Wall Thoughts

Our question wall has turned a serious corner and has become the hottest posting spot for the most non sequitur ramblings I have seen in quite some time. Here are a few charmers…

-So Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter after all? Amazing! (False, he is the first king of Mars.)

-I just want Skylar Lyman to marry me …. (Not happening bro, she likes Justin.)

-When can you have pizza anytime? (You can have it after more punctuation.) 

-Hear da goat? (Maybe.)

-Where are the snacks? (This is a legitimate question that I want answered too.)

-mine turtle (What?How? Who? I am so confused…)

-When was phone? (Mr. Watson. Come here. I want you.)


On with the real questions.

Q: What did the car look like?

A: They had several so here are two…





Q: What’s with the tiny desk and chair in the broom closet?

A: That is where I put people who touch the art even though there is a sign that says “do not touch the art.”


Q: No map of the top floor?

A: Nope. If you had that you would know where my favorite bathroom is…and we just can’t have that.


Q: Do you have nontraditional art?

A: MMMmmm… depends on where you are going with this. What is your definition of nontraditional? Do we have melting corpses, fields of unfulfilled dreams or Mathew Barney’s CREMASTER Cycle? Nope, we do not. There are contemporary shows here if that is what you are going for.

You must remember that nontraditional to someone might be traditional to another. What does a Mongolian who has never left the steppe think of 17th century Flemish landscape painting? He might appreciate 3/4 sky to 1/4 land ratios, but that’s about it.


Q: Does the hermitage ever sell or lend its artifacts to other museums?

A: We do loan quite often. Sell not so much.


Q: What happened to the Sloane children?

A: They grew up, lived, and then died. Feeling totes macabre today. But seriously, both William Jr. and Edwin were outstanding philanthropists whose contributions to the arts in Virginia and Texas (where William ended up) are still being appreciated today.


Q: Was that a toaster in the dining room?

A: It was not! Great find though! It is a foot warmer. Did I blow your mind?







I polished the silver

You might think you have muffled your voices during gatherings at the Herm, but trust me when I say that I hear everythiiinggg….

Oh, I know what you think should be done, could be done, or think you can do better than moi. Once my tears of failure have finished drying in my pillow I try my hardest to accommodate your many thoughts and opinions on collections management.

One such neglect is that silver you all know how to clean so well and I do not. HA! 

Being a man of low standards both in the dining room and life, silver has had very little impact on my development. While it may not be my field of interest it does need to be cleaned from time to time. Over polishing is not the way to go people!

You will be happy to see that I spent the day gently caressing each piece. 



Do you see the shine shooting out that case! Radiance!!!!


Welllcoomee backk. Your dreams were your ticket outtt. 



News on the return of our (their?) painting is popping up across South Korea.  As we prepare our own U.S. press release it seems only fitting that I step in now to stamp my seal of randomness on the entire event. In truth, this has been one of the most amazing experiences I have taken part in during my young life.  The hospitality and professionalism with which the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation demonstrated has made this entire journey as smooth as mixing soju with beer (cultural reference, check).

So where to begin…

Probably the best place to start is in Korea somewhere between 1910 and 1940 during Japanese occupation. At that time Japanese art dealers made quick work of removing objects from the peninsula and then shipping them to galleries across the U.S. and Europe. Our particular piece was cut from a temple, rolled up and moved to good’ol Merica by means of Yamanaka and Co. For those not in the know Yamanaka was one of the most prominent Asian antiquities dealers in the first half of the twentieth century with galleries in New York, Chicago and Boston. Our proprietor, Florence Sloane, was an adamant lover of Asian art. She was also a hound when it came to sniffing out deals. Quite possibly the greatest deal on Asian art came during WWII when the Alien Property Custodian of the United States of America began to liquidate Yamanaka’s stock because…well…he was Japanese and we weren’t having any of that. 

As early as 1943 this painting came up to auction at a cost of $6,000.00. It is possible that the work made an appearance at an earlier sale, however, the oldest sale catalogs we have show it available in 43.





( I suck at scanning…get over it)


Apparently nobody thought six grand was a good deal because the painting was shelved and would not reappear until 1944. In our records there is mention of the price dropping to $2,000.00, but there is no discussion as to what gallery is offering that particular price.

Fast forward to May of 1944. A four day auction at Parke-Bernet Galleries in NYC brings the work back out at a Black Friday deal-buster price of $450.00 (less than an Xbox One!).  Florence quickly snatches up the painting along with a few other goods. By June 5th everything is paid for and prepped to journey to the second drunkest city in the U.S (ca. 2013)….Norfolk, Virginia.


So then we hung that beauty on the wall, right? Wrong. It went into storage until 1954 when E.K. Sloane, Florence’s youngest son, loaned it to the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences (better known as the Chrysler Museum today).  It remained in a stairwell there before it was brought down in 1973 and returned to the Sloane mansion. For close to thirty years it remained in storage before we began to look around for someone to conserve the work in the mid 2000′s. 

The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) started an amazing endangered artifact program where we made the list! I never win anything so I am still excited to finally place in something. This little nugget of recognition found its way to the OKCHF last year where we then began the talks that would see this painting returned to the Republic of Korea. 

Here is a photo montage of what happened during that period.


“Yep, it’s a painting of Buddha.”


“So then she said…” (they wait with abated breathe) 


Checking out the material it was painted on and patched with. Silk and Hemp.


It looks like I am saying something important when, in fact, I am surrounded by some of the most well known scholars in the field of Joeson dynasty painting.


