"Joan Quinn Captured..."

Joan Agajanian Quinn, the daughter of the renowned race track owner JC Agajanian, has spent her life on a course full speed ahead. She has become one of Los Angeles most visible patrons of the arts, a celebrated documentarian of culture and an NGO for the United Nations and the central subject of what is believed to be the the most renowned portrait collection.

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Patrick Demarchelier’s picture of Joan wearing Jean-Michel Basquiat gifted Yamamoto painter’s shirt 1982

In the 1950’s Joan and her husband Jack Quinn befriended Billy Al Bengston whose work experimenting with the new applications of automotive paints posited a new nomenclature in art known as ‘Finish Fetish.”‘ Bengston, whose life revolved around motorcycle culture regularly racing at J.C Agajanian’s Ascot track, introduced the Quinns to the fold of the Ferus gallery. Ferus originally founded by Walter Hopps, Ed Keinholz and the enterprising spirit of the beat poet Bob Alexander would catapult the burgeoning LA art scene with its zeitgeist of paradigm shifting artists upon a world stage that up tip then considered Los Angeles a wasteland of the arts.

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Andy Warhol and Jack Quinn (Joan’s husband) Christmas party for Warhol 1977.

Bengston, according to Ed Moses held center court as its most applauded artist at that time. The Quinns would become fast friends with Ed Moses, George Herms, Frank Gehry, Robert Irwin and other members of the Light and Space Movement ,Peter Alexander and later Laddie John Dill. They would befriend the pop and conceptual artists; Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode and collage artist Tony Berlant becoming ardent supporters of these artists and forming the bonds of what would become lifetime friendships.

The Ferus gallery would mark the debut of Warhol in Southern California and the artist who arrived to see his show sell out would become one of the Quinns most renowned friendships. Warhol would appoint Joan the role of West Cast editor of his magazine Interview which would place her at the helm of the currents of taste and the tides of who would be consecrated as the next talent.

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Don Bachardy Portrait 1977

The Quinns began acquiring the works of artists seeking to shift the rules of art, beginning with Ken Price, a friend from USC who used industrial glazes and subversions on the functionality of ceramics and the artist Robert Graham, who embraced the classical nude and the ethereality of Degas in a purified reduction embodying the very definition of a new So. Cal. modernity.

In the early 1960’s Dora Delarios, another friend from USC whose self described work “harmonized the animal and the spiritual” created a portrait of Joan and Jack Quinn as a king and queen. This was followed by Robert Graham who decided to make a portrait of Joan as a set of clay masks. This prospect of portraiture and the efficacious result would become the starting point of what has now become the largest known contemporary portrait collection in the world.

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Kevin Whitney’s The Great Wen starring Syd Barrett 1969

The portrait collection, where each artist friend was challenged with the prospect of revealing their disparate dynamics with Joan as a starting point, unified the artists in a collective undertaking where for the first time they would be brought to a creative aggregate.

Each artist took on portraiture’s greatest task of ‘capturing the ineffable’, something that the mysterious Joan was well equipped to impart. Remarkably, while the portrait encapsulates the sitter’s ‘essence of being,’ it revealed just as much about its creator. This prospect encouraged the first series of portraits which were continued by David Hockney, Tony Berlant, Laddie John Dill, Duggie Fields Chuck Arnoldi and Don Bachardy as each artists wanted to out due the former in a process that Joan regards as a “growing garden.” Perhaps in capturing them they would reveal a dynamic of their own selves which would be revealed as a transmutation of this process.

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Rupert Smith from a Andy Warhol Polaroid.

A constant influx of artists, styles, philosophies and concepts became the core interchange of the Quinn’s home. This life would become somewhat of a familiar consequence to her twin daughters Amanda and Jennifer, where sleepovers having Divine do their makeup make-up, riding lessons from Evil Knieval , holiday parties with Warhol, Christopher Makos and Bob Collacello and Helmut Newton photo shoots on their renowned stairwell would be a daily part of the fare. Helmut Newton would create a portrait of Joan’s renowned penchant for wearing many watches.

The Quinns expanded their worlds to London, Berlin, Tokyo and New York. One of Joan’s closest allegiances would be the designer Zandra Rhodes who the Quinns met though the artist Allen Jones. The Quinns got to know many of the visionaries bequeathed in early London on the eve of punk including Andrew logan, Luciana Martinez de la Rosa in Berlin the artist Salome and Wilhelm Moser who created the coveted magazineThe Manipulator in the 1980’s. In Tokyo designers the Quinns became friends with Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake asked her to co-curate his first retrospective at the De Young Museum in 1982.

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Joan Quinn and Issey Miyake setting up for his retrospect at the De Young Museum 1983

In New York Richard Bernstein, who immortalized celebrities in his painted covers for the early years of Interview created a portrait of Joan while Factory artist Rupert Smith painted a portrait from Andy Warhol’s polaroid. Through Warhol Joan met the New York based Jean- Michel Basquiat who drew her portrait while she in turn took many snapshots of him at her home, while being filmed by the young director Tamra Davis. Basquiat gave Joan his Yamamoto painter’s shirt which became the wardrobe for her Patrick Demarchelier portrait.

