Non­fic­tion

Unstill Life: A Daughter’s Mem­oir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction

  • From the Publisher
May 22, 2014

Unstill Life is a daughter’s mem­oir of a larg­er-than-life father known as Mr. Mod­ern Art. Born into a Jew­ish fam­i­ly in Munich in 1919, Peter Selz watched the ascen­sion of the Third Reich. Forced to wear a star, for­bid­den to attend school, his home destroyed and the art he loved labeled degen­er­ate, Selz escaped to Amer­i­ca, even­tu­al­ly becom­ing the chief cura­tor of the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art. His daugh­ter, Gabrielle, grew up in a home full of cel­e­brat­ed artists in the hey­day of Abstract Expres­sion­ism, from Rothko and de Koon­ing to Christo.

Selz offers a unique win­dow into one of the most illus­tri­ous peri­ods in art his­to­ry. Her fathers focus on art devot­ed to the human con­di­tion, his ambi­tion to break through the Jew­ish glass ceil­ing at MoMA, and his pas­sion­ate lifestyle took a toll on their family. 

Weav­ing her fam­i­ly nar­ra­tive into the larg­er sto­ry of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry art and cul­ture, Selz paints an unfor­get­table por­trait of a charis­mat­ic man, the gen­er­a­tion of mod­ern artists he cham­pi­oned and the daugh­ter shaped by it all.

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