Friday, February 04, 2005

F.X. McRory's Whiskey Bar, Seattle

This LeRoy Neiman is one of my favorite possessions. Mine is conservation framing of a poster (something I am usually adamantly against - why put a couple hundred into framing a flimsy piece of paper?), but it is signed by Neiman. Of course, the one I have isn't worth a whole lot, whatever Neiman's signature is running these days. However, if it were one of the original 300 Limited Edition serigraphs from 1980, it would be worth $17000.

(click for enlargement)

Although it is a lively and colorful piece, this picture, above, from Neiman's site makes it look rather garish, but it was the best I could find online, b/c it is impossible to condense such richness.

Look beyond the colors for some interesting characterizations of life, to include the priest, central to the painting and perhaps pivotal to its interpretation. His arms are crossed aggressively, eyes glaring outwards, daring to make eye contact with the viewer and threatening anyone wishing to enter. (I have to say, tho, that this is not the stereotypical Irish priest as I think of him.)

See where Neiman painted himself in on the lower edge, yellow jacket, famed hat, Gene Shallot mustache, as he signs an autograph for a fan. Below that is where mine is signed.

Scan the collage of liquor labels for your current and past favorites. See how they meld with the paint and architectural details.

Appreciate the action and noise of a lively tavern on St. Patrick's Day. Hear the bagpipe. Scope out who is picking up whom, who is bored, drunk, chattering...

Feel the sweat of the workers trying to keep up.

You can tell I like the work for many of the same reasons I like Dutch Genre Paintings - everyday life and happenings, three very full dimensions packed into two.

I debated long and hard about buying this piece three years ago. It was perfect for my living room and it added a great name to my collection. It would bring color and excitement, enliven a dark wall, and always provide something new to see.

It also put liquor up on my wall, kind of a strange subject matter for the home of a small child. The way I figure it, the print will just be a picture on the wall for a long time. Our walls are full of such. Once he realizes what it is specifically, it'll be a fun task for him to pick out the hundreds of manufacturers in the collage. Maybe in college he'll be motivated to start his own label collection to assemble into an interesting collage. Regardless, he'll be making art functional in his life. (Believe me, I'm only partly tongue in cheek!)

I came across the story of Neiman doing this work and it is delightful.


LeRoy Neiman's Painting of
F.X. McRory's Whiskey Bar

It started back in December 1978 when LeRoy Neiman came out to Seattle for the opening of Gallery Mack in Pioneer Square. LeRoy visited F.X. McRory's and was so impressed with the back bar display of over 600 bottles that he dubbed it "America's West Coast Bar." Owners Mick McHugh and Tim Firnstahl asked LeRoy to put their bar on canvas, his answer was "no, I'm too busy." The partners kept asking until LeRoy finally tried to put them off by asking for a commission of $100,000.00. Much to LeRoy Neiman's surprise, Mick and Tim agreed to pay it and asked the artist to paint the bar on St. Patrick's Day 1979. A scaffold was set up and Neiman spent the day sketching. At the end of the day he had roughed out a painting.

LeRoy Neiman returned to New York and put his sketches aside. Repeated calls from Seattle did no good, the work was not complete and the F.X. McRory's owners had promised their fans an unveiling on St. Patrick's Day 1980! LeRoy's agent told Mick and Tim that mere money would not motivate the artist to complete the work. The two Seattlites came up with a gimmick that they hoped would appeal to this renowned artist. At the time, gold was a very hot commodity. Mick and Tim decided to stop by Neiman's studio in New York City with a 64 oz. gold bar worth $25,000.00. They bought two kilos of gold bouillon at the government offices in Wilmington. The bar was marked as Russian gold, recently given to our president in exchange for US wheat.

The two Restaurateurs took Neiman by surprise. They knocked on the door at LeRoy's Central Park address with the gold bar carried by Pinkerton Security complete with a Doberman. They handed LeRoy the gold and said, "now will you finish our painting?" LeRoy confessed that one of the reasons for the delay was that the size of the F.X. McRory back bar was a challenge to get onto canvas. LeRoy's wife suggested that he create a collage to represent the 600+ bottles. Mick and Tim sent the artist labels representing the bar's entire inventory. On schedule, St. Patrick's Day 1980, LeRoy Neiman returned to F.X. McRory's Steak, Chop and Oyster house to unveil his masterpiece.

In 1988, President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev agreed to set up some joint ventures. One of them was an art show at the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow. They chose LeRoy Neiman and asked him to bring 8 - 10 of his works. He selected the F.X. McRory's Whiskey Bar and asked Mick and Tim if he could "borrow" it for display in Russia. They agreed and brought it over in person. The painting currently hangs in the Whiskey Bar at F.X. McRory's in Seattle,Washington.


I have to add that ex is in Seattle this week and next. I've requested the he go to F.X. McRory's and get me some memorabilia. He likes the piece in my living room; it is a good "guy painting." I think he will go by there and I should get another delicious magnet for my overcrowded refrigerator, a magnet that shared the same room as....

1 comment:

Cricket said...

I must add that ex did go by there for dinner and to get me some nicknack. The rude woman at the counter acted as if he were crazy, saying that they only have stuff like that around St. Patty's Day (a whole month away), so they only had posters of the painting. Alas...