Manhattan to Missouri to Manhattan. Sounds like a Major League baseball double play, doesn’t it. In a nutshell, that’s the 37-year history of the AKC Museum of the Dog, which opens its doors — at 101 Park Ave. — Feb. 8, the outset of Westminster Weekend.
Founded in 1982 in the New York Life Building (51 Madison Ave.), the museum remained there until 1986. A year later it was moved to the historic Jarville House, located in Queeny Park, West St. Louis County, Mo., where it was housed until 2017.
“This is a showcase like no other in honor of our four-legged friends,” says Alan Fausel, AKC director of cultural resources. “Appropriately, our first exhibition is entitled ‘For the Love of All Things Dog,’ which combines selected pieces from AKC’s own collection and that of the museum.”
Returning to Manhattan
So what brought the museum back to New York City?
“It just made sense,” answers Fausel. “Available space in the building in which AKC is headquartered; close proximity to Grand Central Station; the opportunity to draw bigger crowds; added income from admissions; greater exposure in the media and dog-owning public.”
AKC has donated more than $4.5 million since the museum’s inception to ensure its growth.
While the bulk of the institution’s features are historic art, it bridges the time gap with interactive exhibits such as “Find Your Match” and “Meet the Breeds,” designed to appeal to the entire family.
“The dog is an important part of our family units and these hands-on features are aimed to help everyone make an informed decision as to which breed best suits their lifestyle, plus giving them a historical perspective of all breeds and varieties recognized by AKC,” Fausel emphasizes.
After nearly two decades of conducting “Dogs in Art” sales for Doyle New York, followed by Bonhams (2005-2016), a privately owned international auction house, he sees a changing landscape in the field to the focus on the active family dog – with sports like agility, Rally, Barn Hunt, etc., from the early day field hunts in United States and England. Hence the interactive displays showcasing the versatility of the species.
AKC’s collection has a strong focus on dog portraits, with works from noted artists James Ward, Sir Edward Henry Landseer, and John Sargent Noble.
Future Dog Exhibits
Fausel would like to add exhibits centering on the human-animal bond. “I want to have one centering on fashion and dogs. Every year Westminster coincides with Fashion Week in New York. It would be nice to complement that with an exhibit that showcases how dogs were used in fashion and which breeds were fashionable when. I also want to look at Hollywood dogs. Basically, I want to add a little bit of popular culture.”
Other themed future exhibits will feature dog art by women (such as Marguerite Kirmse, Maul Earl, Lucy Dawson, and Diana Thorne), individual breeds, service dogs and those in war. “They will all be designed to show the versatility of the dog,” Fausel says.
Dog art isn’t simply dog art to Fausel. “I have learned to appreciate it more by pausing and trying to see each piece through the artist’s eyes. Each offers a unique perspective when you take time to study it.”
As for acquisitions, AKC has not purchased anything since the move from St. Louis. “We will be very selective and concentrate on breeds that are underrepresented in the collection. Also, we may want to look at works by Continental European artists, as most of our collection is focused on works by British and American artists.”
Who is Alan Fausel?
The museum’s operation is headed by Fausel, who works with a board (prominent breeders and fanciers) of up to 19 members, which votes on policy. That membership will be changing, however, since several are from facility’s former home area, St. Louis.
Prior to joining the AKC in February 2018 and while at Bonham’s, Fausel organized an annual sale of art. “Dogs in Show & Field: The Fine Art Sale,” was held in New York City and scheduled around Westminster festivities. These were major fund-raisers for AKC affiliates.
And just in case you’re wondering: Is he a dog owner? The Montclair, N.J., resident is a lifetime owner and recently lost the family’s 14-year-old English Springer Spaniel. He now owns a young Welsh Springer Spaniel.
Plan Your Visit
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children under 12 and $10 for students, seniors, youth and military veterans. You can also become a museum member for unlimited admission and more. There is one exception to that schedule: The museum will be open Monday, Feb. 11 for the many Westminster visitors in town.