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Nassau Museum of Art showcases modernists

Robert Delaunay's "Les trois graces (Arc-en-ciel)," a 1913

Robert Delaunay's "Les trois graces (Arc-en-ciel)," a 1913 oil on canvas, is part of the dual "Moderns" exhibition opening July 24, 2015, at the Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor. Credit: Saltzman Family Collection

Following its 25th anniversary show devoted exclusively to its permanent collection, the Nassau County Museum of Art turns its attention to modernist works owned by private Long Island collectors, including the founding force behind the museum's move to independence in 1989.

The dual exhibition, "The Moderns: Chagall, Degas, Léger, Miró, Picasso and more... ," is divided into "The Moderns: Selections From the Saltzman Family Collection," curated by Nassau museum director Karl Willers, and "Long Island Collects the Moderns," selected by Franklin Hill Perrell, art historian and curator emeritus of the museum.



A former roving ambassador for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and a prolific art collector, Arnold Saltzman was asked by then-Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta, a Republican, to form a board of directors to take over the county's art museum. In 1989, Saltzman was named the newly independent museum's founding president. Saltzman died early last year at his Sands Point home.

"The show is something of a tribute to Arnold," Willers said. "Ambassador Saltzman was a major collector of early 20th century European art. And in German and Austrian Expressionism, his collection is among the strongest in the world. Over the years, he was very generous in lending major artworks for one show or another here -- especially to the Chagall exhibit a couple of years ago. But this is the first time we've devoted a show to the family collection."

Besides Expressionism, the Saltzman collection encompasses other movements within Modernism -- from the Impressionists (Degas) and Cubists (Picasso) to the Surrealists (Miró) and abstract pioneers (Léger), plus Brancusi, considered a patriarch of modern sculpture.

Part of the vast Saltzman collection -- 100 are in this show -- is promised to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Saltzman is survived by his widow, Joan, and their three children.)



Perrell, who was a curator for the Nassau's first 20 years, said, "It's very unusual for a suburban museum to have the capacity to reach out for such important holdings from the Modernist era.

"It's part of our exhibition history," he added, referring to previous "Long Island Collects" exhibits focusing on various themes, artists or periods. The 60 paintings loaned by 12 collectors for this show cover the gamut from late 19th- to mid-20th centuries. "The treasures," as Hill calls them, represent a who's-who in modern art history: Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Dali, Toulouse-Lautrec, plus others also represented in the Saltzman galleries -- from Picasso to Beckmann.

Among the collectors is Harvey Manes, an Old Westbury orthopedic surgeon, who's been buying art for more than 30 years. He calls his collection "eclectic -- from Old Masters to contemporaries, El Greco to Cindy Sherman. I love art," Manes says, "and I love finding a good buy." For the Modernist show, he loaned 14 paintings, including works by Renoir, Matisse, Dali and Picasso.

"What's particularly exciting is to behold what is otherwise held behind closed doors," Hill said. "These are museum-level works never before or rarely seen."

WHEN | WHERE Saturday, July 25, through Nov. 8, Nassau County Museum of Art, 1 Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor. Hours: 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays

ADMISSION $10, $8 seniors, $4 students; 516-484-9337,

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