Update: The Saint Louis University Museum of Art is temporarily closed because of COVID-19. Please refer to slu.edu/sluma for reopening news.
The Winter Family Collection, a nonprofit based in St. Louis and founded roughly a decade ago, is continuing its efforts to expand the metro area’s aesthetic horizons with an exhibition devoted to the work of protean East European-born sculptor Leon Bronstein, now living in Israel.
That exhibition, “Leon Bronstein: Between the Fantastic and the Real,” opened March 6 at the stately Saint Louis University Museum of Art on Lindell Boulevard. Barring schedule changes, the exhibition runs through May 31.
It extends the nonprofit’s ongoing affiliation with the museum, which previously involved exhibitions entitled “The Dream – The Winter Family Collection” from 2014 and “The Infinite Painting” and “Kathleen Brodeur and Edson Campos Return to Forever,” both from 2017.
For those seeking to learn more about “Leon Bronstein: Between the Fantastic and the Real,” the collection has posted an incredibly robust catalog online at thewinterfamilycollection.org/catalog. That full-color, downloadable document, which bears the same title as the exhibition, totals 117 pages and provides considerable background on the artist’s life and work to date.
“Through our foundation … , [we] are so very excited about working with Saint Louis University Museum of Art to present a retrospective of Leon’s 40 years of creating beautiful works,” states the collection’s Richard L. Winter in the Acknowledgment to the catalog.
In his acknowledgment, in fact, Winter relates how his friendship with and interest in Bronstein qualify almost as a Hollywood-level friendship meet-cute.
“In 1993, I attended the Chicago Art Expo to become better acquainted with the art industry,” Winter states. “I wanted to open an art gallery in St. Louis and needed to develop relationships with artists interested in representation at the gallery. While viewing art works at the Expo, I came across a booth that presented various, very interesting sculptures. It was the work of Leon Bronstein.”
The Winters subsequently opened The Caitlyn Gallery in Clayton in 1996. That display space, which no longer operates as a physical venue, early – and presciently – pioneered the contemporary online milieu as a tool.
Michael B. Zolman, the collection’s executive director, served as the gallery’s director in those days. In a 1997 account devoted to art online as a valuable service to clients and potential clients, he stated: “We get a lot of business from either tourists or businesspeople coming to St. Louis to do business … Our out-of-state clients aren’t usually able to come into town when we have new artists or a new show. This is a way to contact the client and show them new works almost immediately.”
This latest exhibition at the museum is the largest to date, moving beyond the confines of the walls of the museum and directly into public space with the installation of the monumental bronze Sharing The Same Conversation in front of the museum and a proposal for another new sculpture in the Grand Center Arts District at the entrance to the new Angad Arts Hotel. Zolman says: “As part of the exhibit, we wanted to present the process of selecting and creating a site-specific design for art in a public space. Leon created a new composition entitled All You Need Is Love that was specifically designed for this purpose.
Zolman adds that All You Need Is Love – a cast bronze with patina on a painted stainless still base, measuring 61 inches tall by 40 inches wide by 28 inches deep and, not coincidentally, gracing the catalog’s cover – “took over a year in planning and work to execute.” The proposal for site-specific location calls for the model to be enlarged three times the current size.
“Our museum schedules exhibitions that can enrich the curriculum of Saint Louis University, educate the public and contribute to the cultural life of St. Louis,” notes Dr. Petruta Lipan, executive director of Saint Louis University Museum of Art. “This exhibition highlights how an artist who was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel successfully reconciled a life of oppression he was born into with the freedom to pursue his dream.”
Both the catalog and the exhibition, Zolman says, “have been arranged to present various universal themes that are observed in Bronstein’s work.” For her part, Lipan describes that work as “anthropomorphic abstract, where the human figure and its action are reduced to their essence.”
Lipan adds: “His work addresses universal themes of harmony, beauty, peace and love in a personal style that is uniquely his.”
Significantly, on the topic of the concept drawings at the collection’s latest exhibition, Zolman notes: “This is the first time Bronstein has exhibited his drawings to the public.”
Otherwise, regarding the collection’s exhibition at the museum, Zolman closes with a statement applicable not just to Bronstein but to art in the greater scheme of things, today and every day: “There is no challenge for the artist that is true of heart, and this truth is revealed as beauty.”
The Winter Family Collection, thewinterfamilycollection.org