Thank you, Alfred Bader...
There's something a little eerie and disturbing about most collectors. I oughta' know - I'm a collector of coins and bills, and I'm just nuts about the 1954 series of Canadian bills. We gather and learn, possessed by possession, ultimately becoming protective of our "babies".
This is true of both types of
collectors, but for two very different reasons: those who collect by value are
protective of their investment; those who collect what they love protect it for
its own well-being. I can really only relate to the latter. My love for 1954
their robust colours and
beautiful scenes - vignettes that also captured the feel of Canada precisely. My
love for ancient coins comes from the patina that coats the coin in layers of
human experience as it is carried through time on a river of hands. I protect
them from going unappreciated by sharing their meaning with others.
It is my personal love for coins
that made it very easy for me to understand Dr. Alfred Bader's love of fine art.
Alfred is a major benefactor of Kingston's
most prestigious art gallery, the Agnes
Etherington Art Centre. Extending over most of its 50-year history, his
gifts have truly set a world-class standard for the gallery.
He has bequeathed two of his
paintings (page 14) to his sons, Daniel and David. The remainder of his
extensive collection of artworks will eventually move from his personal
possession to the Agnes. He does not live in Kingston, thus, his generosity has
separated collector from collection: an act of both kindness and trust.
What is often lost within such
outstanding acts of philanthropy is the unspoken underlying human value. It is
easy to be in awe of the sheer magnitude of a gift - such as its monetary value,
size or rarity. Or we may be overwhelmed by the broad scope of its impact - such
as its "importance" or influence. But let this not blind us to other,
more timeless meanings under the surface of such gifts.
Alfred does not acquire paintings
unless he personally likes them, regardless of their provenance or quality. He
has spent years harvesting the world for this beautiful crop of artworks -
actually, he's been gathering it most of his life. This remained constant,
despite enduring great hardships in a POW camp or facing injustices in the forms
of theft and governmental incompetence. In recent years, Alfred seems kept in
forward motion by his deep affection for these paintings - and for beloved wife
and search-partner, Isabel.
Alfred's renowned love for
discovery and creativity - buried treasures, both - is not simply reserved for
finding lost artworks in out-of-the-way antique shops. Through the Aldrich
Chemical Company (now Sigma-Aldrich), which he founded and raised for over 35
years, he has expressed his philanthropic interest in supporting creativity
through various awards. These awards include prizes for "Creative Works in
Synthetic Organic Chemistry" and "Creative Research in Synthetic
Methods". These creativity-based awards are but a few in his broader
collection of kind acts.
Of course, no chronicle of his
philanthropy would be complete without pointing out an important good deed that
was bestowed upon him - by a Boy Scout, fittingly! Stranger became part
of painting when "Head of a Man with Curly Hair" was stolen in
Amsterdam by a pair of cunning thieves, discarded, then found and returned by
Good Samaritan and Boy Scout leader Bert Vos. Touched deeply by this kind act,
Alfred now affectionately refers to this work as his "Bert
Panel", adding another layer to this painting's patina of
Alfred's favorite piece is the
painting "Joseph and the Baker". The beauty of the tones alone seems
fit for anybody's love. Its crystal-clear intensity depicts the story from
Genesis, and highlights the Rembrandt focus on interaction. Its skilled artist
has never been identified, keeping this painting's mystique intact and its past
- and future - unwritten.
As was pointed out earlier, Alfred
does not collect meaningless paintings, purchasing only that which moves him,
and often only after exhausting efforts. Though a painting may win his heart
quickly, each piece in the collection has within it a hidden mountain of painstaking
research, restoration and study. The love and the care behind the
collection is what makes it great, thus the greatest of gifts.
And so it is with this that we in
Kingston may find our own layer of meaning behind the Bader collection: he has
been giving us his life's work.
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