Linnaeus H. Lorette Collections: A Memorial Exhibit opens today

‘Chinese porcelain statues of the Cultural Revolution – Mao Tse Tung’

MARFA — Today Inde/Jacobs will open a new exhibition, Linnaeus H. Lorette Collections: A Memorial Exhibit. It’s the first exhibition of Lorette’s extensive art collection since his passing, and to the gallerists, the first real chance for the public to memorialize a unique Marfa resident.

When Lineaus Lorette passed away in April, friends and family mourned the loss of the eccentric accountant, medicine ball maker, dog lover, lamp salesman and art collector. Vilis Inde, a friend of Lorette’s, was named as executor of the will, and found himself suddenly tasked with handling the personal effects, inventory and massive art collections that filled Lorette’s homes in Fort Davis, Marfa and El Paso.

In the will, Lorette requested that if financially feasible, his collection be used to establish a museum, or to financially support El Paso art institutions. Lorette’s collections are as wide ranging as they are unique. Across his three homes, he left behind over 100 Chinese cultural revolution figurines (many in duplicate or triplicate), dozens of political wood collages by Abby Levine, paintings by his mother Richey Lorette, countless masks by Patty Manning, and stacks of homoerotic art, prison art and priceless prints by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada.

Between the three locations, Lorette’s collection of art numbers in the thousands – and that’s without the hundreds of lamps he owned.

Inde brought in Sam Watts to help comprehend the collection of items, and to begin sorting through what was inventory, what was personal, and, even trickier, what art should remain in the permanent collection for a potential eventual museum and what should be sold.

Through his work so far, Watts has determined that lamps are designated for resale – but determining the values for the hundreds of fixtures is another task of its own. Watts says that in trying to understand Lorette’s habits and intentions for his collections, he’s come to see the lamps as inventory to be sold, because that is how Lorette used that particular collection himself. For years, Lorette’s Marfa property housed the Marfa Lights and Lamps store, at the New Star Grocery Art Gallery on 301 W. Dallas Street.

Part of the reason for the Inde/Jacobs exhibition is to pare down the overwhelming collection so that it isn’t too heavily weighted towards a single artist, Watts explained. But reducing the collection isn’t the only challenge. In working their way through the collection, the group has found that Lorette collected a sizable amount of forgeries, likely intentionally, leading the gallery to present a disclaimer that the items are sold “as is” and the estate does not guarantee their authenticity.

In the meantime, Watts is working to familiarize himself with the expansive collections, which includes researching Chinese operas, talking to local archivists and looking for experts familiar with the niche topics at hand.

This weekend, Watts was working in the New Star Art Gallery, taking stock of items and preparing for the art show. He pointed out how the space might be divided to create a permanent museum in the front half of the main room, and his hopes for an adjacent store to sell the rare, vintage and ordinary lamps. Details about the museum are still uncertain this early in the will’s execution, but Watts is hopeful that a permanent space will remain to display Lorette’s collections in Marfa.

The exhibition at Inde/Jacobs runs from December 17, 2020, through January 3, 2021, and is open from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. COVID precautions will be observed, according to the gallery, and items available for purchase will have proceeds go to arts organizations of El Paso.