2015-04-29 / Features

Friends Devoted To Preserving Legacy Of Bassman


Two of Elliot Bassman’s pieces: Two Horse Heads With Bass (acrylic on canvas), and Threnodic Composition: Four Figures with Columns (acrylic on canvas). Two of Elliot Bassman’s pieces: Two Horse Heads With Bass (acrylic on canvas), and Threnodic Composition: Four Figures with Columns (acrylic on canvas). Last week the Gazette ran a story about the work of Jackson Heights artist Elliot Bassman, and some works of his that were found in the garbage outside his Greystone apartment house. New information has come to light since last week’s publication.

Bassman, before his death on June 20, 2014, left long-time friend and fellow artist, Esti Dunow and James Grant, with the responsibility of looking after his estate. Dunow and co-executor Grant, along with close friends in the neighborhood have painstakingly inventoried, photographed and secured for storage the lifetime of work that Bassman left behind.

According to Dunow, a very small number of works were destroyed so they could not be salvaged according to Bassman’s wishes. Before his death, he identified a number of these pieces, which he felt were inferior.

“We have been working non-stop to preserve and safeguard Elliot’s reputation,” Dunow said. “We take this very seriously.”

Dunow is referring to last week’s article in which the Gazette covered Jackson Heights resident, Armen Kojoyian, and his discovery of Bassman’s work left curbside. Dunow and others were upset to say the least at Kojoyian, and did not want people to get the wrong impression and have their many months of hard work be overshadowed by the story that ran last week which we now clarify.

“Every artist of merit, throughout the history of art, has been known to destroy his or her art,” said Dunow. “It is the artist’s prerogative to safeguard his or her legacy and it is no one else’s business to interfere with this.”

Half a dozen close friends, all from Jackson Heights, have been helping in the efforts to not only preserve Bassman’s artistic legacy, but to also help with his apartment by donating furniture to Goodwill, along with donating the thousands of books Bassman owned on art and art history.

One of these friends is Ricky Castro. A friend of Bassman for a decade, he, along with others, made sure that Bassman had food to eat and water to drink and also helped him get to and from the doctor in his final days.

“We are still in mourning and still not finished with the enormous task at hand,” said Castro.

“Elliot and I discussed his work on a daily basis for almost five decades,” said Dunow, an artist and art historian.

Currently Dunow and Grant have begun to reach out to museums, galleries, foundations, institutions of education, hospitals, Jewish centers and synagogues.

“It is our most fervent wish to place the work in venues where it can be seen and appreciated,” said Dunow.

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