the largest single-artist gifts the museum has ever received, with the aim of safeguarding Lichtenstein’s work for generations to come.
Last year, the estate also gifted Lichtenstein’s Manhattan studio in its entirety to the Whitney, which will use the space to house its Independent Study Program when it reopens this October. “It is an extraordinary programme for artists, curators and historians. Amazing people have gone through it,” reflects Dorothy. “The studio is close to the museum but separate. It felt perfect.
“It’s exciting and I think Roy would have been happy,” she says. “It just seems like a wonderful legacy. The studio adds another dimension to the cultural life of the city.”
Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein is at Tate Modern, London, until 2024. Roy Lichtenstein: A Centennial Exhibition will be at Albertina Museum, Vienna, from 8 March 2024. lichtensteinfoundation.org. whitney.org
“I do things he wouldn’t have wanted”
Antony Peattie, partner of Howard Hodgkin, artist (1932-2017)
The former studio of Howard Hodgkin, located at the back of a Georgian building in London’s Bloomsbury, is flooded with light from the glass roof. Paintings are hung on the walls, all striking colours and moodily evocative moments inspired by scenes in India, Venice and the US, while brushes and oil-paint tubes distorted with use are piled upon tables. It is a startling sight, as if the artist were still at work, and yet Antony Peattie, 70, Hodgkin’s partner for more than 30 years, explains that the studio never looked like this during the artist’s lifetime. “All the paintings were concealed until people came to visit, when just one at a time would be revealed. He always felt they competed with one another.”
Hodgkin was a voracious collector, notably of Indian art made between 1550 and 1850, and the studio archive in Bloomsbury also houses his vast collection of books; his personal archive of postcards, notebooks and letters from fellow artists is all “boxed, sorted and documented”. Both await a new home that Peattie is yet to decide upon. “My ideal is for all the work to be on view in public collections and not privately owned,” he says. Hodgkin’s paintings are destined for museums around the UK. “It would make Howard’s ghost happy to think people were looking at the work and reacting to its emotive qualities.”
However, museum acquisition does not guarantee public display. While Tate has 87 works by Hodgkin in its collection, Peattie emphasises that there are none currently on display in its galleries. “Howard is, as they say, male, pale and stale,” he says matter-of-factly. He points out that numerous artists have already taken the step, instead, of opening their own museums to showcase their work, from Gilbert & George to Damien Hirst, Glenn Brown and Anish Kapoor. After Hodgkin’s death in 2017, Peattie hoped to follow in their footsteps, and sought advice from former Tate director Nicholas Serota. “He advised strongly against it,” he says with a sigh. “Although you can control a museum during your lifetime, it becomes very difficult after you’ve gone, and then there are the considerations of insurance, access and conservation.”
Peattie has considered donating some 200 prints and 300 works on paper to an institution. “I am negotiating at the moment with a sympathetic museum but it’s an extremely slow business. They have to work out the logistics of taking the work, storing it, conserving it, displaying it and employing a curator to do exhibitions. I can see that it’s a huge challenge.”
In the meantime, he welcomes groups of painting students to the studio, with Hodgkin’s former assistant of 22 years invited to be on hand to answer technical questions. Peattie has also sought to continue Hodgkin’s love of collaboration beyond the art world, including a recent partnership with British rugmaker Christopher Farr. During his lifetime Hodgkin lent his keen eye for colour and form to everyone from the Royal Mail to the Ballet Rambert; book covers for the likes of Susan Sontag and Alan Hollinghurst; and even a billboard for the BBC. “He loved working in design because it wasn’t lonely,” Peattie says. “Collaborating was very important to him.
“Am I guided by Howard’s presence?” he wonders aloud. “Absolutely.” A pause. “Even if I do things that he wouldn’t have wanted,” he laughs. Peattie estimates that his work on the estate takes up 80 per cent of his time. “It’s a huge element in my life, which I’m not entirely happy about,” he admits. “When we met, I was determined not to live in his shadow. But I care about the work being seen, and I care about the catalogue raisonné being done correctly, and about the prints being authenticated.”
