In Memory of
After a long and delightful life, we say goodbye to
and remember Gifford Phillips, who died April 17, 2013, in Palm Desert,
California. Throughout his
life, he touched the lives of many people, and through all of his
endeavors left the world a better place.
We will miss his wisdom and unassuming guidance and will remember
In 1989, with his wife Joann and with wise counsel
from Ohkay Owingeh elder and scholar, Alphonso Ortiz, and writer and
scholar, Edward T. Hall, Gifford founded the Chamiza Foundation with the
intention of supporting programs that would help insure the cultural
continuity of New Mexico’s Pueblo
tribes. Gifford articulated a
vision for the Foundation’s work with
communities. His belief was
tribes offer a culture to be emulated, and one that is very much worth
sustaining. It has been in
this spirit that the work of the foundation was fostered and continues to
be carried out. Gifford and
Joann’s deep involvement in and support of
and Native culture was also evident in their collections of
art that they have donated in part to the
of the American Indian in Santa Fe
and the Heard
The Chamiza Foundation is
nationally renowned for its innovative grant making to
communities which is guided by a board of directors that includes a
members. In 2009, the
foundation’s work was recognized by Resolutions of New Mexico’s House
of Representatives and State Senate. Gifford’s
commitment to the work of the Chamiza Foundation is continued by his wife,
Joann, his son, James and his daughters, Alice Swistel and Marjorie
Gifford Phillips was born June 30, 1918 in Chevy Chase,
Maryland, the son of James Laughlin Phillips and Alice Conyngham Gifford.
His father died suddenly from influenza just four months after his
only son’s birth. Alice
Phillips subsequently remarried to Charles Alfred Johnson. Gifford was raised with his younger brother, Charles Johnson, in
Charlford Castle, a residence south of Denver.
Gifford attended Stanford
University, but transferred to Yale
University, from which he graduated in 1942. In
1949, in a foreshadowing of what would be life-long activism, Gifford
founded Frontier magazine, a liberal West Coast political monthly, with
editor, Phil Kerby after moving to
Los Angeles. Frontier published its
blacklist expose, “The Hollywood Story” by Elizabeth Poe Kerby in
1954. The expose’s
appearance signaled the passing of the “red scare” era.
Gifford published the magazine until 1966 when it was folded into
The Nation magazine. He served
as Associate Publisher of that magazine from 1966 to 1970.
Gifford and Joann Kocher married in 1953, after
having met at a Democratic Party function.
His deep connection to
politics had begun with being Treasurer for Helen Gahagan Douglas’
congressional campaign against Richard Nixon in 1948.
Gifford would serve as a delegate from
to Democratic National Conventions in 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1964.
He was an early supporter of Eugene McCarthy in 1968, co-chairing
campaign with future governor Jerry Brown.
He was an ardent supporter of George McGovern’s presidential
campaign, which eventually earned him a place on President Richard
Nixon’s 1972 ‘enemies list’, much to Gifford’s delight.
During the 1950s, Gifford was a partner in Pardee
Phillips, a real estate corporation that built houses and shopping malls
in southern California
Nevada. However, art and politics
were to always remain at the forefront of his interests.
He and Joann became great friends and supporters of southern
artists including Richard Diebenkorn, Emerson Woelffer, Lee Mullican and
Claire Falkenstien. As
one of Diebenkorn’s earliest patrons, Gifford introduced Diebenkorn’s
figurative paintings to his uncle, Duncan Phillips, founder of the
Phillips Collection in Washington,
Gifford also recommended the
work of Mark Rothko to his uncle leading to the acquisitions that form the
celebrated Rothko Room at the museum.
Gifford was the founding chairman of the Contemporary Art Council
at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1961.
He joined the Board of Trustees of the
in 1966 where he served for four decades including eight years as Chair of
the Painting and Sculpture Committee.
He served on the
Phillips Collection Board for over 30 years, and was a member of the Board
of Governors of the Yale
from 1985 to 1999. Gifford was
also a member of the Mark Rothko Foundation and Trustee and President of
from 1970 to 1974, the period during which that institution would become
the Norton Simon museum and the
setting for the landmark case on the rights of museum donors.
In 1987, Gifford and Joann moved permanently to Santa Fe,
New Mexico, where as previous summer residents, they had been involved in local arts
efforts since 1968. Gifford
chaired the board of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival for several
years, and was an avid art collector, building a collection that included
Impressionism to Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, while also giving
meaningful attention to the preservation of the arts of the Pueblo