A detail from the work titled Natura morta (Still Life) by Giorgio Morandi, dated 1946.

Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection

David Zwirner is pleased to present Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, on view at the gallery’s 537 West 20th Street location. 

Since he began collecting in the 1980s, Mickey Cartin has assembled a remarkable and singular collection of works—including paintings from the last six centuries, drawings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, early printed books, artists’ books, and old master prints—that reflects his own expansive curiosity and his interest in the philosophical nuances he often discovers in them. Cartin’s thoughtful approach to collecting is informed by his fascination with beauty, knowledge, and the miraculous, as well as what curator Luke Syson calls the “taxonomies of the subjective and the irrational.”1 A general focus on certain genres, such as portraiture and self-portraiture as well as landscape painting, establishes links between works from disparate periods, as do conceptual and philosophical throughlines, such as numerology and seriality, which make for exciting and unexpected connections.

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Image: Giorgio Morandi, Natura morta (Still Life), 1946 (detail)

1 Luke Syson in conversation with Mickey Cartin, 2021

Dates
November 4December 18, 2021
Artist
Including, Josef Albers, Giorgio Morandi, Joseph Cornell, Forrest Bess, Sol LeWitt, Charles LeDray, Rembrandt van Rijn
An Installation view of an exhibition titled Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, at David Zwirner, New York, in 2021.

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

“Collections are … acts of autobiography. They chart the collector’s encounters and flowing enthusiasms, their crazes perhaps, their passions always, whether permanent or fleeting. Thus they’re cabinets of a person’s own curiosities, in the metaphorical sense of the word. They’re both private and revealing, mirrors of the self.”

—Luke Syson, from his essay “Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection,” 2021. The text throughout is excerpted from Syson’s essay, unless otherwise noted. Read the full essay here.

A detail from a work by Josef Albers, titled Self-Portrait III, dated 1917.

Josef Albers, Self-Portrait III, 1917 (detail)

Josef Albers, Self-Portrait III, 1917 (detail)

A detail from a work by Vilhelm Hammershøi, titled Self Portrait, dated 1895.

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Self Portrait, 1895 (detail)

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Self Portrait, 1895 (detail)

A detail from a work by Otto Dix, titled Selbst (Self Portrait), dated 1934.

Otto Dix, Selbst (Self Portrait), 1934 (detail)

Otto Dix, Selbst (Self Portrait), 1934 (detail)

A detail from a work by Giorgio de Chirico, titled Autoritratto, dated 1948.

Giorgio de Chirico, Autoritratto, 1948 (detail)

Giorgio de Chirico, Autoritratto, 1948 (detail)

Mickey Cartin’s organized, disorganizing self-portrait contains many self-portraits. I find a useful starting point, a kind of center to the collection, in the works by Max Liebermann (1847–1935), Peder Krøyer (1851–1909), Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864–1916), Josef Albers (1888–1976), Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978), and Otto Dix (1891–1961). These are all pictures that are about much more than mirroring mere physical appearance. They are self-analyses, acts of significant self-revelation. A painting of an artist is not just a surface image; it can be an opening up. These pictures reflect but they penetrate too.

An oil on canvas artwork by Vilhelm Hammershøi, titled Self Portrait, dated 1895.

Vilhelm Hammershøi

Self Portrait, 1895
Oil on canvas
13 1/8 x 11 1/8 inches (33.3 x 28.2 cm)
Framed: 16 1/8 x 14 1/8 inches (41 x 35.9 cm)

“I see things in these [self-portraits] that make me think: ‘Ah, I know this person,’ or if I don’t, I like what I’m thinking and imagining. That’s what attracts me to artists' ways of seeing themselves. I somehow identify with each of these attempts to talk about themselves. I just ‘feel’ something and see them as something that immediately matters to me. And I realize that after looking at each of them so often—over so many years—their importance continues on a scale from impenetrable to complete familiarity.”

—Mickey Cartin, 2021

A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Sometimes his choices are less than obvious. The two prints that have caught Cartin’s eye show a more mystical Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), as he envisages the ways in which the miraculous can be interwoven or sit alongside the apparently workaday. In one print, the appearance of a crucifix between the antlers of a stag, encountered while out hunting, seems mythical. In the other work, the birth of Christ happens in a corner, tucked away under peeling paint and crumbling plaster, while someone draws water from a well outside.

