2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - Art Students League New York

Recap: 2016 James Beck Memorial Lecture

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - Art Students League New York

The Art Students League on W. 57th St. in Manhattan

This year’s 8th annual James beck Memorial Lecture was hosted last Thursday evening at The Art Students League of New York in midtown. Alternating between London and New York, ArtWatch holds this event each year to honor memory, scholarly efforts, and unwavering commitment to artistic stewardship of its founder, Professor James Beck. Since Beck’s passing in 2007, the lectures have been organized to continue Beck’s campaigning on the arts’ behalf, as well as to provide a platform for lectures by distinguished scholars, to commemorate his own contributions.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - Ottavino Stone

Old Ottavino Office Courtesy: A. Ottavino Corporation

Another remarkable force in the art world, and supporter of Beck’s efforts, New York painter Frank Mason, is also honored at the Beck Memorial Lectures. The Frank Mason Prize is awarded each year to an individual who has contributed to a courageous effort to benefit art scholarship and research. Frank’s dedication to traditionalist artistic training, his long teaching career at the Art Students League in New York, and protests against harmful restorations at the Metropolitan Museum leave behind a strong legacy. He was also instrumental in the founding of a precursor to ArtWatch International, The International Society for the Preservation of Art. This year’s recipient, Kate Ottavino, has expressed similar dedication in her work for A. Ottavino Corporation (founded 1913) as Director of Preservation.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - St. Paul's Chapel Manhattan

St Paul’s in NYC. Courtesy: AP Photo / Seth Wenig.

Kate has been practicing conservation for over 30 years, and since 1994 has overseen restoration work on many buildings and monuments throughout the country and has presented at several conferences, taught courses, and is extensively published. Her award-winning work on New York City landmarks can be see at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, St. Paul’s Chapel, the Cooper Hewitt, New-York Historical Society, the Dakota Apartments, and Grace Church, among others. Kate has also made a point of pursuing educational initiatives at the Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design and the Bronx International High School in order to benefit future generations of conservators, and advocates for landmarks as a board member of The Merchant’s House Museum and Historic Districts Council.

The art and life of Polish-born sculptor Andrew Pitynski was the topic of our 8th annual Lecture. The Art Students League of New York proved an apt setting for both the subject and the event, as the ASL has, since 1875, welcomed innovative artistic education and craftsmanship when the National Academy was unyielding to new artistic ideas.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - Don Reynolds

Dr. Donald Martin Reynolds. Art historian and Founder of the Monuments Conservancy (NY)

Speaker, art historian, and founder of the Monuments Conservancy, Dr. Donald Martin Reynolds, also took classes at the League. He shared from his extensive study of the life and work of Andrew Pitynski,  bringing to our attention the great impact of art that embraces both personal and collective struggle. Pitynski’s works employ his own heritage and the tragedies experienced by his Polish brothers to connect with the viewer’s experience; his sculpture recognizes that there is a universal striving towards freedom that can cut across boundaries of culture and time.


2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - Andrew Pitynski Horse

Horse, ink sketch, Artist’s Collection, 2012.

Pitynski’s talent as an artist and sculptor developed in Poland, where his avant-garde teachers encouraged him in the pursuit of truth and morality in his work. For Pitynski, that meant pulling inspiration from the constant battle for freedom that his ancestors and family members fought against the waves of war and Communism in his homeland.


The exposure during his youth to the bravery and courage of his loved ones and the local Partisan group they aligned with became entwined with Andrew’s art. From his rough-hewn bronzes of galloping warriors, to the larger than life plaster sculptures of solemn soldiers honoring the sacrifices of others, the value of human liberty is made manifest.



2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - Andrew Pitynski Sarmata bronze

Pitynski’s Sarmata, bronze and granite, 1980.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture - Sarmata Spirit of Freedom Seward Johnson Grounds for Sculpture Hamilton NJ.

Sarmata – Spirit of Freedom at Seward Johnson’s Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ, 2001.

