In yesterday's Style article on the Forbes Magazine Galleries, the address was stated incorrectly. The correct address is 60 Fifth Ave., New York.
Malcolm Forbes, publishing mogul, sportsman and collector, opened his very own museum here today.
The Forbes Magazine Galleries, covering 8,000 square feet in seven rooms on the ground floor of the Forbes headquarters on 65th Avenue, house an eclectic and personal assortment of toys, jewels, autographs and military paintings, all open for public viewing. Parts of the collection have been seen in the National Geographic museum in Washington and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, but the collection has never before been displayed in its lavish entirety.
The opening of the Forbes museum was graced by Mr. New York Art himself, Andy Warhol, who seemed to say something about Forbes, or himself, or both, when he offered as a museum-warming gift a silk-screen on canvas of a dollar sign.
"With this, I could pay for the reception," said a delighted Forbes.
Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, real estate whiz Donald Trump, actors Cliff Robertson and Dina Merrill, and members of Forbes' family -- his wife Roberta, sons Malcolm Jr., Timothy and Christopher, and daughter Moira -- came to see what it was all about, as did 13-year-old George Lambeth.
Lambeth, like Forbes an avid toy buff, was the guest of honor at the opening reception. He was flown in for the occasion with his parents, Charles and Emily, all the way from Thomasville, N.C., and put up by Forbes at the Plaza. For the past two years the 66-year-old Forbes and his young friend have corresponded.
Lambeth thought Forbes' book "Toy Soldiers," documenting his collection and giving a brief history of the collectibles, was "the coolest book in the land." He sent Forbes a toy Indian, noting in one of his letters that "I saw no Indians in your booklet."
"At first I collected toy soldiers just to play with," Lambeth said at the opening, "then, like Mr. Forbes, I wanted to see how many I could get."
Responded Forbes, "We're on the same level of enthusiasm. Only he's got more of an excuse."
What Lambeth and the other celebrities saw at the Forbes museum were more than 12,000 toy soldiers, primarily 19th-century parade-dress scale models set up as they would have been in Napoleonic wars, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian wars. Wedged between the dioramas are models of historical figures, such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Uncle Sam, Buffalo Bill and G.I. Joe.
As an ingenious part of the display, visitors can turn up in the "land of the counterpane," inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's poem. By placing one's head in a window, the viewer sees himself through mirrors as a sick child lying in bed surrounded by his favorite toys.
In another room, toy boats, including a model of the S.S. Lusitania that Forbes bought at auction for a record $28,600, seem to float on plexiglass mounts behind glass cases.
Another gallery houses jeweled Easter eggs and other gewgaws made by the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Faberge' and the House of Faberge'. Forbes owns 10 jeweled eggs, made for the Romanov family up to 1917 -- as many as the Kremlin. Because Faberge' was considered a decadent tool of the Romanovs by the Soviet government, the Kremlin has been slow on the collecting front.
Historical documents fill yet another gallery. Apart from a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, which Forbes purchased for a record $297,000, an original map of the Mason-Dixon line and the log book from the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, the document rooms contain pieces of interest to few but the Forbeses. One room is devoted to Malcolm Forbes' ill-fated 1957 bid for governor of New Jersey.
Spilling out of another gallery is a vast assortment of more curiosities, including a number of golf and tennis trophies won by Victorian Englishmen and an urn that once held the ashes of Marion Hanbury Stewart, an Englishwoman of no particular distinction. Although it sounds odd, these curiosities have a place in the Forbes collecting scheme, and are meant to "evoke their inglorious descent from priceless prizes to merchandise on the auction block or pawn shop."
No one knows exactly how much the prizes in the gallery or Forbes himself are worth. The Faberge' eggs alone have been estimated at $10 million. Forbes -- whose passions for ballooning, motorcycle racing, spending lots of money and what he calls "his second childhood," which have won him wide press coverage -- is estimated to be worth anywhere from $200 million to $600 million.
J.P. Morgan had his library. Paul Mellon has his shares in the National Gallery. But the Forbes collection, unlike these better known examples, does not fulfil a public trust. The gallery does not maintain a not-for-profit status, and is not especially intended to teach the public about high art or lofty culture.
"We want to share the fun and enjoyment of the collections," Forbes explained. "Collections are no fun if you don't enjoy them. They're not heavy duty, museum-mausoleum type. They're just a reflection of what our family likes. If we go broke, they go back on the auction block."