Thursday, January 12, 2012

Deceased--John McWhinnie

John McWhinnie
January 29th, 1968 to January 6th, 2012

"John McWhinnie, an Expert in Rare Books, Dies at 43"


Margalit Fox

January 11th, 2012

The New York Times

John McWhinnie, a rare-book dealer and gallerist known as a champion of words and images on paper in an age of electronic reading, died on Friday in a snorkeling accident in the British Virgin Islands. He was 43.

Mr. McWhinnie and his wife, Maria Beaulieu, were pulled out to sea by a swift current, his sister, Lisa Paradis, said on Wednesday. A bystander was able to rescue Ms. Beaulieu but not Mr. McWhinnie.

One of the few people to straddle the worlds of high-end book collecting and high-end contemporary art, Mr. McWhinnie was the director of John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, a rare-book shop and gallery at 50 ½ East 64th Street in Manhattan.

As a bookseller, Mr. McWhinnie specialized in the 20th and 21st centuries, concentrating in particular on the Beats. As he made clear in interviews, he prized books as windows onto the culture that produced them, and when it came to culture he made it a practice to represent the high, the low and the unclassifiable. Visitors to the shop might encounter anything from signed Hemingway to obscure pulp fiction to punk manifestos — all collectible.

As a gallerist, Mr. McWhinnie exhibited well-known contemporary artists like Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, as well as up-and-coming artists.

John Scott McWhinnie was born on Jan. 29, 1968. At Boston College, he earned simultaneous bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy in four years. He later taught in Manila as a Fulbright scholar before doing graduate work in philosophy at Fordham.

Mr. McWhinnie, who began selling items from his own sizable book collection as a graduate student, met Mr. Horowitz, an established rare-book dealer, at a book fair. Before long, Mr. McWhinnie, who had planned on an academic career, was managing Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Mr. Horowitz’s shop and gallery in East Hampton, on Long Island. The Manhattan shop opened in 2005.

With Mr. Horowitz, Mr. McWhinnie also ran a small publishing imprint, JMc & GHB Editions, which produced artists’ books and exhibition catalogs.

Besides his wife and sister, Mr. McWhinnie’s survivors include his parents, John and Betty McWhinnie.

"John McWhinnie, Rare Book Dealer, Dies"


Robert P. Walzer

January 9th, 2012

The Wall Street Journal

At a friend’s wedding in 2005, John McWhinnie once distilled some love letters that Orson Welles had written to Rita Hayworth in the 1940s and read the short passage to the assembled guests.

McWhinnie, a New York dealer, scholar and collector of rare 20th century books, letters and ephemera, died on Friday.

“He figured out a way to make 60-year old mail feel completely contemporary,” said the friend, Bill Powers, a New York gallery owner.

McWhinnie, who was 43 years old, drowned during a snorkeling accident while on vacation in the British Virgin Islands with his wife Maria Beaulieu, a jewelry designer, said an aide to his business partner, Glenn Horowitz. Beaulieu survived.

McWhinnie served as adviser and dealer to artists and executives on their art and book buying, including contemporary artist Richard Prince, novelist James Frey and Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager.

“He has been one of the primary forces to bridge the gap between the art world and the establishment rare book world,” said Sheelagh Bevan, assistant curator of printed books at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York. “He was usually two years ahead of everyone else in elevating an overlooked group of artists or writers–Mary Beach comes to mind, but there are many others–to the point where institutions and private collectors took notice.”

At the two galleries in which he teamed up with Horowitz, on Manhattan’s upper east side and in East Hampton, McWhinnie plied a trade of unusual cultural artifacts. His collection includes such items as a handmade book of gruesome crime-scene photographs collected by a Los Angeles detective in 1920s, a 1940s edition of Edgar Allan Poe poems that was annotated with notes and drawings by its owner Frida Kahlo and Jack Kerouac’s original galley copy of “Big Sur.” An 1860s-era daguerreotype was recently juxtaposed next to an Andy Warhol-signed t-shirt. McWhinnie told customers he liked to mix “the sacred and the profane.”

The galleries mixed art and books, with exhibitions in recent years by contemporary artists including Christopher Wool, Elizabeth Peyton and Adam McEwen, and rare editions of works by Ernest Hemingway, Ken Kesey, Aldous Huxley, and even saucy dime-novels.

“I walked in one day and grabbed a copy of ‘A Season in Hell’ by Arthur Rimbaud,” said Frey, the author, who trusted McWhinnie enough to share drafts of his unfinished novels with him. “Where the hell else do you see that?”

In an interview with artist Peter Sutherland, McWhinnie said his need for cash while he was on a fellowship in his 20s drove him initially to start selling books from a collection he had assembled from flea markets and booksellers across the country.

He’d spent a year at Columbia University’s rare book and manuscript library cataloging books, including those of Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg and Kerouac, when “I realized that sort text-book history is a crock of shit, that real history lies embedded in the actual historical documents I was reading and cataloguing,” McWhinnie told Mr. Sutherland.

He described his excitement at reading and cataloging an early draft of William’s play “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“I was hooked,” he said in the interview. “It made me realize that everything behind the scenes was where I wanted to be.”

McWhinnie was enlisted by Horowitz to manage Horowitz’s East Hampton gallery and after eight years the two joined forces on the venture in Manhattan. Horowitz wasn’t available for comment.

Loeb said that McWhinnie sold him several art works and books, including most recently a rare first-edition copy of “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator,” a 1923 novel by Edwin Lefèvre, which Loeb said “every investment nerd has read.”

McWhinnie told Powers in interview for a literary journal that during one of several visits to Hunter S. Thompson in Colorado the author was suffering from writer’s block and asked McWhinnie to read out loud passages from his book “Rum Diary,” which allowed Thompson’s “creative juices to flow and he’d start pecking away.”

In his last exhibition, “From Inkweed to Haunted Ink: The Beat Greeting Card,” McWhinnie delved into the personal collection Lionel Ziprin, a Lower East Side New York beat poet and scholar and his wife and partner Joanne Ziprin.

“When he died he took with him so much specialized knowledge that will be lost to the dustbin of history,” Frey said.

No comments: