Doerte Neudert’s Art Cabinet -Fall 2014
by: Lindsay Pykosz
photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger
Island art dealer and artist Doerte Neudert gazes across the dining-room table of her Dukes Road home, reminiscing about her life. She says out loud the words above, and they are, in essence, the motto of her life that she has been closely fol- lowing for more than 20 years.
Where Neudert is now is a far cry from where she was when her life in the art world began. Growing up in Germany during World War II, Neudert’s exposure to art was limited.
She grew up a refugee, poor in a family of five with no father figure in her life. “I did not talk to my father once in my life,” she said.
Neudert moved west at the end of April when the war was over. Her family had very little in the way of material things, and she remembered being around 10 years old, walking to the train station and carrying back charcoal for her mother.
“We were not respected in society,” Neudert said. “It was like I was giving her gold. I gave her something.”
After escaping the country, she went to Paris at 19 where she studied English, French and Spanish, and had the opportunity to see the art world in a light she had never experienced before.
She was married to an art professor for 30 years. She called him kind and nice, but the two eventually reached a point where they could no longer be together. They divorced when she was in her mid-50s, an experience that devastated her, but she later turned that devastation into determination, moved to Nantucket and started a small art gallery with just $2,000 to her name.
“In this country I learned to speak,” Neudert said of finding her voice and inner strength. “I came (to Nantucket) in 1990, but only for a summer because I had a German girlfriend who said, ‘Why don’t you cry on Nantucket?’ I had been 30 years
married, five years separated at that time. I traveled the world with a day pack.” On the corner of Broad and Federal streets, Neudert sold and framed prints for $6 an hour. She lived in a space with just a bed and a chair. It had no refrigerator, she was not allowed to cook or bring anyone into the house, and she ate most of
her meals on a bench. But she still felt fortunate.
“I thought it was paradise because I earned a little money and I thought everyone
was kind to me. I didn’t think it was so bad. I remember life when it was so much worse. I was so good, I brought her business and she became a millionaire. I had an eye to frame,” she said of her former boss.
After that summer on Nantucket, she traveled the world for five years learning about herself. But the island eventually called her back because she felt she could start her own business.
Neudert had a space on Union Street for 14 years. She called that her “begin- ning.” She eventually opened her own gallery Art Cabinet Nantucket, which moved to India Street, but has since relocated to her garden studio on Dukes Road. The space is filled with paintings, sculptures and above all else, energy.
“I don’t sell a sculpture or a painting, I sell energy,” she said. “It has to be fulfilling to the roots for people who are curious. When you are curious, you are active. Cu- riosity, activity, creativity. Curiosity comes to creativity which is all about people falling in love and seeing the spiritual process of creativity.”
Neudert is respected by many art collectors for her keen eye and passionate ded- ication, including Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who has purchased more than 100 paintings from her. Part of the joy in what she does comes from spread- ing the creativity that is layered in each of her artists’ work to her clients, she said.
“What my goal is, is to bring somebody something which is color. If it’s just a canvas, it’s nothing. It is that energy that comes through a person who is making it. Creating it, that has to be good enough. But it’s only good enough when they have the courage to be truthful.”
Neudert has a special connection with Nantucket sculptor Billy Sherry. Fifteen years ago, she was able to build her house and find the space to feature her artists’ works. Scattered throughout her garden studio are a collection of Sherry’s large-scale metal sculptures. Some are older pieces purchased by Neudert, which sit as a permanent homage to the artist’s career.
“Billy is an individual and he’s the only one, of course as a sculptor, here on Nantucket who has this capacity, I believe. I don’t know the others,” she said. “I worked really hard for Billy Sherry. Billy is very tal- ented and very ambitious when he’s doing his work, but he’s not wasting his time outside. He only does the best work and I’m grateful.”
Currently, Neudert represents about a dozen artists, all of whom have gravitated to her. They include Petra Amerell, Silvio Cattani, Wilfredo Chiesa, Charlotte Culot, Ben Georgia, Eugene Healy, Roswitha Huber, Joanna Kane, Victor Kraus, Diether Kunerth, Betsy Podlach, Fuller Potter, Sherry, Leo Smigay, John von Wicht and Peter Weber.
She also has a long list of clients who have bought works for thousands of dollars each, and most recently one from Connecticut who purchased a piece for $20,000.
In the last three to four years, Neudert started paint- ing her own pieces, some of which are scattered on her dining-room table. Being an artist was something she had never been able or allowed herself to do until she got divorced, although art is something she has had a talent for since she was younger.
“The time for me is now more precious,” she said. “With all that I went through in my life, I never thought I was important enough to give myself time, and therefore I started to paint because I was not telling my husband that I want to paint, that I had that talent always. I was the best in school. I did not dare tell him. He did not involve me because he could not have a competition next to him.”
Neudert said that, now, she thinks divorce was not the worst thing to happen to her, although it felt like it at the time. It taught her how to “walk on the sunny side of the street,” how to be a survivor and to be cu- rious about all that surrounds her.
“Curiosity – intelligence – is an activity, which leads to creativity, which is spiritual joy, which we all long for,” she said.
Lindsay Pykosz is a Nantucket native and staff writer at The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.