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August102009

Raided Museum Was a '30s 'Culture Center'

Filed under: Looked Into   Tagged: , , ,

Jonathan Taylor writes:

The Upper West Side's Nicholas Roerich Museum, City Room reports, was recently the victim of its first art thefts. The museum was the topic of "Culture Center," a Talk of the Town piece in 1934. (The museum was founded well before 1949, when the Times says it was). At the time, the museum was still located in the notable Art Deco building originally constructed to house both it, with its collection of a thousand Roerich paintings, and apartments for members of the theosophic Roerich Society: the Master Apartments on 103rd and Riverside. (The museum is now in a townhouse at 107th and Riverside.)

Talk called the 29-story building "the only building in town, so far as we know, that shades from deep purple at the base to white at the pinnacle. This symbolizes the idea of growth," and, judging by the museum's site, the colors retain their power. The piece continues archly about Roerich's, and the Roerich Society's, assiduous deployment of symbols.

The upper 25 stories of the building were "small kitchenette apartments for resident members of the Roerich Society." Some became members just by virtue of signing a lease for a (nonprofit) apartment. A lease conferred an instant intellectual and social life: nightly talks on such topics as "What is Happening in the World and Why," and birthday parties staged for folks like Goethe, Bolivar and Buddha—celebrated on the full moon of May. (The museum's current event listings haven't been updated lately.)

A Paris Roerich Museum is mentioned—can't quite tell if that's still around, but there are others in Mongolia, in a house he resided in, and in Moscow, which delightfully preserves in translation the Russian genitive form imeni, "by the name of," for things named after people.

Comments

Thanks for the tip, Mark - glad to learn about Art Theft Central - loved the post about the ‘33 Brooklyn Museum theft!

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