Les Amis de Beauford Delaney is partnering with the Wells International Foundation (WIF) to create a video documentary of the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition!

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jean-Loup Msika's Friendship with Beauford - Part 2

Painter/sculptor/architect Jean-Loup Msika met Beauford for the first time at La Coupole. It was during the late 1960s, when Msika was working as an assistant for Hungarian-born sculptor/painter Anton Prinner (née Anna Prinner).

After a day's work, Msika and Prinner would make their way from Prinner's studio on rue Pernety to the famous Montparnasse café to have a drink. Prinner had a regular table at the entrance and ate a hamburger every evening while "holding court" with several artists. Beauford would sometimes attend these gatherings.


Msika remembers La Coupole as being a place where you were expected to dine and that it was fairly costly. For that reason, he would often go to the Select for a drink. He said he frequently saw Beauford at the Select.

Having often heard people say that Beauford's paintings were marvelous, Msika and another painter friend, Loulou Taÿeb, were thrilled when Beauford invited them to visit his studio on rue Vercingétorix.  They happily accepted his invitation.

Msika remembers that Beauford's studio was located up several flights of stairs (he believes there were four of them) and that everything inside was covered with white cloth. He said Beauford painted in the main room of the studio and described the studio as being full of light:

Beauford was about LIGHT. It was a spiritual thing about light being a symbol of purity and elevation - spiritual elevation.

He and Taÿeb were amazed by Beauford's work, particularly the portrait of Marian Anderson and other portraits of his friends.

Subsequently, Msika and Beauford would cross paths on the streets of Montparnasse in the evenings. He said Beauford was often on his way to meet friends and he felt that Beauford was lonely at his studio.

Beauford at his rue Vercingétorix studio
Screenshot from Henry Miller vu par ses amis

At this time, Msika, his wife, Albine (who is also a sculptor and painter), and their daughter lived on rue de la Bidassoa in the 20th arrondissement. Beauford visited them there and they would read poetry together and cook pasta "al' dente." Msika didn't believe that Beauford ate very well at home - he remembers seeing Beauford consuming only bananas, apples, chocolate, bread, and milk at his studio. He said Beauford was always grateful when he was invited out to dinner.

During one visit to the rue Vercingétorix studio, Msika remembers seeing a stack of 78 rpm records made by Henry Miller. Miller had offered them to Beauford - Msika described them as being "marvelous recordings of Miller's voice, reading his own writings, poems, stories, etc..."

Beauford told Msika that he had never heard the recordings before, so Msika purchased a phonograph for Beauford. He and Beauford listened to a few of the recordings together and Beauford was pleased. On his next visit to the studio, Msika observed that the phonograph had "disappeared under white linen."

In 1971, Beauford invited Msika to purchase a 25 F (25 figure) canvas so he could paint Msika's portrait. Msika purchased the canvas at an art supply store near or on rue Vercingétorix. He sat for the portrait twice at Beauford's studio and then let Beauford work on it for a while.

When it was completed, Msika found it to be a fine work and asked whether he could purchase it. Beauford agreed. Msika owns the portrait to this day.

Jean-Loup Msika and his portrait
Portrait: © Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Image: © Discover Paris!

Portrait of Jean-Loup Msika (detail)
(1971) Oil on canvas
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator
Image courtesy of Jean-Loup Msika

Msika explained that Beauford was a brilliant colorist and said that only a master could succeed in using a combination of acid greens, blues, and purples in a single work. He compared Beauford's genius to that of Matisse and Bonnard, and mentioned that Beauford loved the work of Bonnard.

Loulou Taÿeb was just as impressed with Beauford's work as Msika. He painted a portrait of Beauford for which he used a textured yellow background that Msika described as "Beauford's yellow." Msika says Taÿeb has depicted Beauford in front of one of Beauford's own paintings.

This portrait was part of an exhibition called Les Lumineux - the people who radiate light. It is one of two works that Msika purchased.