Pulling from his Polish heritage, many of Andrew’s most powerful sculptures have one major common thread – the stoic warrior spirit of the ancient Sarmatians, from whose civilization, according to 15th and 16th century historians, the Poles descended. The Sarmatians themselves, according to ancient Greek historian Herodotus, were descendents of the Scythians and Amazons, and thus contemporary Polish legend embraced all the virtues of strength, independence, and bravery supposed of their distant ancestors. These characteristics can be seen, for instance, in his monumental Partisan I and Partisan II on the Boston Common and New Jersey “Grounds for Sculpture”, respectively.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture -Partisan I Boston Common.

Partisan I, cast in aluminum, on the Boston Common, 1983.


Here are featured a series of marching hussars, or mounted soldiers that served as Poland’s highly regarded and magnificently feared assault cavalry in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Sarmatian spirit is evident in his larger-than-life Patriot, demonstrating the dynamic heroicism in a winged and wounded hussar, standing with sword unsheathed.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture -Andrew Pitynski Patriot Poland.

Pitynski’s Patriot in Stalowa Wola, Poland, 2011.


2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture -Andrew Pitynski Avenger Doylestown.

Pitynski in his studio carving plaster of Avenger for Polish cemetery in Doylestown, PA, 1986.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture -Katyn WWII Jersey City Twin Towers.

Katyn, 1940, honoring the WWII massacre of Polish nationals by Soviets, installed in Jersey City, 1990. Shown here in early 2001.

Following the tragedy that hit New York and the rest of the U.S. on September 11th, Pitynski integrated a new memorial bronze, Sorrowful Liberty, onto his 18 ft high Katyn memorial that honored the deaths of those who had been massacred by the Soviets in 1940.  Throughout Pitynski’s artistic career, as Dr. Reynolds’ lecture demonstrated, he has sought the intersection of historic memory and honoring current loss. His sculptures, reliefs, and drawings exhibit an unmistakable commitment to searching for, as his master Jerzy Bandura put it, the “only valuable truth”.

2016-09-29 - James Beck Memorial Lecture -Sorrowful Liberty bronze.

Sorrowful Liberty, bronze relief installed on the Katyn Memorial, 2005.



2016-09-23 - Frank Mason Storing Hay Pownal VT

Frank Mason Painting Raffle to Benefit the Preservation of the Historic Salmagundi Club.

2016-09-23 - Frank Mason

Frank Mason in the studio. Courtesy: Karen Winslow/Brushwork Blog.

Ruth Osborne

Our 8th annual James Beck Memorial Lecture was a brilliant gathering of those invested in the making of art and the stewarding of its well being.

We were proud to have this year’s lecture hosted at the Art Students League of New York, an historic institution that has been instrumental and innovative in art education in America since 1875. Michael Daley, Director of ArtWatch UK, shared on the intertwining of the Art Students League and ArtWatch. Our founder Prof. Beck, after whom the annual lectures are named, was connected with artists and students at the League. Most notably, the legendary artist and League instructor Frank Mason, with whom he entered the long campaign against the overrestoration of the Sistine Ceiling. Mason himself had been known to lead protests against overcleaning of important paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It is therefore rather fitting to announce that an oil painting by Frank Mason will be raffled off this evening at 6pm at another historic arts organization, the Salmagundi Club downtown. Salmagundi’s Silent Auction is being held to benefit the continued preservation of the landmarked 1850s building on lower 5th Avenue that the Club calls home. The Auction will feature champagne, hor d’oeuvres and music.

You can find more information about tickets for the event here on the Club’s website:

Raffle of Frank Mason Painting

September 23, 20166 to 9 pm — Salmagundi Club, 47 5th Avenue at 12th Street

2016-09-23 - Frank Mason Storing Hay Pownal VT

Frank Mason, Storing Hay, Pownal, Vermont (1959) oil on canvas.

“Storing Hay, Pownal, Vermont” measures 25″ high by 30″ wide and is in a gold metal leaf Florentine style Frame. Painting is signed. It was done by Frank Mason in 1959. Appraised value of painting is $15K.

