How Joan and Jack Quinn Built a Large Collection of Friendship-Based Art


BAKERSFIELD, CA – As artist Joe Fay remembers, soon after meeting Joan Quinn, she made a very simple request that would prove to be of great help for her future: “You should do my portrait. ” He followed her advice and in no time Fay created colorful semi-abstract portraits of Joan and her husband, Jack. Two years later, portraits of their daughters, Amanda and Jennifer, followed. “Joan was kind and supportive,” Fay recalls. “She had the portraits published in Los Angeles Magazine and more commissions came in at $ 1,200 each. “

The vibrant portraits of Joan and her family de Fay are among the highlights of On the Edge: Los Angeles Art 1970s – 1990s from the Joan and Jack Quinn Family Collection, exhibited at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. The exhibition includes a number of varied and original portraits, by different artists, of a woman motivated by curiosity and a desire to encourage creativity as opposed to a need to nurture personal vanity. For example, George Herms represented Joan as a sphere of rusted metal on a scorched wooden pedestal. Allen Ruppersberg depicts her as a cut-out figure adorned with books and texts. And Jean-Michel Basquiat sketched his wrists and his fingers laden with jewelry alongside two stylized monkeys. Basquiat’s “fees” for the portrait were a handful of seals the legendary actor and drag queen Divine had left in a drawer in the Quinn house.

George Herms, “Portrait of Joan Quinn” (2003) (photo by Ken Marchionmo Photography)

A native of Los Angeles and the daughter of wealthy parents – motorsport promoter JC Agajanian and his wife, Hazel Faye – Joan had her first portrait taken at the age of 16 and met up-and-coming artists from high school. As the Los Angeles art scene grew in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was already serving as a social connector for the emerging “Cool School” that aspired to challenge New York’s dominance. Working as Andy Warhol’s West Coast Editor Interview magazine and, later, as editor-in-chief of Conde Nast Traveler, Joan crossed the coastlines and did all she could to put her artist friends in the media spotlight. She also made sure that the snobbery many artists faced on the East Coast had an antidote on the West Coast: genuine camaraderie and friendship.

The Quinns House in Beverly Hills, still home to a treasure trove of works by LA artists, has been the site of countless poolside parties where artists, Hollywood guys and social actors have met and had established networks. Jack Quinn often provided legal assistance to performers who needed help paying parking tickets, reading contracts or raising money from a dealer, or who had been arrested for weed possession.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Portrait of Joan Quinn” (1986) (photo by Ken Marchionmo Photography)

“I took the whole family on the hot days for a swim and lunch,” Joe Fay recalls. “The Quinns treated us like theirs and you could talk to Joan or Jack about anything.” They were real friends in a way that went beyond art. For years, Jack was often my tennis partner and we played against artists (Chuck Arnoldi), celebrities (Ricky Nelson and Regis Philbin), as well as Federal Judge Matt Byrne.

Over time, Joan has inspired more than 300 portraits, but as the works on display at the Bakersfield Museum show, they are only one part of a sprawling collection. The works of Ed Moses, Lynda Benglis, Peter Alexander, Frank Gehry, Robert Graham and Ed Ruscha are some of the centerpieces of the exhibition, curated by Rachel McCullah Wainwright, who “took a new look”, as Joan commented. The result sheds new light on the emergence of art in Los Angeles and will be a boon to art historians for years to come. Then again, seeing On the edge purely in terms of art history, what the Quinn family and their guests have enjoyed for years is that their collection is truly about friendship and encouragement.

Joan Quinn with Ed Ruscha, 1981 (image courtesy of Joan Quinn Archives)
Jack and Joan Quinn at home with an Ed Moses painting in the background, 1978 (Image courtesy Joan Quinn Archives)
Andy Warhol, “Portrait of Joan Quinn” (circa 1970s) (photo by Ken Marchionmo Photography)

On the Edge: Los Angeles Art 1970s – 1990s from the Joan and Jack Quinn Family Collection continues at the Bakersfield Museum of Art (1930 R Street, Bakersfield, CA) until April 2, 2022. The exhibition was curated by Rachel McCullah Wainwright.

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