Loulou Taÿeb
Portrait of Beauford Delaney
(Undated) Oil on canvas
Portrait: © Loulou Taÿeb
Image: © Discover Paris!

Beauford gave Msika confidence as an artist, making him understand that there was more to art than technique. He told Msika that "art is difficult" but that if it comes from the heart, you can succeed. (See Jean-Loup Msika at work at a 1985 art installation here.)

I asked Msika about his best memories of Beauford. He replied that Beauford had a great sense of humor and would turn everything into a good laugh. He said Beauford had a "metaphysical laugh."

To sum it all up, he said that his favorite memories of Beauford are:
- his studio
- his smile
- his marvelous paintings.

Jean-Loup Msika (second from left) and Loulou Taÿeb
(third from left) at
Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition
© Discover Paris!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jean-Loup Msika's Friendship with Beauford - Part 1

Jean-Loup Msika is a French artist and architect who was a friend of Beauford. We first met at the celebration of Beauford's life in Paris that was held during the Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition at Columbia Global Centers | Paris - Reid Hall on February 21, 2016. During that event, he spoke passionately about his relationship with Beauford and the interactions he had with close friends of Beauford at the time Beauford was permanently admitted to Sainte-Anne's Hospital.

Jean-Loup Msika at the celebration of Beauford's life in Paris
© Discover Paris!

Many in the audience were touched by his statements and I asked him whether he would grant me an interview to learn more about what he shared that day. Shortly thereafter, he invited me to his home at the Cité Fleurie - an artist's colony in the 13th arrondissement - and elaborated on the story that he told at Reid Hall.

Cité Fleurie
© Discover Paris!

Msika told me that in all the time he knew Beauford (they met in the late 1960s), he never saw Beauford in an "altered" mental state. He was surprised to learn that Beauford had such serious health problems and that he had been committed to Sainte-Anne's Hospital. He referred to a passage in Amazing Grace, the biography of Beauford written by David Leeming, which describes him as a "drinking companion" of Beauford (the implication being that Beauford and Msika consumed alcohol together). The book states that, according to one story, a man named Barry Tompkins and Msika persuaded Beauford's doctor to release him into their care, and that according to another story, the two men managed to "sneak him out of the hospital on the floor of a taxi."

The account goes on to say that when Tompkins and Msika realized how sick Beauford really was, they took him to Hôpital Cochin and had him placed in the geriatrics ward.

Hôpital Cochin - main entrance
© Discover Paris!

Msika emphatically denied that the only thing he and Beauford drank together was coffee and recounted his remembrance of the situation described in Amazing Grace. He said that he and Tompkins asked Beauford's doctors at Sainte-Anne's to allow Beauford to visit them at Cité Fleurie and that the doctors agreed. He and Tompkins took Beauford directly to Msika's home, where they had lunch. Beauford asked for paper and pencil and immediately began sketching "figures, faces, ideas...".

This caused Msika to believe that getting Beauford back to his studio at rue Vercingétorix, where he could be amongst his things and resume painting, would be the most advantageous thing for Beauford's mental health:

He was still creative. That's why I thought that the best medicine would be for him to go back to his environment. Unfortunately, it was lost to him.

He and Tompkins subsequently took Beauford to Hôpital Cochin to get a second opinion on Beauford's case and the hospital admitted him. When they returned the following day, they discovered that Hôpital Cochin had sent Beauford back to Sainte-Anne Hospital.

Msika said that after Beauford returned to Sainte-Anne's, he went to see Darthea Speyer to express his concerns. He says she dismissed him, saying that she "did not have to talk to him."

Beauford and Darthea Speyer at the American Cultural Center
Printed with permission from the U.S. Embassy in Paris

Msika recounted that he and James Baldwin met at Sainte-Anne Hospital at the time that the photograph below was taken.

Beauford and Baldwin, 1976
Photo by Max Petrus

He said he gave Baldwin his name and address and told him

...everything about me. He [Baldwin] told me nothing about himself and what he was doing [with Beauford].

He said that Baldwin's attitude toward him was one of arrogance.

