TLF – the future – your view.

Home Forums The Lenkiewicz Foundation TLF – the future – your view.

This topic contains 40 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Francis 3 years, 4 months ago. This post has been viewed 9363 times

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  • #6496

    Francis
    Participant

    Following the settlement of the estate and last year’s flurry of exhibitions and activity, TLF believes it is now time to reflect, assess and decide on its future plans. The trustees are interested in hearing views from all those who are keen to see Robert’s work properly recognised, so offer this opportunity for them to express their views on this forum and inform the trustees’ internal debate.Of course, ten years after Robert’s death, much has changed, and the first point is that TLF needs to be realistic about what it can achieve. The initial aims of the charity, set up 20 years ago in Robert’s lifetime, had a very broad remit. One main constraint at that time was that the charity could not directly benefit a living artist.First some background. The estate has left TLF with assets in the form of an archive of notebooks, diaries, journals etc. These have now been largely digitised. TLF also owns half a dozen paintings (these can be seen on the ‘Your Paintings’ website:http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/robert-oskar-lenkiewicz)Apart from that and some miscellaneous items, TLF also owns the remaining collection of books which were not sold during the course of the estate. The sold books were the most valuable antiquarian books, so there are still a lot of books (around 15,000) but of minimal value. These have now been catalogued and comprise mainly philosophy and art/art history. These are housed currently at St Saviours on The Barbican, which Plymouth City Council (PCC) had agreed to give Robert on a long lease at a peppercorn rent. For reasons unknown, despite an official ‘handing-over’ ceremony at Plymouth Museum, this lease was never signed. TLF negotiated with PCC to keep to this agreement but, to cut a long story short, a new central government scheme called ‘Community Asset Transfer’ (CAT) has meant that, since the CAT scheme opens up all publicly-owned properties to any bids from any community group, TLF will be forced to submit a formal proposal through the CAT scheme, which could take up to two years. Any successful CAT bid would be dependent on a simultaneous bid to Heritage Lottery, as St Saviours has major structural problems. This has been highlighted by the recent weather which has caused water penetration through the bell tower, damaging a few of the books stored there, as well as making the floor even more unsafe than it already was (the weight of the books has caused the first floor to drop and it needs reinforcing). Finally, the money. Legal fees, debts and the costs of the administration estate (over £2 million) have meant that TLF now has very limited funds. TLF has tried to challenge those fees (costing even more money) but essentially that claim has failed. TLF’s basic ongoing overheads are storage, insurance, part-time staffing and general admin costs. Income is mainly from royalties and the new print business. Exhibitions have been largely financed by separate sponsorship. Despite all this doom and gloom, the positive side is that the TLF exhibitions in recent years (Jewish Museum of Art, Royal West of England, Royal William Yard, Leipzig, Nuremburg) have all been well received and brought Robert’s work for the first time to a wider international audience. No-one can be in any doubt from the response that his work has a significance wherever people are interested in the basic questions of human existence and that his extraordinary talent is recognised by a vast majority of viewers. The issue of the art establishment’s attitude remains but we are seeing more enquiries from art history students looking to learn more about his work. There is now a comprehensive website devoted to his work with an extensive image gallery building to a full catalogue raisonné (at least of project work). TLF will shortly be announcing news of a publishing deal with major publishers Harper Collins.Some potential key questions are:1. What’s the future of St Saviours?2. What’s the future of the book collection given that it requires large premises?3. What should TLF’s presence in Plymouth be?4. Should TLF’s main aim be taking Robert’s work to

    #11198

    Chaya Lenkiewicz
    Participant

    It's Thaïs here, using Chaya's account as I don't have one.Is there a digital CAT form that can be signed and sent or emailed back to TLF? Does it have to be hand written or signed? I only ask because I haven't seen it publicised online.TLF's website states that one of its purposes is to “disseminate the library”.

    #11199

    Chaya Lenkiewicz
    Participant

    What is TLF's stance/opinion on St Saviours and the assets?

