The Tony Rosenthal sculpture which we just put up on Tuesday is a bequest from Mercedes Eichholz, and our first new outdoor sculpture in years. I first saw it six or seven years ago, in Merci’s garden as I was going through her collection with her. We were preparing a small exhibition of her gifts, past and future, to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. I remembered the Rosenthal vividly because it has such a strong presence-but since I wasn’t running the Museum at the University at the time, I have no recollection of whether or not she told me then that it was coming to us.
So I was really pleased when I found out Merci had thought of us, and I was eager to install it. In the context of Merci’s house-small and intimate and chock full of art everywhere you looked-the sculpture had a vivid, bulky presence-I remembered it as much larger than it actually is. Our setting is very different, in our rather austere courtyard behind the Museum’s galleries. But the sculpture manages to assert itself confidently even nestled under the severe diagonal of the steps above it, in a big empty space.
Mercedes Eichholz will always be remembered as one of the major supporters of the visual arts in Santa Barbara. And one of its strongest personalities! I’m going to think of her every time I see this sculpture. Merci!
-E. Bruce Robertson, Director