Walter Arensberg


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(1878–1954) and


American collectors and patrons, husband and wife. Both came from wealthy families and were thus able to devote themselves to artistic pursuits. They married in 1907 and from 1914 to 1921 they lived in New York, where their home formed a kind of salon for the Dada movement in America; Picabia's wife recalled that ‘at any hour of the day or night one was sure of finding sandwiches, first-class chess players, and an atmosphere entirely free from conventional and social prejudices’. In particular, the Arensbergs were the main patrons of Marcel Duchamp, who acted as their art adviser as well as selling them his own work. They collected non-Western art as well as avant-garde work. In 1921 they settled in Los Angeles; at this point they graciously sold Duchamp's unfinished Large Glass to Katherine Dreier so that he could continue to work on it. In Los Angeles their collection expanded greatly, reaching a total of about 1,500 works. They initially concentrated on a brief period from about 1910 to 1914, and especially on Cubist works, but later they expanded their interests to include Surrealism, for example. Their art collection was bequeathed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it went on display in 1954, soon after the death of both donors. Up to this time the collection had been little known, but its public availability now contributed greatly to a revival of interest in Duchamp's work.

Subjects: Art.

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