Design & Decoration S04 ep2 : David Tunick, Tunick Drawing Art, [New York]
Interview with David Tunick
Works of art on paper: old master and modern prints and drawings David Tunick, Inc. was founded in 1966. We specialize in fine prints and drawings from the 15th to the mid-20th century. Our gallery is housed in an elegant townhouse on the Upper East Side, and we welcome visitors who are interested in works on paper by such masters as Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya, Fragonard, Matisse, Picasso and many others. We are a member of the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), Chambre Syndicale de l’Estampe (Paris), the Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art (CINOA), the International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA), and The European Fine Arts Foundation (TEFAF). Additionally, we participate in the ADAA Art Show, the TEFAF Maastricht Art Fair, and the IFPDA Print Fair on a yearly basis. We work with major museums and private collectors throughout the world, and our clients include such leading institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Pierpont Morgan Library, the National Gallery of Art (Washington), Yale University Art Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Chicago Institute of Art, the British Museum, and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Our inventory is extensive, and we welcome inquiries. In addition to buying and selling works on paper, we also provide cataloguing, authentication, and appraisal services.
We are an art gallery that specializes in works of art on paper from the 15th century which is the
beginning of works of art on paper to a classic 20th century from artists during Rembrandt to
Matisse and Picasso and even Warhol
In college I was studying genetics, biochemistry and biology because it was my intention to go
to medical school but while I was in university I thought it was going to be my last chance to
study art history. I wanted to be an educated man and so I took an introductory course in art
history and where I went to school Williams College in Williams Town Massachusetts. There
was a very fine faculty and they use to pass Princeton drawings around in class and I was
amazed, I couldn’t believe you could actually touch something that Rembrandt had touched and
Rembrandt had done, that an Albert Duir had done or that Picasso or Goyo or Diga had done.
They actually had original prints in the collection, in the college collection and that completely
blew me away and so I started to collect things while I was an ungraduated that I could afford.
Now mind you, what I could afford was $8, $12 even $40 and then there came one spring
vacation and we were all meant to be going skiing but I wanted to buy a motorcycle and a
Picasso. The Picasso cost $400 and this was in the 60’s and the motorcycle cost $400 and so I
borrowed the money from one of my classmates who had means which I did not and instead of
going skiing I went door to door and I sold encyclopedias. That was easy for me because I
believed in encyclopedias, I loved encyclopedias as a child, I could sell encyclopedias with
conviction well now I can sell Van Der’s and Rembrandt’s, and Picasso with conviction because
I love these works of art and so then from college I went on the road. I convinced dealers in
Boston and in New York to give me things and I said if I could sell them I would pay them. I
didn’t know what the word consignment meant then and they gave me things and I went around
travelling with my St. Bernard dog and I set up one day exhibitions at colleges and universities.
About two years later I became interested in old masters. I manage to get what was an early
internship at the Metropolitan Museum. I went to work at the met and the department of
Princeton Drawings. I worked on Albrecht Durer in the first year and for Rembrandt the second
year and I hired one of my college classmates to go on the road for me because I had to pay the
Before the metropolitan I was researching what are marks and researching collector’s stamps.
So if there was a reference for example to Martin Schongauer with whom Durer was supposed
to study, Schongauer actually died before. I would spend a whole week looking at all the
engravings of Schongauer. As a reference to Goltz I would take a week and look at everything
by Goltz’s and so on down the line. The metropolitan has a collection of more than two million
prints and so it was a fantastic way to learn and what I found out even as a 21 year old, 22 year
old was that you could become an expert in something. You become very well versed in
something by just concentrating and focusing so that these senior curators at the museum began
coming to me as a 22 year old kid very quickly and saying should we lend this to the Welsh
museum? Should we lend this to the British Museum? Those at the metropolitan museum on
this Rembrandt, should we put it in this exhibition and such and such, it was very heavy stuff for
a kid just out of college.
In a real art gallery, in a museum with us, a print means an original print that an artist has made.
If you carve your initials in a wooden board, let’s say in the palm of my hand is a piece of
wood, if you carve your initials in there, you then put ink over it. You press a piece of paper
against it, that’s an original wood cut. It’s the paper result of something that is in size or on a
stone, a plate, and a piece of wood by an artist.
Print painting for the great artist who made prints like Degas to Lautrec, Goya, Picasso,
Rembrandt, and so on down the line. Print making was just as important as painting and they are
not copies of their paintings. A good analog is thinking of Shakespeare, Shakespeare wrote
sonets and Shakespeare wrote plays. There are different ways for Shakespeare to express ideas.
Mozart wrote operas, Mozart wrote symphonies, different ways to express ideas.
Rembrandt in an interesting situation, we knew a few drawings that were preparatory for the
copper plates and most of the time he was drawing right on the copper plate itself and then he
would etch it with acid and then print. That’s what etching means, etching with acid.
On one of the minor auction houses in New York rang us up and they said they had been asked
to clean out a house in South Port, Connecticut and the house had belonged to a well-known
bibliophile and they found in the closet a Rembrandt that was this big and they said they were
sure it was a reproduction but they knew we were the Rembrandt people in New York and could
they please show it to me. I said sure bring it around and most of the times these things turn out
to be reproductions and they brought it in and there it was the great three crosses the most
famousRembrandt of all meant to hang on a wall like a painting. Rembrandt made it to hang on
a wall and so I said I’d buy it from them and they said oh no its real thank you for the favor,
we’re going to put it in an auction and so it went to auction where upon I paid a world record
price at the time, this is now 22 years ago, I ended up paying $990,000 for it in their auction.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: David Tunick, Tunick Drawing Art, New York