Msika said that Baldwin and Bernard Hassell came to see him at Cité Fleurie and told him not to interfere with Beauford. They did not mention that Beauford's paintings had been moved from rue Vercingétorix to another Paris apartment and that Beauford could have gone there (Msika only learned this years later from reading the Leeming biography).  Had they done so, Msika said he would have encouraged them to allow Beauford to go to the apartment to see his paintings and try to reestablish a connection with his life as an artist.

Msika felt that remaining in the hospital would be a death sentence for Beauford. To this day, he believes that Beauford "let himself die."

Msika also spoke about the "Committee to Save Beauford Delaney" that is described in Amazing Grace. The biography's account suggests that the members of this group of between 12-15 persons - mostly painters and sculptors - who met at Cité Fleurie were less than "genuinely and seriously concerned with Beauford's welfare." Msika said some of them knew Beauford and others became involved in the group after reading about Beauford's condition in the press. All of them believed that Beauford to deteriorate at Sainte-Anne's, that he would increasingly depressed and amnesic. They wanted to find a way to help Beauford reconnect to his art and his life in Montparnasse.

Amazing Grace book cover

Baldwin informed Msika and the others that he was legally responsible for Beauford and advised them not to implicate themselves in the situation. Msika responded that this was "not a question of legality, but a question of life."

What Msika wanted for Beauford was to have him moved to a retired artist's home where he could have a small studio, easels, etc. and continue to work. He felt that a nurse could have been hired to care for Beauford at that studio. He understood that hospitalization might have been necessary for crisis periods, but believed that Beauford should have been able to return to a home environment when those crises passed. He felt that Beauford was not given the chance to reconnect with his artist's life.

Msika said that award-winning actress Simone Signoret got involved in the affair on Baldwin's behalf, inviting Msika to her apartment to tell him that Baldwin was her friend and that Msika had no right to oppose Baldwin's actions in any way. Msika responded that he and the group had nothing against Baldwin - they were only concerned about Beauford and disagreed with what Baldwin was doing. Given Signoret's political leanings toward Stalin, he dismissed her admonition.

Simone Signoret accepting the 1960 Oscar for Best Actress in Room at the Top
Screenshot from YouTube video

During the course of our interview, Msika repeated many times that he believed what Baldwin was doing was illegal. He said that when someone is in the hospital, nobody can legally touch their home and their belongings and believed that:

As long as there is a breath of life in this man [Beauford], he has to be able to go back home.

He therefore discounted Baldwin's statements about being legally responsible for Beauford.

Msika said that Speyer, Baldwin, and Hassell's* attitude and unwillingness to communicate about Beauford led Msika and others to be suspicious of their motives. He thought they would be eager to inform persons who cared about Beauford of what they were planning, but instead, they rebuffed those concerned. This is what engendered all the subsequent events described above.

Msika noted that "a lot of evil in the world comes from a lack of communication." He feels that he was ungraciously portrayed in the Leeming biography as a result of bad faith.


*Darthea Speyer, James Baldwin, and Bernard Hassell were members of the tutelle that the French government formed to look after Beauford's affairs while he was at Sainte-Anne's Hospital.



Saturday, July 16, 2016

Presenting Beauford at Paris Lit Up


Les Amis de Beauford Delaney and the Wells International Foundation stand in solidarity with the families and friends of the victims of the Bastille Day massacre in Nice and with all whose lives have been touched by the atrocities of terrorism.

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Paris Lit Up (PLU) is a literary and artistic community in Paris that runs workshops, publishes books, promotes projects, hosts writing residencies and organizes spoken word and other events. It operates out of the Culture Rapide cabaret in the Belleville quarter of the 20th arrondissement.

Culture Rapide - façade
© Discover Paris!

Several months ago, co-host and editor Emily Ruck Keene extended an invitation to me to be a featured speaker for PLU's Open Mic night. She wanted me to share my knowledge of black history, culture and contemporary life in Paris with PLU's audience and invited to select any topic that suited my fancy. Because of the tremendous reception that my presentation received at the Links National Assembly in Las Vegas, I thought it only natural to talk about Beauford and the Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition.

