Abstract Expressionist New York

Barnett Newman. Vir Heroicus Sublimis. 1950-51 4030

Oil on canvas, 7' 11 3/8" x 17' 9 1/4" (242.2 x 541.7 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller. © 2023 Barnett Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Collector, Ben Heller: Reader's Digest used to have a little thing called "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Met." Barney Newman is my most unforgettable character. He was one remarkable human being. I loved the man deeply.

Pollock introduced me and he said, "Here's somebody's work you should see." And I looked and I got out of there as fast I could. And I'm walking down the street and I said to my wife, "The emperor's clothes. Nothing there." I couldn't see a thing. But it troubled me. Jackson thought it was good. And so I went back. By the third visit I thought he was a great painter.

The Modern bought five paintings of mine. The Acquisitions Committee would not buy Vir Heroicus.

So I gave it to them. Barney was furious with me. He could have sold it. He had a buyer. I said, "That wasn't the point." I said, "It belongs there."

3 / 34