Joan’s portrait collection is a dialogue with the constant capturing she engaged in daily. Joan’s snapshots were in constant flux and sometimes the camera was passed to Warhol ,Hockney or her family persevering as the this age saw passionate private photo taking a rarity and she was determined to be a consummate documenter. Her constant photographic shutter at parties, openings, events and at the comfort of her home is now considered an impressive account of the seminal journey of the contemporary Los Angeles art scene. There is Chris Burden riding his wheel at Rosamund Felsen and photographs of the performances of Kim Jones dressed as a tree along with get togethers with Sam Francis, Robert Rauschenberg and Truman Capote. The parties from Studio 54 to Area were well chronicled along with the iconic events of Marisa Berenson’s wedding where Valentino, Liza Minelli ,Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Summer held court.


Wilhelm Moser’s The Manipulator.

Joan was constantly in the studios of Warhol, Hockney and Bengston keeping them company while they made their work.The artist Charles Arnoldi wrote of her, ” Ever since the early ‘70s, Joan and Jack have been huge supporters of the artists and in many ways Joan Agajanian Quinn is herself a living breathing work of art. Joan is always dead center at any opening or party with camera in hand. She has documented cultural changes in Los Angeles and around the world for the last 50 years and these photos are cultural treasures. Joan always has her finger on the pulse of artistic momentum and it has been an honor to be her friend all these years.”

She covered the parties at the nightclub Area with Ann Magnuson dining with Kenny Scharf and. Keith Haring painting Grace Jones for a Robert Mapplethorpe shoot. She created intimate detailed shots of Jerry Hall and Jean Muir known for her elegance and precision. Her massive archive of candid shots include Crispin Glover, Rei Kawakubo, and the dancer Michael Clark in the luminosity of their youth on the eve of ascent. This would be countered with some of the last documents of Steven Arnold, Timothy Leary, William Burroughs, Stephen Sprouse and Tina Chow who would soon after their photographs were taken bid a tragic farewell.


Divine doing Jennifer and Amanda Quinn’s make-up 1977

Joan’s life would lead to her anointment as ‘Culture Queen’ amongst the international press in LA and the art world at large. Joan would begin writing for many of the 1980’s fanzines which defined the cultural idealizations of their era including The Manipulator and Stuff Magazine. On the advice of Warhol Joan began hosting a cable television show Joan Quinn ETC and the Joan Quinn Profiles where she would feature many artists, actors, directors, musicians and visionaries.

The documentation made by Joan and the amazing portrait collection will be presented this June 28-August 1st 2014 at the newly restored Brand Library and Art Center and will be exhibited for the first time with the works of the artists that are exemplary of their legend and oeuvre.

Although selections of the Joan Quinn portrait collection have been previously shown in Southern California, the exhibition Joan Quinn Captured takes on a new approach exploring the artists in this dialogue with portraits. The exhibition will have artists Claire Falkenstein Charles Arnoldi, Helmut Newton, Robert Graham Joe Goode, Ed Ruscha, Ed Moses Larry Bell Peter Alexander, Tony Berlant Billy Al Bengston, Don Bachardy, Woods Davy and Robert Mapplethorpe engaged with renowned works lent by the Quinn collection, the artists, t galleries and foundations.

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Helmut Newton Portrait 1984

Many of the portrait artists will be presented with the artists’ other artistic faculties. Wilhelm Moser will be featured with his work for the renowned 1980’s magazine The Manipulator, Kevin Whitney will showcase the premiere of his film The Great Wen starring Syd Barrett which has been under his bed for forty years. The film recently debuted at London’s International Center of Photography to its largest crowd on record. Alice Springs aka June Newton will show her film Helmut by June ,Zandra Rhodes will present her costumes for the opera while David Hockney’s works for the opera will be discussed. Duggie Fields will present his artist films while Steven Arnold’s estate will present the documentary Heavenly Bodies and the films Messages Messages and Diary of a Tibetan Seamstress.

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Charles Arnoldi portrait 1978

The exhibition will showcase the snapshots, documentaries and films that will be on view in interactive displays showcasing Joan Quinn’s historic snapshots with the many years of her cable shows that have been inaccessible until now. The Brand Library and Art Center’s theater will host the documentaries, films and artist public discussions featuring Don Bachardy celebrating his 80th birthday to the rare footage of showing Zandra Rhodes dosed by Charles James to celebrate the Metropolitan Museum’s Charles James retrospect.

The photos and correspondences on view to the public for the first time are of some of the most important artists of California and contemporary art history and form the tentacles of the exhibition’s backbone and a critical look at the history of the Los Angeles emerging art scene through five decades.

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Alice Springs aka June Newton 1985.

Laura Whitcomb is a contributing Arts Writer for By Such and Such.

All original Photos and art work images are used with the kind permission of Jack and Joan Quinn.

For more information go to Joanquinncaptured.com