WATERTOWN — Since June 16, the Armenian Museum of America has hosted the dual exhibition “On the Edge, Los Angeles Art 1970s-1990s from the Joan and Jack Quinn Family Collection” and “Discovering Takouhi: Portraits of Joan Agajanian Quinn.”
On Saturday, October 29, three of the artists whose works are on display, along with Joan Agajanian Quinn herself, Jack Quinn’s widow, and their daughter, Amanda, came together for a public conversation. Mostly known for its impressive ancient Armenian artifacts, the museum rarely hosts modern art exhibitions. The museum staff said it felt like a new start after COVID-19 and the lockdowns.
LA-based artists Laddie John Dill, Gregory Wiley Edwards, and Joe Fay were ready to start when there was a power outage in the neighborhood. Therefore, the moderator, Bolton Colburn, curator of collections and exhibitions at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art in Logan, Utah, spoke loudly to introduce the panelists. According to him, it was a one-of-a-kind art show as it allowed California art to be highlighted. The rest of the conversation took place in the dark, without microphones. However, many didn’t seem bothered and were captivated by the attending artists.
Joan and Jack Quinn’s collection of modern art hasn’t been exhibited very often because it used to be private. Through the years, this power couple in the LA modern art scene collected numerous works of art and promoted several Southern Californian artists. Across Los Angeles, they were well known and loved by significant artists like Andy Warhol, Astrid Preston, Steven Douglas, and their collection, through their local connections, extended across the pond to David Hockney, one of the most celebrated modern British painters. The Quinns had an influence on the evolution of California’s modern art. During the panel conversation on Saturday, Joan and her late husband were thanked by artists and the audience.
Despite the California 1970s vibe, Joan has always kept close to her Armenian roots and has been a trustee of the Armenian Museum for years. That is why she and Jason Sohigian, executive director of the Armenian Museum, agreed on displaying her collection there: “The Bakersfield Museum, in California, already curated her collection, in 2021. But with Joan, we wanted to bring these works of art to the East Coast, and we were sponsored by the JHM foundation, which was interested in the show and who helped us underwrite the cost of the exhibit and bring it here. It’s our largest exhibition in 50 years and it features more than 75 artists,” Sohigian explained.
The third floor of the Armenian Museum needed renovations in order to host the exhibit and therefore the museum staff moved their offices to the fourth floor, next to the museum’s research library. The show was set up quickly since they were helped by Rachel Wainwright, Bakersfield Museum’s curator: “She came from California to see the gallery before the installation and was really excited about the space we had, so she said yes immediately,” Sohigian said. When the show closed in California, most of the artwork was sent to Watertown. Then, Wainwright returned to Boston with her husband, Harry, to hang the rest of the art.