A bit of history…
The Seligmann Center is housed on the former homestead of Kurt Seligmann, a Swiss-American Surrealist painter and printmaker. The Seligmanns first came to New York from Paris in 1939, ostensibly for an exhibition of Seligmann’s work at Karl Nierendorf Gallery. Both Seligmann and his wife, Arlette were Jewish and although they planned to eventually return to Paris to live, they never did. Seligmann was the first of the Parisian Surrealists to arrive in America and was instrumental in securing the necessary papers and affidavits to rescue his colleagues.
The Seligmanns initially lived in New York before acquiring a former dairy farm in the hamlet of Sugar Loaf, New York in 1940. Dividing their time between New York, where Seligmann taught printmaking at Brooklyn College, Briarcliffe Junior College, and the New School, and their homestead in Sugar Loaf, the Seligmanns entertained many guests including friends Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Peggy Guggenheim, Meyer Schapiro and many others. In Sugar Loaf, Kurt used the barn and the farm outbuildings as his studios and maintained an impressive library, with a particular interest in the occult, and Arlette cultivated a garden and raised sheep, cattle and rare birds.
The Seligmann Center at the Citizens Foundation is an art center located on the 50-acre rural homestead of Swiss-American Surrealist Kurt Seligmann (1900-1962) and his wife Arlette (Wildenstein Paraf) Seligmann (1906-1992). The Seligmann Center is committed to celebrating the artistic and intellectual legacy of Kurt Seligmann, honoring the history of its site, and presenting contemporary work by emerging and established artists. The Center is home to four galleries and performance spaces, housed in the homestead’s converted farmhouse buildings, a sculpture park, and the Robert Fagan Art Library, the largest public collection of art books in the county. The Seligmann Center’s Permanent Collection features 112 prints, and 19 paintings by Kurt Seligmann, as well as an archive of the couple’s photographs, letters, and personal effects, a portion of which are on view in the Seligmanns’ home. Founded in 2010 by the Orange County Citizens Foundation and a group of artists, the Seligmann Center offers rotating exhibitions, workshops, and performances that interpret surrealism, trace its origins, and explore its contemporary resonance.
The Center is located about 50 miles northwest of New York City in a vibrant rural area of Orange County in the village of Sugar Loaf. The history of the site is palpable—Max Ernst slept in the Guest House; Marcel Duchamp shot five bullets into the barn foundation; Alexander Calder pulled prints from the very same press that is still in use today, and others, including Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, Peggy Guggenheim, and Meyer Schapiro, spent time on the property. In its four years the Seligmann Center has presented works by such notable artists as Robert Whitman, Hiroaki Sato, Jacob Kierkegaard, Katinka Fogh Vindelev, Philip Pearlstein, Chaim Gross, Cy Twombly, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz. The Seligmann Center honors the Seligmanns’ legacy and welcomes the new, presenting contemporary work that enriches, challenges, and connects.
Olivia Baldwin and her role at The Seligmann Center
I curate or co-curate most of our programming. We are lucky to have an amazing programming committee. The committee has been in place for about five years and is composed of a group of artists, writers, historians and enthusiasts. All of our members live in the county and many of them have been involved since the beginning. They are the backbone of all that we do.
I’m committed to presenting dynamic work from artists of all disciplines. Most of the artists we show wouldn’t self-identify as “surrealists” but there’s always a thread – a connection to surrealism or to Seligmann. Sometimes it’s subtle, more often its evidence of what’s come out of the movement and how it’s manifested in the Twenty-First Century. Katarina Riesing is a great example of this…we showed two of her Galaxy pieces, which are composed of photographs of all of the moles on her body. Her work is strange and thoughtful and fresh. Once she committed to doing the show she bought Seligmann’s book, The History of Magic. A few days later I got a call from her because she’d just come upon his mole divination chapter! She couldn’t believe it. But I think all of us who are making things, whether material or ephemeral run into these sorts of coincidences, especially at a place like this.
We’re committed to showing work by emerging artists as well as work in new genres. In the coming months we’ll feature site-specific works by Riva Weinstein, Lisa Brekznak, Mimi Graminski and a community-built, site-specific sculpture project by Sue Wrbican. We have a number of performances, lectures, readings, and events in the works and are partnering with other local organizations.
More info regarding Sue Wrbican’s project can be found here: https://bay174.mail.live.com/mail/ViewOfficePreview.aspx?messageid=mgzgghvEvZ5BGRpGw75adLxA2&folderid=flD0iRFCLwBkmeLwr6i826jw2&attindex=6&cp=-1&attdepth=6&n=11197268
Aside from our programming we are also committed to showing Seligmann’s work and caring for our collection of 112 prints and 19 paintings. We are currently focused on securing support to conserve the collection. This is a long process, but we are on a good road.