Anne Mason, widow of Frank and long-time supporter of ArtWatch, says:

Frank would have been happy to know his “Storing Hay, Pownal, Vermont” is part of a fund raising effort to benefit the renovation of the Salmagundi Club. In an era when non-profits are going under, the Salmagundi is alive and well. The raffle is part of a silent auction. On September 23 from 6 to 9 p.m. there will be an evening at the club. Around 8:30 pm there will be a drawing. One lucky winning raffle ticket will be chosen. The winner does not have to be present. BUT think how much fun it would be if you are there for the drawing and WIN!!

2016-08-15 - James Beck 2003

ArtWatch International Presents the 2016 James Beck Memorial Lecture and Reception


2016-08-15 - James Beck Memorial Lecture Pitynski

ArtWatch International, Inc. is pleased to announce our seventh annual James Beck Memorial Lecture. Each year ArtWatch holds an annual James Beck Memorial Lecture and reception to commemorate the scholarly career and the principled stand of its founder, Professor James Beck. The lectures, organized by Michael Daley, the director of ArtWatch UK, provide a platform for distinguished art world speakers in our New York and London campaigning centers.

The 2016 James Beck Memorial Lecture and Reception, N.Y.


Dr. Donald Martin Reynolds

Art Historian and Founder of the Monuments Conservancy in New York


“For Our Freedom and Yours”: The Art and Life of Andrew Pitynski, Portrait of an American Master.


Thursday, September 22nd, 6pm-8pm (with reception)


The Art Students League, 215 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019

RSVP: ArtWatchNYC@gmail.com OR follow this link to the ASL website

On the lecture:

In keeping with the humanistic tradition of such Renaissance masters as Donatello, Leonardo, and Verocchio, Polish sculptor Andrew Pitynski highlights outstanding figures of Poland’s past through to the 20th century “Partisan” movement, in which his family was active. Through Reynolds’ extensive research into the Pitynski family archives and personal interviews with the artist, this lecture will examine the breadth of this sculptor’s charcoal drawings, photographs, and his monumental finished works. Not only is Pitynski’s art rooted in a love for his Slavic heritage, family history, and Polish homeland, but it reaches out to touch upon the universal struggle for freedom and human rights.

2016-04-27 - Salmagundi Club 5th Ave

Recap: Historic Preservation Panel

Ruth Osborne
2016-04-27 - Salmagundi Club 5th Ave

The Salmagundi Club on 5th Ave. Courtesy: Salmagundi Club New York.

What Do the Last 50 Years Tell Us About the Next 50?

That was the question of the night earlier this month when three individuals from organizations across the city came to The Salmagundi Club to discuss the challenges and successes of historic preservation in New York, and how we can learn from these past fifty years to better care for our urban landscape today.  The evening was co-sponsored by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, an organization that has worked since 1980 to support the preservation of historic buildings and areas below 14th Street. The speakers for the evening were:

Andrew Berman (Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation)
Simeon Bankoff (Executive Director, Historic Districts Council)
Adam Steinberg (Senior Education Associate, Lower East Side Tenement Museum)


2016-04-27 - Greenwich Village Society Historic Preservation Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman of GVSHP. Courtesy: GVSHP.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Mr. Berman began with an overview of the successes of landmarking and zoning in the West and East Village, as well as areas of Soho and Noho, over the last 50 years of the Landmarks Law being in effect. But there wouldn’t be a law without there being a need, right? So the audience also heard about several current challenges the GVSHP is seeing in historic preservation, knowledge of which demonstrates the Society’s thorough understanding of the system of preservation in the city and the various groups involved in it. These include:

(1) Recent attempts to roll back zoning restrictions in historic districts that Landmarks Law has won over time.

(2) An increasingly permissive Landmarks Preservation Commission towards allowing new construction, demolition, and alterations to take place within landmarked buildings and districts that pose risk to the historic character of these neighborhoods. With new developments that are allowed to exceed the height limits of a designated historic district, all to often it turns out that landmark and zoning protections still do not prevent escalating prices which may force out long-time residents or businesses (though it can be slightly beneficial in both respects)

(3) A tendency to conveniently overlook (sometimes controversial) new development in areas being considered for historic designation until they are completed, or carving them out from the borders of the newly designated district.

