Spencer Finch: Lux and Lumen | Hill Art Foundation

“Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” claims the gospel of Matthew. But the Hill Art Foundation gives it a good go. This small gallery is owned by hedge fund billionaire J. Tomlinson Hill, and is currently hosting a beautiful bringing-together of a Renaissance stained glass window and various stained glass installations from contemporary artist Spencer Finch.

The Creation and the Expulsion from Paradise was completed by Valentin Bousch in 1533, and has most recently been a prize possession of rich American collectors: it used to be installed above William Randolph Hearst’s fireplace, according to the show notes. Now it belongs to Hill.

Spencer Finch ‘Painting Air’ (installation view)

In its new temporary home, Bousch’s (or should that be Hill’s?) illuminated Adam and Eve, his God the Father and Holy dove, all gaze out on Finch’s main installation, entitled Painting Air: perfect squares of clear glass, suspended from the ceiling by a cats cradle of wires and overlooked by a chatty guard who wished to make very sure visitors weren’t wearing backpacks before getting into range. The show must have been a nightmare to install and maintain, in other words.

It’s worth it. Reflections and colours drift across the clear glass panes: from the bold colour fields on the gallery walls, from the spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking 10th Avenue, and from the 500-year-old billionaire-coveted stained glass in the corner. It’s one of the most breathtaking things I’ve seen.

“Sometimes the light is magical in New York,” Finch said in an interview. “It will just feel like - maybe this is a sort of sacred light… And then it passes. You then get back on the subway and you have some horrible experience. But for a moment, it feels like a magical, wonderful place. It’s almost the Holy Spirit entering you or something.”

A feeling that’s reflected in the show’s title. Lux means natural light, Lumen is sacred light. Through art, the former may be transmuted into the latter, like water into wine. Equally, hedge fund money can buy - or fund - great art, which in turn allows others to gain, briefly, free transcendence. A process that might not be sacred in Biblical terms, but yields undeniable benefits, whatever your beliefs.

Spencer Finch: Lux and Lumen is at Hill Art Foundation (New York City). 16 September - 04 March 2023