    #11200

    Francis
    Participant

    Thanks for your posts. They’re all very relevant points. Taking the last question first about TLF’s position: I think it fair to say the trustees have an open mind and can see that there are advantages/disadvantages in different options. What I would say though is that the determining factor is about what’s possible with the means at TLF’s disposal and prioritising its aims. But I’ll come back to that.We’ll get the CAT form on the website asap. This was something of an impromptu local Barbican move last week. We’ll also draw attention to this debate there and on the Facebook site. The reason the discussion was launched here was that it seems to me more suited to considered debate. Ok first, the library. TLF has been in consultation with PCAD (College of Art) about a joint initiative. However, it has been made clear that PCAD has no financial resources to offer but would be interested in offering ‘in kind’ support in term of resources, as the idea would be for it to be used by their students. They have been helpful with advice.Two problems. One, St Saviours requires a lot of capital investment to make it usable in this way, certainly a six figure sum. Hence the possible CAT/HL bid. We have talked about many of Thais’ ideas for its use as an educational facility but obviously this cannot happen until the building is suitable. Once it was set up it would still have to cover substantial overheads (heating, lighting, repairs, insurance, security, staffing etc).The second problem that has become increasingly clear is the nature of the collection itself. Both major collections on philosophy and art/art history have significant gaps. They reflect Robert’s personal interests rather than forming a comprehensive library in the way an academic establishment would demand. This was highlighted by the specialist ‘Holocaust’ section which we asked the experts at the Wiener Library in London about but, basically, it was of no interest to them. Also, a big factor (largely unconsidered in Robert’s day) was that most academic books are a click away with everything available.So, one option might be to identify existing collections that a ‘Lenkiewicz Library’ could be donated to where it might fill some of their gaps. Robert's collection is also of course 'frozen', insofar as no new books have been purchased for over ten years, and it's vital for academic study that the latest books are added.What is unique to TLF’s assets are any original works by Robert in the form of paintings and the archive of diaries, notebooks etc. Before the second Bearnes’ sale a decision was taken to keep together the archive as it had a greater ‘non-commercial’ value for research etc. We were able to pick out half a dozen paintings from the ones remaining in the estate and hope the rest made enough money to pay the costs. We chose Paper Crowns, Mouse with wool, Diogenes and Belle at prayer, Man watching woman walk away and The Painter’s Dead Mother. These seemed the most important to future shows. This tactic nearly didn’t work as the further Capital Gains Tax was estimated at £250,000 which would have meant selling some or all of these. However, TLF argued the method of the calculation and this bill was reduced to £50,000.But, the question remains, in term of individual paintings, does it matter if TLF owns them, as long as they are always available for exhibitions? Another benefit of this is that it saves TLF the storage/insurance costs. That money can be used to continue to promote Robert’s work to a much wider audience. Promoting the work and ideas doesn’t necessarily mean owning. Put another way, should TLF be ‘Keepers of the Flame’ or Missionaries?!Regarding other institutions exhibiting the paintings on some kind of permanent basis, the truth is frankly they don’t want them. Certainly there’s little interest at Plymouth University or Plymouth Museum. Further afield, we have just approached a major Northern Museum regarding an exhibition which has quickly turned it down. Of course, all shows such as the current one at Hannahs, are to be encouraged but as TLF found with huge visitor numbers at the Royal William Yard (continuing the religious metaphor), we found we were mainly preaching to the converted.

    #11201

    WEB WEAVER
    Participant

    Some potential key questions are:1. What’s the future of St Saviours?2. What’s the future of the book collection given that it requires large premises?3. What should TLF’s presence in Plymouth be?4. Should TLF’s main aim be taking Robert’s work to

    #11202

    Chaya Lenkiewicz
    Participant

    On your first point –

    #11203

    Chaya Lenkiewicz
    Participant

    Are TLF unconfident about winning funding? Or are they questioning whether to apply in the first place? And if so, why?I only ask because TLF are giving the impression that they would prefer to get rid of the books and church, rather than to pursue the avenue of keeping them.If the church takes 2 years to secure, is there not the possibility of funding in the mean time?

    #11204

    Francis
    Participant

    Let me reply to Chaya's post now, then Thais' longer post later. Re confidence about funding, we would not submit a bid if we thought it wouldn't succeed. We are currently working on putting one together as the form for support indicates. But there is of course no certainty and without initial capital funding St Saviours is a non-starter. As Annie will tell you, TLF did apply for HL funding years ago but was turned down. Re 'getting rid of books and church' no decisions have been made, hence the debate. The key here is the final question of applying for funding in the meantime as basically no HL bids will be looked at unless the bidder has long term control of the premises. So, it's a simultaneous process, at best.Web Weaver, I'm not ignoring you either...