It is the emotional pull of the work by the man whom Peattie loved, and still loves, that continues to draw him back in. He pauses while looking at Red Sky in the Morning, one of Hodgkin’s final paintings. “A lot of art is about information, about issues, about fighting for a just cause, and that’s fine; there’s a lot of contemporary art which is verging on the academic,” Peattie says. “But art that wakens something in people and lets them dream is valuable. Howard’s paintings aren’t there to inform people. They move them.”
The Howard Hodgkin Indian Collection will be displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2024. A limited-edition hand-tufted rug, based on Howard Hodgkin’s Red Sky in the Morning, produced by Christopher Farr, is available from Gagosian. howard-hodgkin.com
“We wouldn’t let just anyone interpret his work”
Benjamin Lindbergh, son of Peter Lindbergh, fashion photographer (1944-2019)
When Peter Lindbergh died unexpectedly in 2019 at the age of 74, he had been working intensively for more than two years on Untold Stories, his first self-curated exhibition – a survey of images spanning 40 years of his career in fashion photography that has since toured to eight cities in five countries. With his outline for the show completed just two days before his death, the task of finalising the project with the museum was left to his eldest son Benjamin, now president of the Peter Lindbergh Foundation. “My father always said, ‘I’ll never do a retrospective while I’m alive because I’m not done working.’”
Throughout his prolific career Lindbergh brought an otherworldly beauty to his black-and-white portraits – from Kate Moss to Linda Evangelista – for the likes of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Anna Wintour chose him to shoot her first American Vogue cover in 1988; featuring a model in a Christian Lacroix jacket and jeans, it was considered a revolutionary shift away from the strictures of glamour perpetuated by the industry. But, as Benjamin points out, “Women were the number one subject, and fashion always came second.” The first photographer in the 60-year history of the Pirelli calendar to shoot it three times – in 1996, 2002 and 2017 – Lindbergh has been shown in museums around the world including the V&A, Centre Pompidou and MoMA PS1.
Lindbergh’s style was influenced by his austere childhood in postwar Duisburg, Germany, after which he trained first as a painter before opening a photography studio in 1973, in Düsseldorf. As his career grew, he moved to Paris with his wife Astrid, a photo agent who worked closely with him until they later divorced, and it was there that their sons were born. (All three are on the board of the Foundation, together with their half-brother; Benjamin and Simon are involved in its day-to-day running and projects.)
His family would often join him on set. “In the ’80s we were like a small circus band going from one beach to another, just having fun taking pictures,” Benjamin remembers. “Twenty years later, you realise that you were right there when that iconic picture was taken. Those are the pictures that I might be the fondest of.”
Benjamin worked as a photographic assistant after high school and then as a studio director in the last decade of Peter’s life, during which time he created the Peter Lindbergh Foundation, with the mission of preserving and furthering his father’s legacy within the spheres of both art and fashion. “Peter always considered himself a fashion photographer; he never denied it,” he says. “He knew many of his contemporaries refused to be called that because they thought it was a dirty label. But my father was a fashion photographer, and fashion was the world that gave him the space to express himself.” Ambitions for the Foundation include opening a permanent exhibition space and archive, alongside establishing a biennial prize for emerging photographers. “We would love to give researchers, curators, historians access to all the material, but we still have to find a way of making that possible.”
The small team is highly selective over approvals for the usage of Lindbergh’s images. “We will not print posters or additional prints, which are there just to make money,” says Benjamin. However, they are committed to creating new prints from negatives that have never previously been seen publicly, for display in museum exhibitions of Peter’s work. “We cannot always stick to what he did and keep it this way. We have to go further. It would be both silly and sad to just keep all these images in the archives and never allow them to be seen.” They work closely with Peter’s former retoucher of over 20 years to digitally scan and print from the archive of negatives. “We would never just send out a raw file to print from. We wouldn’t let just anyone interpret his images.”
Protecting and promoting his father’s work is paramount for Benjamin, but inevitably it is sometimes painful. “I’ve been surrounded by these images since I was born, and I’m really happy to work with them,” he reflects, before pausing. “Of course it is emotional. Family life and professional life were mixed together, which meant we shared so much. That’s what I miss the most.”