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"Good Pieces in Sight": The US Market in Mesoamerican Antiquities circa 1940
"Good Pieces in Sight": The US Market in Mesoamerican Antiquities circa 1940

7:00–8:30 pm
Museum Lecture Hall, Getty Center
Free Event;  Advance ticket required

Art historian Megan E. O'Neil examines the changing US market in antiquities from Mexico and Central America in the 1930s and 1940s by focusing on Pierre Matisse and Earl Stendahl, art dealers in New York City and Los Angeles, respectively. Both Matisse and Stendahl began their businesses trading European art before adding pre-Hispanic art in the 1930s. But conflict in Europe during World War II prompted changes in the art market and, during this period, the pre-Hispanic art market largely shifted from Europe to the Americas. Matisse's correspondence illuminates the human stories that accompanied these changes, as some of his European contacts went into exile. Both men started collaborating with Mexican dealers in acquiring pieces directly from Mexico, precipitating a growth in the removal of pre-Hispanic objects from that country. While Matisse eventually stopped acquiring antiquities, in subsequent decades the Stendahl Galleries bought and sold thousands of pre-Hispanic objects from Mexico and Central America. This lecture follows the changing geographies of the art market and the lives of these two men, their sources, and their clients, who together provided the foundations for many pre-Hispanic art collections in American museums today.

This keynote lecture inaugurates the symposium, Collecting Mexican Art before 1940: A New World of American Antiquities, taking place at the Getty Center on November 15, 2019.

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