Musical Ear, Artistic Eye

Works from the Collection of Seymour Stein

Seymour Stein is co-founder and Chairman of Sire Records, one of the world’s most influential record labels and home to some of the most iconic artists in modern music. He has been Sire’s driving visionary and creative force since its origins in the 1960s as an independent label and its four-decade tenure as part of Warner Music Group. His unique ability to anticipate musical trends, and to discover and sign the greatest artists within those movements, has left an indelible mark on contemporary culture. 

It was in 1955, when he was just 13 years old, that Stein was granted access to the Billboard archives, where he painstakingly transcribed two decades of charts, developing his encyclopedic memory of songs. After high school, he joined the Billboard staff, then worked for King Records and Red Bird Records. He and producer Richard Gottehrer launched Sire Records in 1967. 

Stein and Madonna at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, 1996

Stein first saw the Ramones in 1975 and, as he said, “It was like sticking my hand in a live electric light socket.” The band’s first album was released by Sire in 1976. It remains one of the seminal recordings in rock and roll history. Stein put New Wave music – a term he coined – on the mainstream map with the likes of Talking Heads and the Pretenders. And in a moment that has become a permanent part of music industry lore, Stein signed a young artist named Madonna while he was in the hospital recuperating from a heart infection. Over the years, Sire’s roster has included other cutting-edge artists such as Tom Tom Club, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, k.d. lang, Seal, Everything But The Girl, Aztec Camera, Dinosaur Jr., Wilco, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Aphex Twin, Spacehog, Regina Spektor, Tegan & Sara, and many more. Stein was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

In addition to his myriad musical pursuits, Stein developed an impeccable eye for fine and decorative art. His particular love for Art Deco and Art Nouveau design began during his many trips to London and Paris while on the hunt for new bands to sign. With the guidance of his long-time curator and adviser Rodney Richardson, Stein procured only the best examples of ceramics, paintings, drawings, and furniture he could find. We are thrilled to present works from his extraordinary collection and are grateful to him and Rodney for their help, warmth, and good humor.

Pavel Tchelitchew 1898–1957

Born in Russia to an aristocratic family, Pavel Tchelitchew expressed interest in art and ballet from a young age. He studied under Russian painter and designer Aleksandra Ekster at the Kiev Academy and, after graduating, moved on to designing and building theater sets in Odessa and Berlin in the early 1920s. It was in 1923, when he moved to Paris and became acquainted with Gertrude Stein and her circle, that his career truly began to develop. Tchelitchew’s particular interest in combining painting, film, and dance led him to collaborate with choreographer George Balanchine, stage designer Sergei Diaghilev, and British poet Edith Sitwell (with whom he developed a long-standing, close friendship).

Tchelitchew’s work was first shown, along with other artists, at the newly opened Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1930. He moved there several years later with his partner, writer Charles Henri Ford, where he continued to work with Balanchine and met his greatest patron, Lincoln Kirstein. Throughout the 1940s he contributed illustrations to the Surrealist magazine View. Tchelitchew’s style evolved throughout his career, beginning with Constructivist and Futurist influences early on to Neo-romanticism and eventually including elements of surrealism and fantasy.

Though he became a United States citizen in 1952, Tchelitchew spent most of his life in Italy from 1949 onward, dying there in 1957 with his partner, Ford, by his bedside. Tchelitchew’s work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Auction Results Pavel Tchelitchew