(4) A push by the real estate industry (specifically, REBNY) to undermine landmark and zoning protections throughout historic areas, a topic on which we posted last year and one which GVSHP has worked diligently against.


Historic Districts Council

2016-04-27 - Historic Districts Council Gowanus

Gowanus historic sites for designation. Courtesy: HDC.

2016-04-27 - Historic Districts Council Bed-Stuy

Bed-Stuy historic sites for designation. Courtesy: HDC.

Next, Mr. Bankoff spoke on the educational and advocacy work of HDC throughout hundreds of communities in each of the five boroughs. Since 1971, this organization has served to support residents in the designation of historic landmarks and districts, and to engage with the needs of those who will be impacted by the preservation of streets and buildings in their respective neighborhoods. His presentation offered a critical perspective on the approach to preservation in the city, looking at the political and community approach to and acceptance of historic designation since its early days in the 1960s through more recent challenges. Mr. Bankoff shot down the myth that landmarking and preservation is way out of control and is taking over the city and stunting its growth: only about 3.5% of the entire city is landmarked after fifty years, representing a mere 34,000 buildings out of about 1 million. In fact, the trending slump towards historic preservation since the 1960s, as well as the narrow focus the past fifty years on preservation in Manhattan below 110th Street, has caused HDC to see the need for attention to northern Manhattan at the other boroughs. In striving to see historic preservation serve a truer representation of the city’s population, Mr. Bankoff and his colleagues’ current efforts are aimed at projects in East Harlem and InwoodRidgewood and Jackson HeightsBedford-Stuyvesant, Gowanus, East New York, Sunset Park, Far Rockaway, and Harrison Street on Staten Island. Not to mention considering how best to preserve ephemeral traces of culture such as wall murals that cover areas like Harlem.  The overall lack of resources for historic preservation – not to mention the fact that the LPC is one of the city’s smallest agencies – has drawn HDC into offering conferences, workshops, talks, walking and bicycle tours for what are mostly, he termed, “kitchen table groups”. These groups are what best represent the actual needs and wants of the residents living across the city’s five boroughs, but it is unfortunately these groups that also have no connection of their own with developers, elected officials, and agencies like the LPC. For those outside of Lower Manhattan, who are without strongly-supportive community-based organizations like the GVSHP, the HDC works actively to fill in the gaps of preservation throughout the city, aiming to do a more comprehensive job of designating landmarks and areas of historic and cultural significance.


2016-04-27 - Lower East Side landmarks

LES Landmarks as of 2016. Courtesy: Adam Steinberg.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Dr. Adam Steinberg, senior educator at the Tenement Museum and a scholar of the preservation movement in the U.S., offered a look at the field’s development over the past fifty years, as well as various critiques from historians. According to many, preservationists are thinking too narrowly. They are missing the opportunity to think beyond the boundaries of preserving a building or even a district as an end in and of itself. There is also a social justice impact their work can have that they don’t properly utilize to their advantage. Some critics, as Dr. Steinberg mentioned, pointed to the true roots of historic preservation in the Progressive Movement of the 1890s. The Progressive Movement being itself a response to the corruption that came along with the massive industrialization of New York City at the time, these social advocates worked to create heritage sites and parks throughout the city that would make history and culture more accessible for its poorer residents. These place-markers of significant moments and people aimed at engaging the “huddled masses” of the contemporary city with the rich historic landscape in which they lived and worked and voted. Missing the opportunity to expand their work and impact by connecting with the Progressives, preservationists in the latter half of the 20th century are disjointed from the very community planners and affordable housing advocates that could benefit from their work. Dr. Steinberg offered his study of the Lower East Side of Manhattan as an example of the failure of preservationists to connect with the concerns of affordability and displacement felt deeply by the neighborhood’s residents in the 1990s. There is still to this day very little preservation in that neighborhood of the city, despite how much rich history is contained within its few blocks. The inability of the Tenement Museum to work with the neighborhood to create a designated historic district in the LES can be seen as demonstrative of the lack of connection felt by local residents and landlords.

