Return to beauty

i-a0f8e13f4a247977018170b37a4e087b-Resurrection_Tiepolo copy.jpgMFA Boston displays works collected by Horace Wood Brock *75

When it comes to art in the era of $17-million Damien Hirst sharks, Horace “Woody” Brock *75 is a contrarian. “Splendor and Elegance: European Decorative Arts and Drawings from the Horace Wood Brock Collection,” an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, includes many works that Brock has bought since earning his Ph.D. in mathematical economics. The works include Louis XIV clocks, George II chairs, and Tiepolo drawings — each of superb design, workmanship, and quality.

“The kinds of things I have loved have become ever more unfashionable since I began collecting 30 years ago,” Brock writes in “The Truth about Beauty,” his essay in the MFA’s catalog. “Beauty per se is out, and ‘interesting’ shock-art is in. As for my love of elegance, God forbid! This is today’s form of ‘the love that dare not speak its name.’ As a result of such changing tastes, there has never been a better time to acquire works of great beauty and elegance.”

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The fruits of Brock’s countless hours visiting collections, working with dealers, and studying art — mostly English, French, and Italian works from 1675-1820 — can be seen in Boston until May 17.

After Princeton, Brock founded Strategic Economic Decisions, a consulting group that advises governments, corporations, and private investors on economic risk. Of the prospects of financial gain as an art collector, he says, “I realized as an economist that attempting to ‘beat the market’ or find bargains would prove ill-fated.” By Richard Trenner ’70

Works on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, include at top, Resurrection of Christ, a drawing by the Italian artist Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo; and at left, Louis XVI mounted vase (beau bleu vase Daguerre ovale or cassolette à monter), from the French Sèvres factory, about 1786-88, with mounts attributed to Pierre Philippe Thomire.

Richard Trenner ’70, who taught writing at the Woodrow Wilson School for 10 years, is a Princeton-based writer, editor, and communication consultant.

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