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An Ear for Music, an Eye for Art

The Ahmet Ertegün Collection

The Baker Museum

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An Ear for Music, an Eye for Art:

The Ahmet Ertegün Collection

This exhibition presents modernist works from one of the Museum’s most important collections, amassed by the late Ahmet Ertegün, the Turkish American businessman best known as the founder and president of Atlantic Records. Throughout his impressive career, Ertegün built an extraordinary collection of American Modernist art that reflects his inimitable approach to assembling subjects and themes. Works by Werner Drewes, John Ferren, Vaclav Vytlacil, Dwinell Grant, Ilya Bolotowsky, Burgoyne Diller and Albert Swinden, among others, will be included.

Generously underwritten by Bob and Terry Edwards.

Ertegün Collection

The Ertegün Collection

A substantial part of The Baker Museum’s holdings traces the evolution of American Modernism through the first half of the twentieth century – a pivotal period during which several distinctive, influential American trends emerged and, ultimately, the center of the art world shifted from Paris to New York. At the core of the Museum’s modernist holdings is a large and remarkable collection of mostly pre-1950 American abstract art amassed by the late Ahmet Ertegün (1923–2006), the Turkish American musician and business man best known as the founder and president of Atlantic Records, the leader of the 1950’s Rhythm & Blues revolution, and for discovering or championing artists like Eric Clapton, John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Frank Zappa and the Rolling Stones.

The Baker Museum acquired Ertegün’s collection, consisting of approximately 300 modern American paintings and works on paper and representing more than 80 artists, in 2000. The collection reflects aspects of his upbringing, preoccupations, and aesthetic and business interests. More importantly, it illustrates his inimitable approach to assembling subjects and themes and encompasses a diverse set of philosophies, styles, and sensibilities. Ertegün aimed to buy representatives of as many tendencies of advanced American painting as he could, and he conscientiously paid attention to the vanguard’s historical roots.

Many of the works in the exhibition are informed by Ahmet Ertegün’s comprehension of and intuitiveness about music. He embraced the modernist tradition in the arts, whether he found it in classic jazz or the rhythms and patterns of such painters as Arthur Dove, Oscar Bluemner, Burgoyne Diller, Werner Drewes, Morgan Russell, Paul Kelpe, Morris Kantor or Frederick Whiteman. As an immigrant and someone exceptional in his ability to welcome experiment and individuality in music and receptive to neglected or overlooked segments of popular culture, Ertegün had much in common with nthe American artists whose work he collected. Moreover, he had a real talent for discovering the unknown, whether it was in music or in art. He displayed the same uncanny blend of shrewd perspicuity layered with visionary daring in his collecting of art, often purchasing works by artists who were not yet on the radar screen of collectors at the time.

Ahmet Ertegün

Ahmet Ertegün

Cosmopolitan, international, at home in a pan-European milieu, yet open to American culture – this was Ahmet Ertegün, the son of an ambassador who grew up to become an entrepreneur, music impresario, and art aficionado. As an extraordinarily successful talent scout and record producer, he accumulated great wealth and was surrounded by art in his various residences. His tastes in art were as ecumenical as his prescience in music. An Ear for Music, an Eye for Art presents Ertegün’s vision and traces the developments in American abstraction, concentrating on the vital period of modernist innovation beginning around 1910 and then focusing on the achievements of the American Abstract Artists group from the 1930s onward.


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