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Eric M. Wunsch Award for Excellence in the American Arts

M.A.D. staff | October 13th, 2013

The presentation of the second annual Eric M. Wunsch Award for Excellence in the American Arts will be held at Christie’s in New York City on January 22, 2014.

This year’s award recognizes the dedication and contribution of three major collectors and philanthropists to the preservation of American decorative arts. Linda H. Kaufman; her husband, the late George M. Kaufman; and Richard Hampton Jenrette are to be honored.

Christie’s will host the awards ceremony on behalf of the Wunsch Americana Foundation, which created the award to continue the legacy of renowned collector Martin Wunsch and to encourage greater scholarship and appreciation of American decorative arts.

“We are delighted to recognize these devoted connoisseurs and advocates for the American arts with this year’s award,” said Wunsch Americana Foundation president Peter Wunsch. “My father would be pleased to see these leaders in the field acknowledged for their steadfast focus on preserving America’s heritage and making it accessible to so many people to enjoy and learn from.”

John Hays, deputy chairman of American furniture and decorative arts at Christie’s, added, “We are pleased to host this special event that recognizes the importance of preserving America’s material heritage. These honorees are among the most avid and knowledgeable collectors in the field; they personally have invested so much to further the study and preservation of American decorative arts, it is truly fitting that they receive this honor.”

Over the course of nearly half a century, the Kaufmans established one of the most coveted collections of American furniture and related decorative arts. Lifelong residents of Norfolk, Virginia, the Kaufmans began collecting American furniture shortly before they were married in 1958.

In 1977, the Kaufmans established the Kaufman Americana Foundation to award grants for the encouragement, promotion, and enhancement of the study of American decorative arts and related areas, including literature and illustrations. Through their foundation, they have supported numerous scholarly books, articles, exhibitions, and seminal research projects. In addition, the Kaufmans funded two galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, contributed to the Charles F. Montgomery Curatorial Chair at Yale University Art Gallery, and established special funds and awards at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia.; the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.; and the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Wilmington, Delaware.

In the fall of 2010, Linda Kaufman made a promised gift of over 200 examples of American furniture and decorative objects to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. A permanent exhibition of over 100 of the promised American objects is now on view in the West Wing of the gallery.

By his own account, Richard Hampton Jenrette is a “house-aholic.” Over the past 45 years, he has owned and restored 16 historic and architecturally worthy homes that date from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century. Some of these properties have been sold or given away to loving owners, but Jenrette has retained six of the finest architectural buildings, ranging from Edgewater (circa 1820) on the Hudson; to Millford Plantation (1840) in Pinewood, South Carolina; and Estate Cane Garden (1786) in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Each home is furnished meticulously with antiques of the Federal and Classical periods (1785-1840), mostly American in origin and many original to the house. The houses are enhanced with lighting fixtures, porcelains, and decorative items, largely of English and French origin, which are appropriate to the period.

Jenrette established the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT), a nonprofit foundation whose mission is “to preserve, protect and open to the public examples of classical American residential architecture, and fine and decorative arts of the first half of the 19th century.”

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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