Published: May 29, 2001
The International Fine Art Fair
By Carol Sims
NEW YORK CITY- The packers had their work cut out for them at the eighth annual International Fine Art Fair that was held May 11 through 15 at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue at 67th Street. Much of the over half billion dollars worth of art had to be shipped to new addresses. The fair had an excellent year, with several million-dollar sales consummated during its six-day run.
”The International Fine Art Fair has a very consistent, strong group of attendees year after year. The exceptional art, the strict vetting process and the international reputation of the dealers attracts collectors, museum curators, museum patrons and others who appreciate, understand and have the potential to purchase this level of work,” said Anna Haughton, who together with her husband Brian, directs the fair. ”Many dealers told us that clients came back to the fair two or three times during the six days to look at a particular piece or to review a few,” she continued.
The International Fine Art Fair featured art from six centuries, Renaissance through modern masters, so it is logical the honorary vetting committee was comprised of experts from many different periods: Old Masters, Impressionism, Modern, American paintings, sculpture etc. This year, Alan Salz, director of Didier Aaron Inc, New York City, chaired the honorary vetting committee, which included museum curators. As discretion is part of vetting, one museum curator simply stated that ”there were no surprises.”
The opening night preview party was held Thursday, May 10 with a sweltering crowd. The preview benefited Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, the oldest and largest social services agency on Manhattan’s East Side. According to show promoters, over 1,100 guests came for cocktails and then 340 dined in the Armory at tables whose elaborate decorations were inspired by works of art in the fair. Fantastic, whimsical tables were designed by major retailers from New York City. The preview raised over $780,000 for the charity, and brought in opening-night buyers for dozens of paintings and drawings.
”Big and small sales were made from the first hours of the opening preview through to the last moments before closing. Over the next few months I am sure we will hear about more sales that were initiated at this fair,” said Anna Haughton.
The only unhappy murmurs came from uncomfortably warm dealers, mostly men in jackets and ties, who were having a hard time dealing with unseasonably high temperatures, albeit with smiles. The Armory exhaust fan, when it did kick on, was noticeably loud.
”Holding a Fair in NYC, in May, is tricky in regards to the need for air-conditioning. We had unseasonably hot weather at the start of the week and then unseasonably cool weather by the close. We are researching the costs and equipment needs to bring air-conditioning into the Armory and then we will discuss this with our dealers. To our recollection, in eight years, there was only one other International Fine Art Fair that became this warm,” said Anna Haughton after the fair. In spite of being uncomfortable, the heat did not interfere with the civilized congeniality of the dealers and patrons.
Every detail of the fair exuded quality, from the catalogue, to the substantive signage for every art dealer (on wooden panels) to the gorgeous blooms that reminded one of the beautiful floral displays one sees at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, only better. On Friday morning before the show opened, the florists were still fine-tuning the flowers, having worked all through the night.
Another boon to visitors was the loan exhibition at the center of the Armory floor. In case you forgot that the dealers were offering museum quality art, the loan exhibition for the John and Mable Ringling Museum served as a handy standard.
According to Dr Mitchell Merling, curator and specialist in Old Masters, the museum would have loved to showcase its highly regarded paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, but their enormous size was prohibitive. Instead, Suzanne Stratton-Pruitt curated ”Heroines and Temptresses: Paintings from the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.” The exhibition had six substantial paintings showing women as heroines (there were two versions of ”Judith with the head of Holofernes”) and, you guessed it, temptresses. The large dramatic painting by Robert Henri of the infamous dancer Salome, was the most overt of the temptresses, the others being much more demure and virtuous. To include the Henri was a nice nod to American painting.
Understandably, the majority of the 64 dealers brought European art. There were about seven or eight dealers displaying Nineteenth and Twentieth Century American paintings in their stands. Probably not a bad representation, considering the historic parameters of the fair. Thomas Colville Fine Art, New Haven, Conn, had several fine examples of American art as well as French Barbizon. Of particular note were two paintings by George Innes that reflected happy summer months spent with his family in the countryside. While the palette was lighter than usual, the Innes sensitivity and brushwork was breathtaking. Hollis Taggart, New York City, had work by Guy Wiggins, Alfred Maurer, Man Ray, William Merritt Chase, Francis Silva, and others. Gerald Peters Gallery had some stunning pieces, including Edward Potthast’s ”Children at the Shore,” and Maurice Prendergast’s ”The Park at Sunset.”
