Vida Lautner

Distribution of paintings

Archive ideas:


  • September 2, 2017 Mary received 7 boxes of Vida's paintings. They will be stored at 3550 Bryant Street Palo Alto CA for the short term.

Tracking Status/distributioin

  • Could print out a full set of the paintings from the PDF file. $119.90 at Kinko's for Black and White or $659.00 for full color, double-sided, three hole punched (Palo Alto prices)

June 4

Mary's responses to Jim's email to Steve, Judy, Jim:

ML: I am assuming, not having heard any pushback, that the four of us are Jim, Mary, Steve, Judy.

I am really OK with using the VL2014.80 Record Number. I agree; the DeVos selection should be handled separately.

I would suggest we start with the DeVos collection. I think each of us should note if there are any paintings that we really really want (and we have not found anything comparable in the full collection.) I would suggest that by the end of June each one of us has spent enough time with the DeVos choices and with the remaining collection to identify any treasured paintings we would like to keep that are currently in the DeVos collection.

Then I suggest we send that list to the four of us. Let’s discuss. If it’s three paintings from four of us, then maybe we are done. If there are a lot more, we may have a problem, as, to your very good point, Jim, these folks have spent an inordinate amount of time caring for this collection and I fully support their coming away with a very nice subset.

I like starting with the number 10. Steve, Judy, Jim, Mary each choose 10 and use the Record Number for your choice. (By the way, you can search on a term in PDF, so if you want to see what the painting looks like, simply search for the Record number, such as VL2011.02)

I would rather we try *not* to choose a painting from the DeVos collection unless we absolutely love it. If we can find a suitable substitute in the remaining collection, I would advise we do that to honor the DeVos Museum contribution.

I would go for something like 2. If there are two of us, we can talk to each other. If there are three of us, then let’s figure out how many paintings are in that category first. For example, if three of us select three of the same paintings, that becomes almost easier. We each get one. Talk to each other about which one that would be.

Well there is money to ship the paintings to me.

I honestly do not think we will be far enough along to include all of your kids, because that would mean that all of our kids would have to have given us their choices and if there were duplicate requests all of those duplications would be vetted. I don’t think we can move that fast. And that was your first point, in your first paragraph. :-)

But I promise you to be faithful and diligent in distributing paintings to the second generation once the choices have been fairly vetted (as long as they are willing to pay shipping and handling!). We have to work out a process first that’s fairly clear. I don’t think conversations will do it; I think the four of us would need to be the arbiters.

And are you representing Don as a fifth person here in the core? So would you be selecting pictures for yourself and for Don? Slo there really would be five first generation members?

Stay Calm.

:-) Mary

Email from Jim to Mary, Steve, Judy
I suggest that we not concern ourselves with the next generation out yet. It will be instructive if we can figure out just how this process will work for the four of us. Perhaps we can “work the bugs out” at this, more contained level, and this may help us when we open up the process to the second layer, second level or however we’re going to characterize the next generation.

The first question that I’ve bumped up against is how to identify a particular painting.

We could use the page numbers of the PDF, which are short, but would require us to make clear which PDF we were referring to.
Or we could use the “cataloguing” number , i.e. VL2014.80. If we do this, we would still need to indicate which collection the painting is from.
This might be more helpful if we are going to think differently about DeVoss paintings versus “family” paintings.

I”m going to suggest, not quite arbitrarily, that we limit ourselves to ten paintings each. Obviously, this is not an exercise in getting to ten choices. If you only want five, only ask for those five. And, of course, once everyone in the family has had a chance to select paintings, if there were an eleventh painting that you wanted and no one took, you would get to have it.

The number could be five or six, or it could be a dozen, or even 20, I suppose. So I’m suggesting a number kind of in the middle, that won’t deny anyone some good choices.

The next question that I have grappled with is how much weight to give the DeVoss folk’s requests. How respectful or deferential should we be to the 112 they’ve requested? They did a tone of work, with the implicit, vague understanding that they would be “compensated’ by being given some unspecified number of paintings. Clearly, Vida’s legacy is best served by providing this museum with enough of her work to be considered a collection, where these paintings will be well cared for and probably provide more exposure than paintings going anywhere else.

I think a hundred or so paintings is probably necessary to accurately reflect the range of her work.

Therefore, I’m inclined to give their requests considerable weight. In light of that, my initial suggestion is to limit our choices from this collection to three paintings per founding member. In other words, for each of us and all of our spawn, we collectively can have three of the DeVoss choices. This leaves them with 100 works. And it gives each "quarter" of the family the opportunity to own three of these. For my part, I’m not even sure I will want to request three from this collection.

Finally, I’ve thought a lot about how to handle the inevitable situation where one or more of us request the same painting. How do we resolve this? I have two possible suggestions, but I’d love to hear of any other approaches.

1. Flip a coin (Don’s suggestion) This has the distinct advantage of being fair, clean, no grey area, no need to negotiate. And, since these are not life or death decisions we’re making here, no one should get too bent out of shape if they lose one particular painting.

