In Memoriam: Sam Maloof (1916-2009)
May 27, 2009
As I'm writing this quick post so that we can ask those of you who knew Sam Maloof, or just admired his work, to share your stories about him, I'm surprised at how hard it is. I never get star-struck, so it's not that Maloof was considered a rock star of the craft world attracting hundreds of admirers at public events, or that he was the first craft artist to receive a coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship or "genius" grant. But there was something about Sam Maloof that makes him stick with you. It wasn't just that he was kind and generous; there was an energy about him that was truly inspiring.
I worked with Maloof during the summer of 2001, as did many staff members, preparing to open his first retrospective The Furniture of Sam Maloof. The press preview was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, September 11, 2001. We knew something was not right when all the cameramen's cell phones rang at the same time and they started packing their gear. I remember standing quietly with Maloof in the security office at the Renwick Gallery, across the street from the White House, watching the terrible scenes in New York City unfold on TV. So whenever I'm asked "where were you on 9/11?" I think about the vital and positive man Sam Maloof, and the contrast to the events that day is stunning each time.
If you miss him as much as we do at the Museum, re-visit the microsite we created for his retrospective, "Maloof on Maloof." It would be a fitting tribute to this craftsman who connected with so many people — from hobbyists to former U.S. Presidents — to collect stories about how he touched people's lives either in person or through his furniture. So let us know how you remember him.
- Sam Maloof, Furniture, Woodworking, American Craft, Renwick, American Art,
Smithsonian American Art Museum
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