We settled on July 14 (Bastille Day) as the date for my presentation.

The audience was delightfully eclectic that evening! Among those present were a software engineer, an art historian, and a "poet for hire."

I took the stage after watching several masterful recitations of poetry and prose, including a poem about Ferguson written by WIF intern and National Student Poet 2013-2014, Sojourner Ahébée. (Ahébée took a guided tour of Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color in February 2016 and requested to be considered for an internship as a result of what she saw and felt during that visit.)

Sojourner Ahébée recites a poem
© Discover Paris!

Part 1 of my talk focused on the story behind the founding of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney. The audience was captivated by the story of how I came to discover Beauford's gravesite and the work that Les Amis did to place a tombstone there. I explained how the non-profit's mission to organize educational and commemorative events in Beauford's honor and call the attention of the press to his artistic accomplishments led to the organization of the exhibition. I also spoke about study abroad and STEAM, both of which were important components of the exhibition.

Monique on stage
© Discover Paris!

Part 2 of my talk focused on the Augmented Reality project. Because of PLU's focus on literary and performing arts, I decided to devote a good part of this section to the spoken word videos that rapper and spoken word artist Mike Ladd contributed to the University of Arizona Augmented Reality project.

Mike Ladd being videoed for Augmented Reality project
© Discover Paris!

While I spoke, Keene downloaded the app to test it on several images in the exhibition catalog. She excitedly reported that she was able to access them all!

Following my presentation, more attendees took the stage to recite their poetry. Then, we left the cabaret and spilled into the street to watch the holiday fireworks display.

Bastille Day fireworks
© Discover Paris!

We ended the evening at around midnight. Both the poetry recitals and the fireworks were truly inspiring!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Presenting Beauford at the Links National Assembly

On Friday, July 1, I had the honor and pleasure of presenting Beauford and the Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition at the Links National Assembly in Las Vegas.

During the fundraising campaign that took place prior to the exhibition, Rita Henderson, National Chairperson for the Arts facet of The Links Incorporated, organized the Links' contribution to the show. The organization's logo appears in the catalog in the section devoted to sponsors.


At that time, Chairperson Henderson approached me about speaking at a program workshop for the Links National Assembly. She said that the Delaney exhibition would be the perfect topic for the session that she was organizing with two other persons who were responsible for the program: Susan Coleman-Parks, Co-Director of the Arts facet, and Joan Prince, National Chair of the International Trends and Services facet. The name of the workshop would be "Make the Connection: International Trends and the Arts as a Global Force for Peace, Friendship, and Healing."

An excerpt from the description for the workshop read as follows:
Experience how we leveraged our Linking with Jamaica initiative through a spotlight on chapter programming in Jamaican communities. Engage with the founder and CEO of a nonprofit, international arts foundation and learn how The Links, Incorporated joined forces to preserve the legacy of the late Beauford Delaney, a Paris expatriate who moved there in 1953 and died there in 1979.
500 persons registered to attend.

Make the Connection workshop sign
© Wells International Foundation

Susan Coleman-Parks, Joan Prince, and Rita Henderson
© Wells International Foundation

During the workshop, I spoke for about 10 minutes, talking about Beauford and citing the founding of Les Amis de Beauford Delaney as the catalyst for organizing the Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition as the inaugural event for the Wells International Foundation.

Monique at the podium
© Wells International Foundation

I presented the highlights of the educational programming for the exhibition: the University of Arizona Augmented Reality project, the Global Educator Program, and the Blippar app, and invited attendees to come to my table after my talk to see the app in action.

Signs on table
© Wells International Foundation

The reception was overwhelmingly positive! A steady stream of attendees came over to the table to purchase catalogs and see the app in action. And six people gave me their names and contact information so we can communicate about exploring the possibility of bringing the exhibition to a museum in their city!

Monique and Link Stalfana Bello
© Wells International Foundation

I've already begun following up with these ladies and will share any positive news in future blog posts.