Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on the American Numismatic Society's new neighbor, the National Sculpture Society.
The National Sculpture Society has moved. Why is this news in the numismatic field? Well, America's most prestigious sculpture organization has moved next door to America's most prestigious numismatic organization.
They both share the eleventh floor of the block-square building at the corner of Varick and Canal streets in New York City's lower Manhattan. They are also sharing some facilities as well. For its' temporary stay as a new neighbor, NSS has placed all its library and archives in storage. They are using the ANS library, and, according to the NSS press release, "ANS has been very generous in allowing NSS access to their library, conference room and common office areas."
The sculpture organization also states the location is ideal for them as it is within walking distance of the Soho and Chelsea art galleries. It is also within hailing distance of its new permanent home on Mercer Street. (Estimated time of occupancy for that permanent home still undetermined.)
A permanent home for NSS is a 100-year-old-dream of its members. I remember once in the early 1970s I was driving into Manhattan with Bob Weinman as a passenger and driving down the east side of Central Park he pointed out one building near the north end. "We tried to buy that building as a permanent home for the Society," he told me. It had been a never-ending search. I am glad to learn it is close to reality.
The National Sculpture Society and ANS have had a close relationship for nearly ninety years. This came about by the ANS awarding the J. Sanford Saltus medal to sculptors for "outstanding achievement in the art of the medal." Adolph Weinman created the Saltus Medal in 1919 and it was first awarded by ANS to James Earle Fraser that year. (Recognize those names, coin collectors?)
Well, the ANS awarded that Saltus Medal the next year to Adolph Weinman. Yes, he received the medal he created! A not uncommon practice among sculptors, as I can name Abram Belskie among others who were awarded their own medal.
What about all those Saltus Medal recipients over the years? Well for the next sixty years they were all members of the National Sculpture Society. And with the award, the award medal, the ANS wisely made the recipient a life fellow member of the numismatic society. That brought the two organizations close together, in artistic interest, as well now as physical closeness.
The 27 recipients in that sixty-year-period have included the top names in coin creation as well as medal creation. Every one of which were NSS members! In addition to Fraser and Weinman, there were Brenner, Flanagan, MacNeil, Laura Fraser, de Francisci as American coin artists, plus a handful more who created commemorative coins.
Thus American artists were honored with this coveted medal award. The award was not bestowed every year, and it began to slow in the 1970s -- only three awarded that decade -- so the Society began to widen their net and began awarding the American Saltus Medal to foreign artists. A dozen have been so named since Guido Veroi received it first in 1983.
So NSS and ANS have a symbiotic relationship, and now, at least temporarily, both huddled together on the eleventh floor of the Canal and Varick building. I believe this closeness had a modern thrust when Allan Stahl, then a curator at ANS, was named a Councilor to the NSS in 1991.
You can view a list of the J. Sanford Saltus winners at:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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