Pat Sloan has links to pictures of all the quilts.. they are awe inspiring!
The first thing that Joanna S. Rose said was, “I’m not a collector.”
It was an interesting way to begin a conversation about 651 red-and-white quilts that she has — what? — amassed since the late 1950s.
“We used to say I’m an accumulator,” said Mrs. Rose, who was the longtime chairwoman of Partisan Review magazine, “but I’m a treasure hunter. A collector is always bettering what he has. I only have accumulations of things.”
Six hundred fifty-one quilts: If laid end to end down Park Avenue, they would go from the Park Avenue Armory, between East 66th and East 67th Streets, to at least the old New York Central building at East 46th Street, and probably on into Grand Central Terminal. (They are not all the same length, so this kind of back-of-the-envelope calculation can go only so far.)
It turns out that Mrs. Rose has never seen them all at once. But now she will, and so will lots of other people. From Friday through Wednesday, all 651 will be displayed, not stretched down the avenue but inside the armory. The exhibition — note that word — is coordinated by the American Folk Art Museum. Clearly, Mrs. Rose had a hand in the preparations, from interviewing design firms that could hang the quilts in the armory to writing part of the full-color brochure. Only once in the brochure is there a mention of “Mrs. Rose’s collection,” and not in the part she wrote.
The brochure refers to only 650 quilts. No. 651 made it into the exhibition when Mrs. Rose looked at the design for the display and said, “You’re missing a quilt.” She was thinking of a favorite that bears the Lord’s Prayer. There was a search. It turned up in a closet.
And it was Mrs. Rose who suggested the title of the exhibition: “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts.” She said the inspiration was a line from Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra”:
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety …
So the quilts’ appeal is that they have retained their “infinite variety.” They have not turned “stale” with age.
The armory display was a birthday present for, and from, Mrs. Rose, who turned 80 several months ago. “My husband asked me what I wanted,” she said, referring to her husband, Daniel, the chairman of Rose Associates, a real estate development company. “I told him, two things: something I had never seen before, and a gift for New York City. I thought, one thing I’ve never seen is these quilts all at once.”
Mrs. Rose said she had no idea she had so many. “Someone asked, and I said, ‘Maybe