Big Names, Tiny Art

Arts • Views: 44

When Lucy Bassett Andrews, whose grandfather founded the town of Bassett, Va., along with the family’s manufacturing company Bassett Furniture, was in the middle of an elaborate dollhouse-making project in 1993, she was offered help by a particularly knowledgeable collaborator: the artist Cy Twombly.

Twombly, a family friend and fellow Virginian, corralled 15 other artists — including Julian Schnabel, Ross Bleckner, Donald Baechler, Peter Halley and Philip Taaffe — to make tiny artworks in their signature styles for Ms. Andrews’s diminutive townhouses, originally begun to delight her eldest granddaughter. The three dollhouses, adorned with more than 50 paintings and sculptures, are a vivid time capsule of the early 1990’s art world and will go on view Dec. 14 at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., in the exhibition “Miss Lucy’s 3 Day Dollhouse Party.”

Ms. Andrews, an octogenarian who now spends most of her time in the coastal Florida community of Hobe Sound, met Twombly through one of her children, Douglas Andrews, who on his college semester abroad in Italy in 1988 became close friends with the artist. (Twombly split his time between Italy and Virginia until his death in 2011.) “I think it was the Southern connection,” said Mr. Andrews, who has been based in Italy ever since and now lives in a modern oceanfront villa in Santa Marinella with some 200 works of contemporary art by Bridget Riley, William Kentridge, Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, among many others.

On a recent visit to Florida, Mr. Andrews joined his mother in the storage vault at the Norton, where the dollhouses were being prepared for their museum debut. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.

How did Cy Twombly become so taken with your dollhouse project?

LUCY Cy came [to Florida] because of Douglas. Cy spent two winters down here. He was fun. He didn’t drive a car, didn’t ride a bicycle, but he was within walking distance, so we spent a great deal of time together. He would come up, and I’d be working on the dollhouse.

DOUGLAS She built that brick one herself.

LUCY Finally one day he said, “Why don’t we have a dollhouse party?” I said, “Well what does a dollhouse party consist of?” He said: “We get artists that I know and Douglas knows to make paintings for the dollhouse. And then we have all the artists come down, and we have a three-day dollhouse party.” I said, “Well that sounds great to me.”

DOUGLAS Cy had me contact the artists. When I said Cy was doing this, obviously they all jumped on board. Mom stretched the canvases and mailed them. This was all a friendship thing.

LUCY Then we started getting so many paintings, and I had to get two more dollhouses. If you want to see something, you get that many artists together at one time. They came on Thursday and left on Tuesday.

That’s more than three days. Were they all staying at your house?

LUCY No, no, no! I had rented two houses for them, and CY kept some at his house.