    #11205

    Francis
    Participant

    So, the posts of Thais and Web Weaver show the opposite ends of the spectrum. St Saviours a ‘white elephant’ or indispensable?Should TLF be looking to fill a gap in arts/cultural/educational facilities which other publicly-funded organisations don’t provide? Can TLF do that as well as promote Robert’s work and ideas? The ‘apply for funding’ cure-all doesn’t really work. Other institutions have that public arts funding already, and crucially the CAT scheme is very clear that the accompanying business plan must not be dependent on funding applications for its running costs.The library requires a user-group. Just opening the doors to the general public is not sustainable. University and art college students are the obvious answer, hence TLF’s discussions with those bodies. But, in a way, though it’s too specialised for the general public, it’s not specialised enough for the academic world. I used the holocaust section as a specific example but, now that the books have been catalogued for the first time, it can be seen that even the larger philosophy or art sections have their issues. Philosophy is quite good for primary texts but has little secondary literature. So, unless there’s a pent-up local demand for the complete works of Hegel in German, for instance, it’s hard to know who’ll be using it. Contrary to what Thais says, the University has a fairly good art history section (they have a well-regarded art history course) and Robert’s collection could be a great add-on but, on its own, it’s limited. Lots of books on Titian for example but hardly any on other Venetian painters such as Veronese or Tiepolo; some on Rothko but none on his fellow abstract expressionists such as Motherwell or Kline. Nothing much on the new art forms outside of painting either. This is not a criticism; it’s what you would expect of someone collecting for themselves in a time and a place. This view is not TLF’s; it’s the view we have been offered from those in the academic library world.Re usage of books, like you, I still prefer hard copies especially with art books but it’s hard to argue that things aren’t moving quickly in the other direction. Certainly with academic textbooks. Even Harper Collins want to publish only digital versions of books on Robert for the moment, so I wouldn’t claim to know better.Let’s move on, as I have a question for you, Thais, regarding this statement:“I am concerned that the foundation is more interested in trying to promote the paintings than the ideas, and therefore not actually the “Work”. I am concerned because my impression is that TLF tend to prefer to pursue “safe” options (when “disseminating” paintings) that have mass audience appeal. As such, the work gains little artistic merit. This is why galleries would not be interested in showing the work.”I know you saw the shows in Bristol, ‘Still Lives’, and ‘Human All Too Human’ at the Royal William Yard (if not the much extended German version of it) but guess you have seen and read the catalogues. These shows were based entirely on the ideas behind the work. The former on a memento mori theme with an extensive catalogue essay (also published in an academic non-art journal); the latter a lengthy and carefully argued essay tracing the influence of Nietzsche on Robert. Various other events around these shows in the form of talks and discussions also covered these themes and I have repeated a couple of times the Museum talk I gave on the influence of counter-culture thinkers on Robert’s ideas. The exhibitions have presented very challenging paintings from all projects (including very edgy facsimile notebook material), so on what basis do you make that claim?I half suspect you equate the ideas with Robert’s collection of books. Clearly Robert’s knowledge of art history is reflected in the art section but in term of ideas, there is only a small percentage of books in the collection that you could say had a significant influence on his ideas. Certainly we would want to keep these but it’s not extensive. They are easily identified as well, since they are ones that are well-thumbed, bookmarked and annotated.Re ‘safe options disseminating paintings’ I imagine you’re talking about prints. There has always been the idea that if only the more ‘difficult’ imagery was available, rather than Project 18 for example, then it would change everything. For that reason, the Lenkiewicz Archive is trying to gradually make available every image as print on demand (like the National Gallery does). It probably won’t surprise anyone though that so far the evidence is that there is little demand for Vagrancy or Jealousy compared to Painter with Women or Landscape.Ironically, to reinforce my above point about exhibitions, the handful of Project 18 paintings in Germany were quite edgy ones from the earlier part of the project, and we were strongly advised to exclude them because (as opposed to vagrancy, jealousy, mental handicap, sexual behaviour etc.),

