Lennon & Streisand: Unpacking Spatz’s Celebrity Archives

Amy Lowen found herself in the same position many family members of talented artists are in: inheriting a collection of works they did not know existed and do not understand how to handle.  “I mean, what do you do with it all,” Lowen asked, in an interview on NPR station WFPL in Louisville KY today about the thousands of celebrity photos her brother Gene Spatz had taken, including some of the most renowned glitterati of all time:  Lennon, Warhol, Streisand and many more.

She spent a year scanning some of the images her brother, gentleman paparazzi Gene Spatz had taken, with the help of a friend, But after that ear of frustration and overwhelm, Lowen remembered a piece she read in the New York Times called “The Weighty Responsibility of Inheriting a Collection.” It featured a nonprofit organization called POBA that specialized in helping families archive, organize and display collections they inherit. “It was like these people are talking to me,” Lowen said. “It took me a while to call, no doubt about that. I kept sitting on it because, you know, ‘who are they?’ and ‘what am going to do with them?’ But I eventually called and I spoke to POBA staff.”

Lowen and her sister Cathy Widom have been able to get a better handle on the exceptional and distinctive – though quite large – collection of celebrity images and fine arts photos that their brother took, most notably in the 1970s and 80 at the height of the New York club scene. WFPL captures the challenging and invigorating mix that many families face of doing their own work to manage and appreciate a collection left behind and getting the help of organizations like the KY Museum of Art and Craft and POBA to bring this work to the public. As Lowen said, after immersing herself in the thousands of images he left behind, she concluded what POBA has concluded: “Gene’s work is worth it.”

Spatz’s works cover a wide range of subjects – from Lennon, Warhol  and Streisand to anonymous grandmothers on Greenwich Village park benches – with beauty, grace, candor and intimacy. POBA shows these works in Spatz’s portfolios on POBA.