An engraving on paper artwork by Albrecht Dürer, titled St. Eustace, circa 1501.

Albrecht Dürer

St. Eustace, c. 1501
Engraving on paper
14 7/8 x 10 1/4 inches (37.8 x 26 cm)
Framed: 24 x 19 7/8 inches (61 x 50.5 cm)
An engraving on paper by artwork, titled The Nativity, dated 1504.

Albrecht Dürer

The Nativity, 1504
Engraving on paper
7 1/4 x 4 5/8 inches (18.4 x 11.7 cm)
Framed: 16 x 13 inches (40.6 x 33 cm)

Cartin’s collection proposes taxonomies of the visionary, the illusory, the prophetic, the dreamt, the monstrous, and the miraculous. Cartin’s mid-Quattrocento manuscript by Joachim di Fiore is illustrated with the impossible made real.

An illuminated manuscript on vellum by Pseudo-Jaochim di Fiore, titled Vaticinia sive Prophetiae et Imagines Summorum Pontificum, 1447 to 1464.

Psuedo Joachim di Fiore

Vaticinia sive Prophetiae et Imagines Summorum Pontificum, 1447-1464
Illuminated manuscript on vellum
9 5/8 x 6 7/8 inches (24.4 x 17.5 cm)

The presence in the collection of a Resurrection of Christ by the anonymous Master of the Virgo inter Virgines (active 1483–1489) reminds us of the enormous miracle inherent in this much-painted, taken-for-granted scene. They’re the historical preface to all kinds of vision in the collection.

An oil on panel artwork by 86 Master of the Virgo Inter Virgines, titled The Resurrection of Christ, circa 1483 to 1498.

Master of the Virgo Inter Virgines

The Resurrection of Christ, c. 1483-1498
Oil on panel
34 3/4 x 20 inches (88.3 x 50.8 cm)
Framed: 40 1/2 x 26 inches (102.9 x 66 cm)

This is a collection that is carefully calibrated to bring out the marvelous, the exceptional, and the portentous in works that in more ordinary contexts might be seen as small acts of artistic peculiarity.

Michele Pace del Campidoglio’s (1625–1669) monumental hound becomes odder, larger in our memory and imagination.

An oil on canvas artwork by Michele Pace del Campidoglio, titled A Hound in a Landscape, 1665 to 1666.

Michele Pace del Campidoglio

A Hound in a Landscape, 1665-1666
Oil on canvas
56 x 63 inches (142.2 x 160 cm)
Framed: 73 3/4 x 82 1/8 inches (187.3 x 208.6 cm)
A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

This is a way of looking, of understanding otherwise mundane things as all separately extraordinary. In these prints, Rembrandt’s elderly sitters are imbued with such an intensity that they become more than themselves.

An etching on paper artwork by Rembrandt van Rijn, titled The Artist's Mother: Head Only, Full Face, dated 1628.

Rembrandt van Rijn

The Artist's Mother: Head Only, Full Face, 1628
Etching on paper
2 1/2 x 2 5/8 inches (6.4 x 6.7 cm)
Framed: 10 1/4 x 10 1/8 inches (26 x 25.7 cm)
A graphite on paper artwork by Myron Stout, titled Tiresias II, dated 1965.

Myron Stout

Tiresias II, 1965
Graphite on paper
Image: 6 x 5 inches (15.2 x 12.7 cm)
Sheet: 11 1/4 x 10 5/8 inches (28.6 x 27 cm)
Framed: 12 3/4 x 11 3/8 inches (32.4 x 28.9 cm)
A detail form an artwork by Charles LeDray, called Untitled, dated 1996 to 2003.

Highlights from the Cartin Collection

Mickey Cartin shares personal insights and recollections about selected works and his meetings with artists over the years

 

An oil on canvas artwork by Giorgio Morandi, titled Natura morta (Still Life), dated 1946.