2. The other approach I’d like to suggest would be to treat this situation much like a group of four little kids with baseball card collections (or some other collectible). For each painting in question, it becomes a conversation between the two (or possibly three or four) parties. Is there some other painting that both/all parties are asking for, so that one party gets one and one gets the other, according to who wants which one the most? I realize that this could get messy, it invites resentment, rifts, etc. This is why this may not be the best way to go.

Any other ideas on how to handle such a potentially complicated situation?

I’m guessing there are other issues or questions to be resolved regarding this process. Please bring them up so we can address them

Once we have these things all settled and agreed upon, then it comes down to sending each other each other’s lists of requests.

As for the concern about where and how to store the collection, my hope is that we can keep all the paintings at the museum through August. If we can do that, my hope is that Geri and I will be able to get up to Marquette in mid-August and we could collect all the choices for our limited brood—me, Don, my kids, his kids. Once those have been removed from the collection, then it would make good sense to have the remainder shipped to Mary.

Well, hopefully, this at least moves the conversation forward.



June 3

Mary email to Melissa Matuscak Alan cc: Jim, Judy, Steve

June 2

Email to Mary to Jim, Steve, Judy

How should we proceed?

As I said, I am willing to store Vida’s paintings until they find their final homes. I have not gotten any warm fuzzies from any of you that that is/is not a good idea. :-) So please. Tell me no. Tell me you have a better idea. Tell me yes. But please tell me something! :-)

I would suggest that we agree on the paintings the DeVos Museum can keep as soon as possible. Could we all agree by the end of June?

Once that is done, I suggest we receive ALL of the rest of Vida’s paintings and put them in one (1) place. I was thinking of going up to Marquette to pick them up if you agreed to that. Or I was thinking of figuring out how much we would have to pay to pack them safely and ship them insured. Based on a fast quote on the web, I am going to guess shipping would be easily $500.

I then suggest that we continue to move along on our decisions:

1. Agree on the number(s) of paintings each the four of us can take (write to all of us with the number of the paintings);
2. Send the PDF file to the next generation for their decisions (having agreed on how many each person can take)
3. Continue to research places where the paintings can be stored.
a. This could mean breaking up the rest of the collection across several interested museums, for example. And/or
b. Find a safe location to archive them

I just don’t see imposting on the DeVos art museum to spend time finding our choices and mailing them to us. I think we should be doing that.

As I write this up, it’s clear we are going to need some money or some contributions. For example, I would suspect each of you would be fine paying for insured shipping of paintings to your homes. And I would expect the next generations would also be willing to pay for packing, shipping, and insurance.

And if we have to find a controlled archive center, if we think that’s important, then there is certainly a cost to that.

Please let me know your thoughts!


May 17, 2017

Email to Jim, Judy, Steve from Mary

I so appreciate your thoughtful email.

I am more than willing to assume that the paintings are evenly divided between John and Cathleen’s descendants. I don’t think Karol’s will is in any way pertinent to this discussion. And I don’t know of any will from Vida. Yes, John left his items equally to his children (after we all had a discussion of things we would want).

That being said, I agree that any decisions wrt to 1. DeVos Museum’s choices of paintings and 2. the how and why of distribution of the rest of the paintings should be done by:

Jim, Judy, Mary, Don?

Or, because we like representation from each branch of our direct descendants:
1. Steve (because Karol has passed and he has been heavily involved)
? Michelle or Andrea (because Michael has passed. OR we delete them only because they have not been involved in any way in our numerous conversations AND they have not shown any specific interest in participating.
2. Mary
3. Judy

And then your side of the family
4. Jim
? Don - maybe not for the first decisions because he has not been involved either.

I believe the rest of your comments could be considered by our core group, as soon as we figure out who that is.

Then the direct and next direct descendants, to be accurate, would also include Judy’s two daughters.

1. Steve
2. Michelle
3. Andrea
4. Mary
5. Judy
Elaine (Judy’s daughter)
Mary (Judy’s daughter)
6. Jim
7. Brett (Jim’s son)
8. Holly (Jim’s daughter)
9. Don
10. Keith (Don’s son)
11. Sarah Don’s daughter)

I agree: we give each person a chance to opt out. I also would suggest that if they are involved in decisions, we provide a date by which the decision can be made. If we do not hear from them, their vote becomes void. That helps us move along with whatever steps we are going to make.

And my offer to store them has more to do with keeping them safe until they can be safely distributed, not just to store them. But there are a lot of paintings so it will take time to work out distribution.

And I also agree that they should go out into the world in a way that we (the core) think is best. We might want to prioritize the paintings that remain after we have done distribution to the long family list:
1. Get Melissa’s input on her recommendations if any. She might know of art museums. She might know of collectors.
2. Contact art museums
3. Contact MIPCA
4. Contact auction houses

With the understanding that any money received would go into (1) administration - such as cost of mailing paintings to people and then (2) Midgaard and 1308.

All the best,


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