2016-04-27 - Lower East Side historic

LES proposed historic district. Courtesy: Adam Steinberg.

Their greatest concern was displacement, due to increased gentrification, which was being followed by new development in the area. But they couldn’t see how designating a historic district could help them stay in their rapidly changing neighborhood. Preservationists, Dr. Steinberg argued, need to know more about how historic designation impacts the affordability of a neighborhood, as well as more about the correlation between a district’s designation and the displacement (if any) occurring there. Recent studies, he mentioned, have shown that a neighborhood’s designation does not necessarily lead to displacement. But he urged preservationists to do more work with the actual people residing in the areas of the city they see as needing designation and landmarking; something it seems both the GVSHP (through their research efforts and engagement with city policy and elected officials) and the HDC (through their advocacy with “kitchen table” groups) see as crucial to the work of preservation in New York. In the opinion of recent critics, only growth can happen if there were to be a greater acknowledgement of the urban planning and policy discourse of the early 20th century that laid the groundwork for preservation today, as well as more discussion of how this work can advance urban development and adapt to the immediate needs of local residents. Preservation should be a means to an end – the public good being that ultimate end.


2016-04-27 - historic preservation panel

The Panel. Courtesy: GVSHP.

The panel that followed discussed the recent difficulties encountered in the work of historic preservation in New York. With the many layers of New York’s history, there will always be competing stories about one particular area or building, and thus a difficulty choosing which story to tell with the preservation of that site. The role of historic house museums in supporting historic preservation in their surrounding neighborhoods was also touched on, though they also have the curious battle of figuring out how to tell their many stories. Mr. Bankoff related a recent HDC event on Staten Island hosted at the Alice Austen House; while the house itself served as an example to convey the benefits of historic preservation work, the HDC was then able to open up a discussion on landmarking and designation in other areas of the Island.


One audience member asked about the ability to offer city officials alternative spaces for new development when there is the potential for that development to destroy historic buildings in the process. There are indeed areas of the city that do not hold as much historic significance in their architecture as others do that are being heavily developed. And a city will always have very obvious geographic boundaries. What Dr. Steinberg suggested was that we need a society-wide movement that addresses multiple issues at once, as he saw the need for in the LES.

Mr. Berman acknowledged the struggle of pushing preservation up from being the last item on an elected official’s agenda. There will always be vested interests that are enemies of an effort that isn’t always financially efficient nor pleasing to foreign investors in the city’s economy.  One audience member reluctantly, but realistically, conceded that it will never be a top priority. While all the panelists, as well as myself, have been critical of the LPC, they all acknowledged that it has done much good work in the city since their inception. There are dedicated commissioners amidst others who may not be there for the right reasons, and, Mr. Berman reminded the audience, we are all responsible for who we elect to our city agencies. And while there is currently a great economic drive behind the push for new development (which often inhibits the work of historic preservationists, but does not necessarily have to), he encouraged the audience that it was possible for this administration to be even more vigorous about preservation and that we need to get them there. Mr. Bankoff agreed that it was unfair to ask a city agency to drive home one of the many thousands of opinions of New Yorkers, but we do still need to hold our representatives to high standards. And this is exactly why organizations like the HDC and the GVSHP exist.

At ArtWatch, we consider it essential to create spaces in which open dialogue concerning historic buildings, community needs, and city growth can take place. This enables a more transparent view on situations that are bound to have multiple points of view, but which require we understand the aims and needs of each party if we are to see New York develop and flourish. Questioning the aims of change and new development that impact the architectural fabric of a city and how its residents are able to live day to day is an essential part of good stewardship of our cultural and artistic heritage. The state of historic preservation in New York, even after fifty years of Landmarks Law, is constantly in flux. And it is exciting to see the energy with which preservationists and scholars approach their work in the field, as well as to consider what it might look like for preservationists, urban planners, affordable housing advocates, and community residents to find synergy with one another and grow their efforts. We hope for more opportunities in the future in which we can serve as a platform for discussions like this, bringing individuals from different backgrounds together to see how their interests overlap and how they might collaborate to make a greater impact.