    #11206

    dutchmaster2
    Participant

    Some issues need to be resolved:1) No one knows about Lenkiewicz (in general) outside of the South West. Taking his work to Germany was a master stroke and if I were the foundation I would try to repeat and capitalise on this by getting the show to an audience which Robert didn't upset (i.e. the whole UK art establishment and the media). The art critics in the UK do not want to know. Get him seen abroad in Basel, Munich, Paris, Berlin, Madrid...Create a buzz...even the USA. Forget the UK market as he won't even get into the tabloids.2) Stop the exhibitions in the South West, no one can get to them, are we all supposed to fly to Bristol or worse Exeter? It's miles away, FACT!!!!! The logical idea would be to get a gallery space in London or convince a major gallery or institution to look at a retrospective of his work, but in a major hub. By the way I've travelled to all the major auctions in Exeter and London just to see the work, so this is from experience!3) Get someone to make an art programme on him. Then it can be loaded to Youtube as well and also shown around the world on terestrial TV stations. Again this needs to be a concise 45 minute programme, it doesn't have to be expensive, shot around the Barbican, a few key note introductions and someone taking the walk through Lenkiewicz's life. It is so interesting it would be hard to condense it down to 45 minutes! But this would showcase the talent and the compex nature of this wonderful artist.These are just 3 things that I came up with, but instead, the foundation are looking at a permanent home for an artist that does not have a following yet?It would be like building an 80,000 seat football stadium for a 3rd division club?Get his name known first and then look at investment.I love this artist since discovering him in late 2000 and have followed this website for years only to be saddened at the lack of interest and his declining popularity, mainly because of all the legal issues early on.It is time to be more aggressive and challenge the art market and the "establishment" to take notice of the work, when a book by Andrew Graham Dixon in Waterstones makes no mention of Lenkiewicz in his 20th century portraits section then you know you are on a hiding to nothing.Hopefully the book in the future would need to be revised. 🙂

    #11207

    Chaya Lenkiewicz
    Participant

    For the purpose of clarity, it is only Thais posting from this account on this thread unless otherwise specified.Francis, of course, I am not currently familiar with the details of the CAT scheme and what it does and does not allow. If that is the case that it can't support programs that are run by funding then fine, as I said, it could be set up in a manner in which it would run itself. Hopefully the major funds would only be needed to save the building, something which the council shouldn't be opposed to surely. I know it's not listed, but it would be a terrible shame to see it torn down.Keeping the books is more important than keeping St Saviours. But the fact that St Saviours is a fascinating, unique and beautiful building in a great location makes it a natural destination for the public, regardless of it's contents. And of course because of its link to Robert it's important to the foundation. If you didn't have St Saviours then where else could you have? Where is that other big empty building in an excellent location going spare for all these books?Because I strongly, strongly hold that you can't get rid of the books.And there is nowhere more preferable, short of the actual studio, than St Saviours. So if it is possible to keep it, then it should be kept.At the current rate there will be no Robert-related artefacts that aren't either under private ownership or lost forever.Regarding my statement that you question:I was more referring to the recent canvas prints that were wheeled out for Christmas, and to a lesser extent print subjects in general. I can see that you think they are more commercially viable - “It probably won’t surprise anyone though that so far the evidence is that there is little demand for Vagrancy or Jealousy compared to Painter with Women or Landscape”.Of course the general public will prefer a picture of a pretty woman to a picture of a tramp shitting himself, and of course they might like a canvas option, to match the one they got of their dog. The question is whether you exist to satisfy the preferences of the public. I know it's a complicated issue, as Robert released prints of this kind himself, and maybe TLF, like Robert did, need pot boilers right now.However, the need for an income needs to be balanced against the potential (and real) effects that such 'releases' have on the legacy and image of the artist.I know that there are plenty of examples of the more palatable/popular works of big-name artists being made into prints, but I think there is a fundamental difference of situation; they are already established, and so disseminating their (arguably) 'less intellectual' work will not, due to their already-established standing, have an effect on their credibility and stance in the Art world (I know this is a bit of a tangent, so I'll not tread this route of discussion further..).But the shows - I think the shows were positive.

    #11208

    Chaya Lenkiewicz
    Participant

    As an aside regarding the shows (I know this is off-topic, but whilst we're engaged in open debate):How do TLF feel about their main sponsor (the Somerville Gallery) having a “50% off” – everything-must-go, bargain-bin-sale sign slapped across Robert's work in the gallery windows?Do they think, as I do, that this is negligent, unprofessional and damaging to the work of all artists that he represents - and perhaps in direct contradiction to the work that TLF is trying to do in getting Robert to be taken as a serious artist? Should they reconsider their ties to this gallery?

    #11209

    Annie HillSmith
    Participant

    This wonderful site has its limitations, for one thing it no longer allows new people to join.

    #11210

    dutchmaster2
    Participant

    Hi Annie,Can you post the link to the Facebook page please.I tried to find it via Google without success and was not sure if I was on the correct page.Just to be sure that would be good of you if you could. 🙂

    #11211

    Francis
    Participant

    Again I'll deal with the lengthier posts when I have more time but the query re the Somerville Gallery is soon answered. From TLF's point of view, whatever any independent gallery decides to do is absolutely its business only. What I can say is that TLF is extraordinarly grateful to The Somerville Gallery and AJ Acker for their wholehearted generosity in supporting the exhibitions. Without them, none of it would have been at all possible. Talk is easy but people putting money where their mouth is far rarer.

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