While all of the stands carried a certain image unique to each dealer’s vision, one exhibitor put gargantuan effort into providing a cohesive exhibition on a theme. Peter Nahum of the Leicester Galleries, of London, mounted a major exhibition entitled ”Pre-Raphaelite. Symbolist. Visionary.” He showed 70 emotive and somewhat mysterious paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Nahum explained, “We chose to put on a show of thoughtful, but not decorative paintings for which we have received the highest praise.” The effort paid off. He sold the centerpiece of his show ”A Portrait of a Girl” (Sophie Gray) by Sir Everett Millais to a private collector for his new wife. The asking price was $2.5 million dollars. Among other works, he also sold ”Les Oceanides,” an oil on canvas by Gustave Doré that was selected for the cover of the fair catalogue.
”This is a very good fair for us because of the mixture of academicians, top collectors, and those members of our own field [who visited],” said Nahum.
Mallett Gallery, of London, reported a record number of visitors to see their pair of J.M.W. Turners, two atmospheric paintings of Venice that were first exhibited in 1846 at the Royal Academy. Several museums sent representatives to see them. ”Going to the Ball (San Martino),” and ”Returning from the Ball (St. Martha),” were given the entire stand. Mallett will put them on exhibit in London beginning June 11. Priced at $30 million for the pair, they are the only pair of Venetian pictures not already in public collections.
Nearly all of the 64 dealers had some sort of institutional activity– certainly lookers if not buyers. Museum acquisitions can take months if not years to finalize. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Morgan Library, Cleveland Museum of Art, The Chicago Institute of Art, The Frick, The Guggenheim Museum, The Cooper Hewitt, The Dahesh Museum, The Fine Arts Museum of Boston, Princeton Art Museum, Goethe Institute, J. Paul Getty Museum, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum of Fine Art Houston, The San Francisco Museum of Art, The Toledo Museum of Ohio, The Bruce Museum and Zimmerli Art Museum were all represented, according to show promoters.
The David & Constance Yates Gallery, New York City, sold ”Portrait of a Man” by Louis Süe (1875-1968) to The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s chairman of the department of Twentieth Century art, William Lieberman. The oil on canvas is a portrait of the French composer Claude Terrasse. The Metropolitan already owns a portrait of the composer’s family by the same artist. The Yateses also sold a cast bronze by Antoine Bourdelle entitled ”Autoportrait sans bras,” 1908, to Denis Cate the director of The Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University. A New York museum purchased a very important German drawing from Katrin Bellinger-Kunsthandel, of Munich, Germany.
There were many spectacular pieces at the fair. Old Master drawings, lovely and accomplished, flourished throughout the Armory. It also was a good year to shop for Matisse drawings (Beadleston Galleries, Mac Connal-Mason, and Galerie Hopkins Custot all had good examples); Corot paintings (Richard Green, Jill Newhouse); Brueghel (De Jonckheere, Richard Green); Bonnard paintings and drawings (Galerie Schmit had a lovely painting- ”Nature Morte au plat de faience”, Galerie Pierre Levy had ”Nu debout de profil,” Jill Newhouse- a charming little watercolor of a man walking his dog), Monet (Galerie Cazeau-Beraudiere had a boldly colored scene of a sun setting over the water ”Couchet de Soleil”); Rosetti (Peter Nahum), Dubuffet (Galerie Fabien Boulakia), anything ”van something,” (Rafael Valls Ltd, Daphne Alazraki, De Jonckheere, Salomon Lilian). gilded age art could be found at Mark Murray’s stand. He had paintings by Lord Edwin Weeks, Jean Leon Gerome and Frederic Arthur Bridgman. And on and on….
In short, it was pretty hard not to spend several hours browsing through the displays. It would be a real treat with bottomless pockets.
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