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Case Study 3

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Case Study 3 is about the Legacy Collection and Artist Archive of Spanish-American surrealist Julio deDiego (1900 – 1979).   He  resided in Madrid, Paris, New York, Chicago, Mexico,  Denver,  Woodstock, and Sarasota with travels to Europe and U.S.   His marriage to Gypsy Rose Lee, vaudeville theater entertainer, author, movie star, and radio/TV personality enhanced  their separate and joint reputations as mass media icons.  Gypsy and Julio matched in intelligence and talent, and after their divorce they remained devoted friends until her death.


Step 1: Client Objective

The collectors plan to archive the art, correspondence, slides/photographs, and ephemera in the collection for purposes of  originating a museum  retrospective and  possibly traveling exhibitions. Given  the Artist’s Archive was acquired from the deDiego estate, there are opportunities to tell  its story and to show his art for a book, film, short story,  and/or theatrical production.


Step 2: Problem

One challenge is to create a searchable digital inventory  for the estimated 300+ works of art and memorabilia in the deDiego Archive.  The Archive includes hundreds of  photographs of deDiego, Gypsy and artist friends;  correspondence from artists, museums and collectors (over 100 from Gypsy alone); color transparencies and photos of art; and works of art, most framed,  from the two private collections comprising  the Archive.  


Step 3: Solution   

The current digital inventory will be transferred to a searchable digital archive so value-added digital  benefits can be created,  for example, a state-of-the-art website, a collection catalog, a book, a short film, and educational  presentations.


Step 4: Results

Many outcome results are possible. Some. are already in place, including essays, a chronology and  presentations to inform exhibition candidates, curators and other deDiego collectors.


Step 5: ArtNarrative

ArtNarrative is what makes a collection unique. Julio deDiego, born to a merchant family in Madrid living not far from the El Museo del Prado, became interested in art when he was six years old. His favorite artists were Hieronymus Bosch and Francoso de Goya y Lucientes, and his  imagination was fueled by the writings of Jules Verne, James Fennimore Cooper and cowboy heroes like Buffalo Bill.  As a boy he would paint secretly at home by candlelight at night.  When his father discovered this, he destroyed all of Julio’s work at age 15.  Upon this happening, Julio immediately left home and struck out on his own.  He earned his early living doing opera scenery, showing his art, dancing in Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, art directing the first four- reel film in Spain, and joining the army (becoming an officer) to fight in the brutal North African Rif war thereupon making him opposed to war.  After military it was off to Paris joining thousands of other aspiring artists.  To support himself he  became a menial laborer, for example, cleaning fireplaces for fellow Spaniard Pablo Picasso.  Upon receiving a small inheritance, he was off to America to see the Wild West and settle down in Chicago where, during the Depression, he made his living doing residential, hotel and church room decoration and where he also participated in Art Institute of Chicago annual exhibitions (and a  medalist winner).


DeDiego was first and foremost a Spaniard.  But despite his flamboyant life style and personality, his life as an artist was uncompromising.  He had a gift for friendship, and his humane, delightful qualities were reasons his artist friends loved and trusted him. His close friends included Yul Brynner, Gypsy Rose Lee and her sister actress June Havoc, Alexander Calder, Philip Guston, Joseph Cornell,  and Carlos Merida, to name several. If art was his first love,  however, love of women was his second love.  He had adored females from the beginning of his early childhood.


DeDiego’s life was consistently hard  work: “Everything I have done in the way of creating has been painful … with a tremendous amount of effort.” His efforts were varied and intense: actor, Hollywood color consultant, dancer, and art teacher. And likewise in art:  painting; murals; opera scenery; prints and drawings; book and magazine illustration; medical drawings;  jewelry, fabric and costume design; commercial, residential and church interior decoration; theatrical, vaudeville and circus design;  ceramics:  and even a hotel erotic laundry bag!

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