Giorgio Morandi

Natura morta (Still Life), 1946
Oil on canvas
14 15/16 x 18 1/8 inches (37.9 x 46 cm)
Framed: 19 5/8 x 22 9/16 inches (49.8 x 57.3 cm)

“I had seen many Morandi still life paintings before I ever thought about buying one. I had visited the Museo Morandi in Bologna, read aImost every entry in the English bibliography, and realized that I was intimidated by the intense effect these little pictures of everyday jars and vessels were having on me. What was I missing?  How could such bashful, unimposing, soft-textured pictures be so challenging to me? I’ve yet to answer this question, but he has provided me with the most life-changing experience in my life of curiosity-driven voyeurism.”

—Mickey Cartin, 2021

Installation view of the exhibition, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2021.

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

A mixed media in wooden box artwork by Joseph Cornell, titled Untitled, 1956 to 1958.

Joseph Cornell

Untitled, 1956-1958
Mixed media in wooden box
9 1/2 x 14 1/4 inches (24.1 x 36.2 cm)
A mixed media on paper artwork by Joseph Cornell, titled Untitled (Le Grand Chien), circa 1930.

Joseph Cornell

Untitled (Le Grand Chien), c. 1930
Mixed media on paper
11 3/4 x 9 1/8 inches (29.8 x 23.2 cm)
Framed: 11 3/4 x 9 1/4 inches (29.9 x 23.5 cm)

“I first noticed a Joseph Cornell shadow box at the Wadsworth Atheneum in the 1970’s, when I knew absolutely nothing about the artist. It was first presented by Cornell to the Atheneum’s legendary director Everett “Chick” Austin in the early 1930’s as a table-top still life composed of various mysterious elements and Austin passed. Cornell returned with the same elements arranged in a box—his very first—and Austin acquired it. This came at a time before the war when Austin, armed with the funds if not always the confidence of the of the very wealthy insurance industry founders and heirs on "his” board, would make annual summer trips to Europe to buy for the museum in my hometown. He returned with for example, Caravaggio’s great St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, 1595, a magnificent Fra Angelico Gold ground in 1928, and Cranach’s magnificent The Feast of Herod, 1531. In that same moment he acquired Mondrian’s Composition in Blue and White, 1935. So... Fra Angelico to Mondrian…Caravaggio to Cornell. I didn’t realize until much later how important it was to look at everything, and my curiosity never let me down. I’m still looking at everything.”

—Mickey Cartin, 2021

A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

A 167 drawings, gouache, watercolor, and inscriptions on paper artwork by Anonymous, titled Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), circa 1552.
Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), c. 1552
167 drawings, gouache, watercolor, and inscriptions on paper
Each painting: 5 7/8 x 11 7/16 inches (14.9 x 29.1 cm)
A detail from Folio 67 of the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of Miracles), dated circa 1552.

Exceptional Works: Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of Miracles)

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), by an anonymous artist, dated c. 1552.

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), c. 1552

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), c. 1552

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), by an anonymous artist, dated c. 1552.

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), c. 1552

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), c. 1552

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), by an anonymous artist, dated c. 1552.

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), c. 1552

A page from the Wunderzeichenbuch (Book of 167 watercolors), c. 1552

A detail from a work by Adolf Wolfli, titled  Die Himmels Leiter, dated 1915.

Adolf Wölfli, Die Himmels Leiter, 1915 (detail)

Adolf Wölfli, Die Himmels Leiter, 1915 (detail)

A detail from a work by Adolf Wolfli, titled  Die Himmels Leiter, dated 1915.

Adolf Wölfli, Die Himmels Leiter, 1915 (detail)

Adolf Wölfli, Die Himmels Leiter, 1915 (detail)

A detail from a work by Adolf Wolfli, titled  Die Himmels Leiter, dated 1915.

Adolf Wölfli, Die Himmels Leiter, 1915 (detail)

Adolf Wölfli, Die Himmels Leiter, 1915 (detail)

Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930) drew intensively, minutely, insanely. The lunatic as artist. The artist as lunatic. Is there always real space between them? In Cartin’s example, Wölfli describes a ladder to heaven—as intricate as any medieval jewel, and perhaps containing another self-portrait in place of the expected Jacob.

A graphite and colored pencil on paper artwork by Adolf Wolfli, titled Die Himmels Leiter, dated 1915.

