Published: October 30, 2018
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
BOSTON – Bostonians have been spoiled lately. As the Red Sox mounted an unforgiving display in the 2018 World Series, another display captivated the city, if only for three nights – a display that was both purely visual and positively resplendent – as the Boston International Fine Art Show took over the Cyclorama, Boston Center For The Arts, October 18-21. The show featured nearly 40 dealers who exhibited a fast-paced selection of fine art that swayed through the annals of time, from European Old Masters and Massachusetts regional artists to prominent historical American artists, Postwar and Modern art and on up to contemporary artists. There was, indeed, something for all tastes and wallets.
Show managers Tony Fusco and Robert Four were happy with the results. “It was a good show, both in terms of attendance and sales,” Fusco said following the event. “Every day was busy, and it was a steady stream. I don’t think the weather hurt us at all; it was a beautiful weekend.”
The opening gala was underwritten to benefit the Art for Justice Fund, an organization dedicated to addressing criminal justice reform and the problem of mass incarceration in the United States. Fusco estimated that the gala event raised an additional $20,000 for the fund. Philanthropist and art patron Agnes Gund started the organization in 2017 with the sale of Roy Lichtenstein’s 1962 painting “Masterpiece” to hedge fund manager and art collector Steve Cohen for $165 million. Gund used $100 million to seed the fund, with efforts ongoing to raise an additional $100 million. As of now, an additional $16 million has been raised. The fund’s project director, Helena Huang, was on hand to speak at the opening gala about the fund and to extend her thanks for the show’s support.
The diversification of art offerings at this year’s edition was apparent in both micro and macro terms. Macro in the sense that galleries that offer contemporary and Twentieth Century art are making a larger footprint on the show floor. And micro in the trend that even galleries that historically deal in traditional art have begun to expand their offerings with contemporary names on their walls.
Tony Fusco was not surprised.
“We’re promoting contemporary art in a lot of different ways in order to bring in younger buyers and new audiences,” he said. “It’s a change in the whole market. Bob and I, as dealers, are a part of this.” Fusco and Four deal under the name Fusco & Four Modern and exhibit at the fair every year. “This is the first year we had a contemporary artist in our booth, and we got great response to it.”
Gary Bruder’s photography exhibition was a class in honesty and temptation. Ten prints from Bert Stern’s 1962 portfolio “The Last Sitting” with Marilyn Monroe were offered by the New York City dealer. In a pink overtone and featuring the actress in a myriad of poses, the seductive works were a sharp contrast to the group of photographs right beneath them: a series portraying children in a Children’s Theater by Weegee. The series was shot in the dark with an infrared camera and showed the children in excitement and coma – some children huddled together amid the theater seats, others playfully slung across each other and another of a young girl with her eyes half open, falling asleep.
James Stroud from Center Street Studio exhibited monumental woodblock prints by contemporary artist Richard Ryan. Ryan is primarily a painter and got his MFA at Yale. He now teaches at Boston University. “I’ve been printing with Ryan for years,” Stroud said. “The scale of the woodcuts is really unique, with a great deal of intricacy in his carving. When he brought me his first blocks, I said, ‘you’re kidding!’ Luckily, the press was big enough.” Two of Ryan’s works at the show focused on cranes and evoked a sense of Japonisme, as images of cranes often do, but his blue still life print titled “Nine Blue Poppies” was a stand-out on its own.
A number of new acquisitions were on hand at New York City’s Questroyal Fine Art. American artist Will Hickok Low (1853-1932) was on the wall with an oil on canvas painting titled “Montigny-sur-Loing,” which featured a woman with a parasol looking over the plants in her garden. On an opposite wall was Edmund Darch Lewis’s 1881 painting “Cliffs at Newport,” a harbor scene that illuminates two boats at the painting’s center and gradually darkens towards the foreground beach.
