By Chris Miller
Sixty years ago, Abby Weed Grey began traveling to Iran, Turkey and northern India to collect art. A childless, recently widowed St. Paul housewife, she used her late husband’s small fortune to establish a foundation for “the encouragement of art through the assembling of international collections of art for cultural exchange programs.” Such a project may have been inspired by the tours of “New American Paintings” throughout Europe, sponsored by the CIA in the late 1950s. She focused on Middle Eastern artists who were “breaking with the past to cope with the present,” much like modern artists in Europe and America had been doing for half a century. It does not appear that she had any aesthetic or ideological requirements—except that, like the mainstream art world of her day and ours, she must have considered beauty, naturalism and idealism to be outdated relics from another era.