Oral Histories

Interview of Tobey Moss

Owner of the Tobey C. Moss Gallery.
Interviews not in a series, part two
Biographical Note:
Owner of the Tobey C. Moss Gallery.
Moon, Kavior
Moss, Tobey
Persons Present:
Moss and Moon.
Place Conducted:
Moss’s gallery in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Kavior Moon, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., Visual Arts, Columbia University; M.A., Art History, UCLA.Moon prepared for the interview by looking through exhibition catalogs published by Tobey C. Moss Gallery and Moss’s gallery records on Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg in UCLA’s Special Collections at the Charles E. Young Research Library. In addition, Moon reviewed books and exhibition catalogs on 20th century California art, including Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era (1977), Turning the Tide (1990), Sunshine & Noir (1997), Birth of an Art Capital (2006), and Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles, 1945-1980 (2011), as well as UCLA’s oral history interviews with Irving Blum, Paul Kantor, Felix Landau, Helen Lundeberg, and Jake Zeitlin.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Moss was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
4.25 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Born on the South Side of Chicago—Family background, parents emigrate from Romania and Poland—Excelling in elementary school—Growing up in close-knit Jewish community—Indelible experience of attending life drawing classes at the Art Institute of Chicago—Voracious reader as a child—Influence of mother who emphasized importance of community involvement—Shielded by parents from effects of Great Depression—Improved financial circumstances leads to family’s move to South Shore—Becoming more social in high school and meeting her future husband Allen—Attending University of Illinois at Champaign for one year—Family’s move to Los Angeles and studying history at UCLA—Leaves college after engagement and starts working as a secretary—Marriage and first child—Allen’s higher education, war service, and career changes over the years—Raising three sons and doing volunteer work—Decides to do something for herself and joins the Docent Council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)—Exposure to art through Monday night art walks on La Cienega Boulevard—Felix Landau—Purchasing her first artworks—Owning an artwork means living with it—Her mother’s enjoyment of fine things—Desire to explore art history—Training to be a docent in Prints & Drawings department at LACMA—Docent experience as one of constant educational development—Her aim of eliciting responses from the audience as a docent—Using art as a way to understand history and to help identify one’s own personal taste.
Living near Beverly Boulevard her whole life in Los Angeles—Buying her first artwork while volunteering at a fundraising event—Visiting art museums in the city—Being convinced to work at Zeitlin & Ver Brugge by a former LACMA docent—Meeting and corresponding with clients at the bookstore—Broad range of artworks at the bookstore—Noticing a correlation between market prices for artworks and political events in history—Learning about artists through her research—Awe at handling artworks and seeing them in her hands—Felix Landau’s influence on her developing taste in art—Visiting other galleries on La Cienega Boulevard—Jake Zeitlin—Allen pushes her to open her own gallery in his old office space on Beverly Boulevard—Leaving Zeitlin & Ver Brugge to help Stephen White run his photography gallery—Stephen White—Different factors that contribute to the market value of an artwork—Opening her own gallery to get back to prints—Tamarind, June Wayne, and Lynton Kistler—Beginning with a base of collectors she had met at Zeitlin & Ver Brugge—Coming across artworks to sell by happenstance—Buying Kistler’s collection after receiving a line of credit—Meeting artists through Helen Lundeberg and Lorser Feitelson—Jules Engel—Lack of interest in selling contemporary art—Remembers feeling agitated about the frequent exclusion of women artists and California artists in books on U.S. art history—Elizabeth Catlett, interest in Latin American art—Observed but did not identify with feminist art movement in the 1970s.
Meeting Lundeberg and Feitelson at Zeitlin & Ver Brugge—Selling their artworks upon Lundeberg’s request—Documenting and organizing the restoration of Lundeberg’s Federal Art Project mural in Inglewood—Helping to form a board for the Feitelson Arts Foundation (FAF)—Looking after Lundeberg towards the end of her life—Being asked to leave FAF board after Lundeberg’s death—Beginning work on Lundeberg’s catalogue raisonné with Donna Stein—Motivated to help Lundeberg for historical reasons—California art from the 1930s on overlooked at the time—Gallery business affected by the economy, especially by that of the studios—Print collectors provide a steady base for her gallery over the years—Running the “Let’s Look at Prints” series as a way to educate collectors and the public—Dealers around the country vying for works by her artists by the late 1990s—Noticing occasional rises in the art market when stock prices are down—Use of a website opens up a whole new arena of exposure—Getting a late start in opening her gallery—More collegial with print dealers than gallery owners representing painters and estates Galleries clustering in neighborhoods across Los Angeles over time—Los Angeles as a peculiar market for art— Lobbying to push the start year of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time (PST) exhibitions to 1945—Limitations of PST—Reasons for opening her own gallery—Building relationships with artists—Gerald Buck’s development as a collector—Ambivalence about entering the market place and becoming a dealer—Devotion to the historical aspects of art, as opposed to networking and building alliances with other gallery owners—Many of the artists had no market when she began representing them—Peter Krasnow—Leonard Edmondson—Ynez Johnston—Art museums in Los Angeles not as supportive of galleries as they could be—Sustaining her gallery an accomplishment in itself—Parting advice from Jake Zeitlin.