The news in Thursday morning’s edition of The New York Times about what’s happening at Crow House, the rambling New City home of the late visual artist Henry Varnum Poor is truly distressing. The idea that artwork created by Poor, who is known as the father of the modern craft pottery movement, that has been in the curious and intriguing homestead for decades is being sold off by Poor’s surviving son, Peter.
While some of the items in the house were clearly the property of family members and subject to removal, many of us who worked to save the home from the wrecker’s ball and get it into the hands of the historically sensitive administration of the Town of Ramapo believed that there was an understanding that an option existed to keep the bulk of the art with the house.
That’s clearly no longer the case, if it ever was, as evidenced by Peter Poor’s decision to sell four ceramic pieces made by his father — three of them from Crow House — at Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, N.J., on Saturday.
Certainly, Peter Poor has the right to his personal property. He can sell it, tuck it away, or smash and burn it in an affront to his father’s memory if he likes. But he should consider the public value of his father’s legacy. To dispose of the art piecemeal would surely destroy the sense of continuity and scale that exists with the art on site where it was created. It appears that’s not something Peter Poor cares much about, given his quote about people who want to see the collection preserved: “They’re living in the past.”
It’s easy to assume that Peter Poor will simply sell a few pieces for profit, and that will be the end of it. But what he tells The Times about Saturday’s auction suggests that there is more — much more — to come.
“I wanted to put some things up with Rago to see what interest there was,” he tells The Times, adding, “This is sort of an experiment.”
That is an experiment that can only bring grief.