Interview with a Specialist: Dunham Townend

03/22/2018     News and Film

We sat down with Dunham Townend, Head of the Modern & Contemporary Art Department and Antiques Roadshow favorite to answer some burning questions. Below, she reveals her favorite artist, the last great exhibition she saw, and her favorite spot in Philadelphia for dessert. Introduce yourself! Your full name (embarrassing middle names and nicknames included), and job title:Dunham E. Townend. Head of Department, Modern & Contemporary Art How long have you been at Freeman 's?I began at Freeman 's in October of 2014.What was your path to getting here? (Where did you work/study previously)After graduating from Princeton with a degree in Art History, I moved to New York City and began my first job as an assistant in the American Paintings Department at Sotheby 's. After that, I began a nearly decade long tenure at Hirschl & Adler Modern. There, I co-managed a stable of over twenty contemporary artists – mounting exhibitions of their work and placing it within important private and public collections, while also overseeing marketing efforts, and working to make sure their  work came onto the radar of critics, scholars and museum professionals. In addition to working within the primary market in this way, I also worked within the secondary market, with a particular emphasis on American Modernism and Post-War Painting.  However, I am originally from the Philadelphia area and always heard its siren song calling me back home.  As with so many things in life, it all came down to timing.  The perfect opportunity at Freeman 's came along just as I was ready to make the move down the Northeast Corridor line.What first attracted you to your current field? Was there a specific work of art that initially sparked your interest? I don 't recall a particular moment or work of art that provided some sort of “aha” moment.  I grew up with parents who are collectors and would tag along to local sales and always had a vague sense of auction catalogues around the house, so perhaps that 's part of it.  I 've also always been attracted to the arts more generally, so I guess it 's no surprise that that 's where I found my home academically and – ultimately – professionally.   Where do you live (city/neighborhood)? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?I currently live in Center City, Philadelphia.  Hokey as it may sound, the Philadelphia area is home and – at this point in my life – I don 't think I 'd want to live anywhere else. Favorite artist? (Or artists, if you can 't pick just one)While it 's difficult to pick just one, I might lean towards Philip Guston. Guston 's work was what first turned my attention from 19th Century painting toward Modern & Contemporary Art. While I was in college, I spent a summer interning at the McKee Gallery. McKee represented Guston 's estate and they had a wealth of paintings and archival materials. This allowed me – really for the first time – to see a large concentration and wide variety of work by a single artist. It changed the way I think about an artist 's body of work and taught me to see it as a whole, rather than concentrating on single objects. I went on to write my senior thesis on the artist and he continues to captivate me even now. Favorite artwork Freeman 's has sold?I particularly like selling collections of art. There are almost always great personal stories behind every collection--anecdotes about visits to artist 's studios, notes between the collectors and the dealers with whom they built relationships, stories about pennies saved up to make that first big purchase. Just this past November, we were honored to sell works from the collection of Barbara Silby. Each of her works came with these wonderful anecdotes in spades. Particularly charming was a story about a Tom Wesselmann drawing that Ms. Silby acquired directly from the artist in 1963 for $125, and which she paid for in $5 monthly increments over the course of two years. Such was her love of the work, which made it a particularly special one for us to handle.Favorite artwork you own? How did you acquire it?I 've been lucky enough to have been gifted some wonderful art over the past ten years. Some of the most sentimental pieces are those that were given to me by artists with whom I 've worked and built strong friendships--specifically treasured pieces by Elizabeth Turk, Diana Horowitz and Susan van Campen--all of whom I worked with at Hirschl & Adler. My husband and I also have a Dubuffet print that we were given for our wedding that holds a particularly special place for us.Have you ever bought anything at an auction here at Freeman 's?I have, thus far, made one purchase at Freeman 's--a signed copy of an early Star Wars book, which was a present for someone in my life who is a huge fan.If you didn 't work in your current department, in which other department at Freeman 's would you most want to work? (Applicable skillset not a prerequisite!)Probably the Jewelry Department, if only so I could try on the merchandise!What 's the last great exhibit you saw? I really loved the Lichtenstein show at Craig Starr Gallery in New York, held earlier this year.  It was tightly curated and quietly elegant--a real gem of a show.Favorite book (fiction or non-fiction) about art?“The Rescue Artist” by Edward Dolnick--a fascinating look into the investigation of the theft of Edvard Munch 's “The Scream” from the National Gallery in Oslo in the early 1990s.Favorite museum in Philadelphia?The Barnes FoundationFavorite museum anywhere in the world?The Museum of Modern Art in New York – I never get tired of it. A friend is visiting Philadelphia for the first time and only has two days. What sights—museums, galleries, restaurants, shopping—do you recommend?I would recommend a trip to the Ben Franklin Parkway and a walking tour of the museums there – the Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum and--of course--the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While there, it 's also a great opportunity to walk down to Boathouse Row and to stroll along the river, where there is some great public sculpture as well. Of course, Philadelphia has so much history so a trip to Old City is a must. Even if the tourist attractions aren 't for you, just walking the cobblestone streets lined with old houses and street lamps is incredibly charming.  For kids, you can 't beat the Philadelphia Zoo and it 's hot air balloon rides.  If you 're hungry, Philadelphia does not disappoint. Reading Terminal Market offers a huge variety of food from local vendors, which is a great option when you can 't make up your mind or you just want a little bit of everything. Some of my personal favorite restaurants include Barbuzzo and Friday Saturday Sunday and--for dessert--The Franklin Fountain. Just be ready to stand in line. It 's a favorite for a lot of us! Thank you, Dunham!