Adolf Wolfli

Die Himmels Leiter, 1915
Graphite and colored pencil on paper
39 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches (99.7 x 71.8 cm)
Framed: 45 1/2 x 34 1/2 inches (115.6 x 87.6 cm)

For Joseph Yoakum (1890–1972), once a circus runaway, providing multiple unreliable origin stories, and only working intensively toward the end of his life in the late 1960s, Nature and God were the same thing. He had traveled, or at least that’s what he said, and his landscapes are identified with real places. But they are fantastic, conjured, the names taken from his atlas and his Encyclopaedia Britannica.

A pen and colored pencil on paper artwork by Joseph Yoakum, titled Mt. Legal cap in Wallowa Mtn Range near Enterprise Oregon, n.d.

Joseph Yoakum

Mt. Legal cap in Wallowa Mtn Range near Enterprise Oregon, n.d.
Pen and colored pencil on paper
2 x 19 inches (30.5 x 48.3 cm)
Framed: 20 1/2 x 27 inches (52.1 x 68.6 cm)
A colored pencil and ink on paper artwork by Joseph Yoakum, titled Saxonia A Passenger Ship To Europe And Phillipene Islands From New York, dated 1969.

Joseph Yoakum

Saxonia A Passenger Ship To Europe And Phillipene Islands From New York, 1969
Colored pencil and ink on paper
11 3/4 x 18 3/4 inches (29.9 x 47.6 cm)
Framed: 20 1/2 x 27 inches (52.1 x 68.6 cm)
An acrylic, china marker, and ink on photograph artwork by Thierry De Cordier, titled F.F. Could be a Seascape, dated 1998.

Thierry de Cordier

F.F. Could be a Seascape, 1998
Acrylic, china marker, and ink on photograph
11 5/8 x 16 3/8 inches (29.5 x 41.6 cm)
Framed: 19 x 25 5/8 inches (48.3 x 65.1 cm)

Thierry De Cordier (b. 1954) is setting out to paint something much bigger than simply what waves, water, and sea-foam look like—that this is an emotional and imaginative representation of the great forces of nature. Lucas Arruda (b. 1983) paints, he says, states of mind rather than landscapes as such.

An oil on canvas artwork by Lucas Arruda, titled Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series), dated 2017.

Lucas Arruda

Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series), 2017
Oil on canvas
12 x 13 3/8 inches (30.5 x 34 cm)

“Lucas Arruda’s pictures astounded me at first sight. I thought I was seeing some kind of undiscovered miracle when I first looked at these and I still feel that way.”

—Mickey Cartin, 2021

A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

A view of the Cartin Residence, New York, in 2021.

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

Cartin Residence, New York, 2021. Courtesy the Cartin Collection

An oil on canvas artwork by Algernon Newton, titled Spring Morning, Campden Hill, dated 1940.

Algernon Newton

Spring Morning, Campden Hill, 1940
Oil on canvas
33 7/8 x 48 inches (86 x 121.9 cm)
Framed: 42 1/4 x 56 1/2 inches (107.3 x 143.5 cm)

I would not have expected to re-encounter Algernon Newton (1880–1968) here. And yet his description of strong shadows in a wide street is revealed as beautiful and strange. There is beauty to be found everywhere, even in a gasometer, he thought, depending on the artist’s vision. Vision again—and still used in a way that can contain the visionary.

An oil painting on panel on board by Peder Balke, titled, Fra Nordkapp, dated 1853.

Peder Balke

Fra Nordkapp, 1853
Oil on paper on board
14 1/4 x 19 7/8 inches (36.2 x 50.5 cm)
Framed: 20 x 25 1/2 inches (50.8 x 64.8 cm)

Cartin’s collection reveals artists as players within a continuum, successors to painters like the extraordinary nineteenth-century German Carl Gustav Carus (1789–1869) or Peder Balke (1804–1887), a Norwegian urban idealist and creator of intensely worked panels of sea and cliffs, of moonlight bursting through clouds, of Scandinavian Sturm und Drang. Carl Jung stated that it was Carus who originated the idea of the unconscious as an essential part of the human psyche. He also invented the concept of Erdlebenbildkunst—the pictorial art of the life of the earth—in which the inner workings of geology were to be expressed as a more than Romantic vision. The results are thrilling.

Installation view of the exhibition, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2021.

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view of the exhibition, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2021.

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view of the exhibition, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2021.

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

Installation view, Seen in the Mirror: Things from the Cartin Collection, David Zwirner, New York, 2021

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