I think we call this “getting schooled.”


Big crate for a big painting. 

There are actually very scholarly things to say about all of this and I promise you that they will appear in time.  For now just enjoy the humor and should you have serious questions I will welcome them with open ears.






Also, if you aren’t a fan of Kotter then you can find your way to the Internets exit door.

We continue to be a museum

My absence from the blog is nothing unusual so we will skip the apologies and just get straight to the meat.

Some end of the year highlights include:

We made a book

We are a Smithsonian Affiliate

We returned a Korean painting to South Korea where it will be repaired and then put on display after conservation.

That pretty much sums up November-December of last year. The last bit (regarding the painting) will be fleshed out further following press releases in Korea and then our own in about a weeks time. It is some pretty cool stuff and something the museum is very proud of.

Lucky for me I got to go to South Korea with the piece and say goodbye. I also met some amazing people who are now forever tied to the Hermitage (Ha! suckers…).

Here are a few pics of yours truly looking adorable in all sorts of winter wear.

2013-12-21 14.34.15

We visited Tongdosa in southeastern Korea where the painting might be exhibited one day.

2013-12-21 15.51.28

I had probably the most excellent tea drinking session of my life.

2013-12-20 16.09.47


That big building in the back is the new home for the painting. The National Museum of Korea.

There will be a nice write-up about all of this soon enough.


So what are the plans for this year? Well, I have a registrar coming in to clean up my act…so that’s a start. We’ve got some All Star artist meetings in the next few weeks and we will be exhibiting Hiroshige prints in the summer. Plenty to like in the coming months so stay tuned to your emails and don’t immediately delete them :)

A Few Changes

Nothing crazy…promise. I just wanted to let all ten of you who read this blog know that some new staff voices will be appearing on the site in the near future. They won’t be dumping a bunch of dates and event info on here (at least not in bulk). Promise.

What you should be looking out for are some interesting articles on the happenings in and around the Herm. Lots goes on here that revolves around the history of the collection and family that doesn’t involve yours truly and it needs to be shared.

If they end up really blowing it I will take away their privileges.


Until then everyone just keep breasting the wind.


I wrote a book and so can you

We are a month away from the release of the first book about the Hermitage Museum and Gardens. I will now proceed to shamelessly plug it until the Hermitage becomes rich from the sales.

I will literally make zero moneys on this, everything goes right back to the Collections coffers. So no, you won’t be fueling my drinking habits by purchasing a copy… instead, you will be enriching the collections department with funding for an assortment of needed projects. You can pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or you can buy a copy at the Museum (best choice).

If you are a member I will sign your copy at the annual holiday party on December 13. As the night goes on my personal messages will likely become more entertaining.  This will be determined by my intake of scotch and delicious foods. My suggestion is to wait until the end of the night if you want a real collectors item (he says with a long wink and nod)

Need something to put in a stocking this Christmas? BAM! Hermitage book. Want something to glow with amber richness under the light of the menorah? BAM! Hermitage book. How about that wobbly table in the kitchen? BAM! Instant steadiness with the Hermitage book. I am telling you there is nothing this text can’t do!


Buy It.

Questions from the wall cont.

You all keep adding to the wall, which means I will continue to answer your questions. This time there are a substantial amount of comments. Lets start with the positives…

C: Great place to study for classes ODU :)

C: I’m here on a required assignment for art crit. via ODU. However, I’m HAPPY I came by because of the many beautiful hidden works of art I did not know was around. THANK YOU!

C: C’est Magnifique

C: Tom and Catherine visited and had a wonderful time. Enjoyed everything.

C: I don’t really have a question but this place is cute -Lili

C: I really like your museum – Abi A

…and the list goes on. There are some wonderful compliments on the wall and I am glad you enjoyed visiting!


Now, on to the questions and disappointments that are the Hermitage.

Q: Lots of security, what for?

A: I am glad you think so! I want even more security and why you ask? Because I believe in a Big Brother state that should constantly be watching over all of you. That and I don’t want you stealing my stuff. 

Q: How could I get an internship/volunteer position?

A: Go to our website and look up our volunteer coordinator, Allie Lane. She will hook you up real nice.

Q: Why did you keep the Hermitage a museum?

A: Interesting question. The Hermitage is a museum because Mr and Mrs. Sloane set it up that way back in 1937. It is not a choice I get to make on my own (of course i’d keep it a museum). It will remain a museum until the end of time or when the water levels rise and take this place out to sea.

Q: Why is the turtle by itself? What is it sitting in?

A: This is referring to the Peter Eudenbach show. One room had just a turtle shell in it that was hovering atop a pool of resin that was reflecting the interior of the shell through artistic wizardry. The reason why the piece was alone is because art. Get it? Also, it makes for an excellent place to reflect on what the artist was trying to achieve both visually and thoughtfully in his work. Isolation allows for contemplation and ultimately reflection (like the pool of resin!).

If you don’t know what you are talking about just over explain. Trust me…. 

Q: Why use white lettering on a tan/beige background? Hard to read with mature eyes.

A: Blame Lauren, she picked it out. I do understand your point and at the same time I can tell you we were not trying to ruin your vision further. The color schemes just looked too good on the walls.

Q: Explain the artifacts instead of just giving labels.

A: Hey…we are working on it. It takes time (and money) to feed you the info you want and the curatorial budget is limited.

Q: Would love a recorded tour of the house…

A: Me too! We are looking at all of our options and very seriously thinking about applying this type of technology to the home. Look for it in the new year.


And I am done.