It was a first time at the show for New York City dealer Betty Krulik, and she brought with her a number of Twentieth Century American works. “With my first time here, I wanted to give everyone a broad overview of what I handle,” she said. And with that, the dealer brought Hudson River works all the way through the Postwar and neo-expressionism. A large oilstick and charcoal on paper by Jean Michel Basquiat titled “Gesse+” was unique to the show’s offerings. Right next to it was “Kakémono,” an expressive 1971 gouache and ink on paper by Alexander Calder in his signature black, yellow, blue and red colors.
Avery Gallery’s exhibition included a sampling of Boston school artists. This show marked the first time that the gallery brought contemporary pieces, including graphite works by Frank Mujica and a trompe l’oeil painting by Adam Vinson. Richard Rosello, principal, was excited to be showing “Portrait of a Young Woman” by Cecilia Beaux. “It’s the first fully developed painting by her that has appeared on the market in a long time,” he said. On an opposite wall was “Racing Yacht Comet Off New York,” executed in 1879 by Archibald Cary Smith. “Smith was a yachtsman,” Rosello said, bringing the artist’s familiarity with the vessels he painted into focus. The artist was a prolific yacht designer during his life, having designed more than 20 vessels. He was one of the first naval designers to use systematic, calculated drawings in his boat designs, which is now ubiquitous. Builders referenced wooden models before it.
Old Master drawings were on hand from Steven Law and Donald Stroud of Decouvert Fine Art, Rockport, Mass. Among their offerings was a pen and ink study for “Combat de Nazareth” by Antoine-Jean Gros, a battle painting that was commissioned by Napoleon and now hangs in the Musée de Nantes. Law was enthusiastic to show a compositional study from the workshop of Paolo Veronese. The pen, ink and wash showed the bottom half of the Altar of St George in Braida. Law said that he is still researching the work but can be certain it was either by Veronese himself or his brother, Benedetto Caliari.
It was also a first time exhibiting for Ipswich, Mass., gallery Parco Fine Art, which specializes in historic artists of the Cape Ann school and Cape Ann-related artworks. Owner Leonard Parco brought with him works by Emile Gruppe, Harry Vincent and more. A 23¾-by-30-inch oil on canvas by Max Kuehne titled “Gloucester Harbor” was a notable work on display.
William Vareika opened his eponymous Newport, R.I., gallery in 1987 with an exhibition on William Trost Richards, and the dealer has not stopped exhibiting the artist since. “Richards is the only Hudson River School artist who was a ten in both painting and watercolor,” he said. “And he was also a master draftsman.” One of Richards’ paintings in Vareika’s exhibition, “A View on the East Coast of Conanicut Island, Rhode Island,” detailed the artist’s relationship with Jamestown. The artist was the first person to buy waterfront property on the island in an effort to escape the development a mile east in Newport. Shortly thereafter, the Philadelphia and Boston elite began purchasing waterfront property on the island, and Richards wrote a letter bemoaning the development. The painting in Vareika’s exhibition conveniently subtracted all development from the view, leaving a scene that was as natural as Richards had remembered Jamestown when he first arrived.
The jewelry market was cornered by Brad and Vandy Reh, New Canaan, Conn. The dealers had a glittering display of fine pieces, including five signed works from Fulco di Verdura. The dealers also had a yellow and white gold and diamond earring and brooch set from Oscar Heyman in the Pansies pattern. A white and gold necklace with 16 carats of round, brilliant cut, gem-quality diamonds was unmissable in the cases.
Boston’s own Martha Richardson Fine Art featured a selection of works from African American artist John Wilson, who died in 2015. Wilson is best known for his bronze bust of Martin Luther King Jr in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC. The artist’s works included a charcoal, a lithograph and a pastel, all featuring African American subjects in varying scenes. Right next to them were two portraits of African American subjects by artist Hilda Belcher. Belcher was the second woman to be accepted into the National Academy of Design and was well-regarded in her lifetime. In the 1920s and 1930s, Belcher lived in Savannah, Georgia, and she became known for her portraits of African Americans. “Her portraits showed sensitivity, sympathy and real character,” Richardson said.
The show will return around the same time next year for its 23rd edition. For more information, www.fineartboston.com or 617-363-0405.
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