Published: November 30, 2004
This year’s effervescent Boston International Fine Art Show offered a stunning array of artwork. There were excellent values by living painters and sculptors that rate serious consideration, and more expensive works from historic greats such as the elegant charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent at the booth of Tom Vielleux, the luscious Martin Johnson Heade landscape at Questroyal Fine Art or the scintillating Camille Pissarro at Richardson-Clarke.
Thirty-seven dealers (in 41 booths) brought art from Ireland, Zimbabwe, England, France, Canada, Japan, Hungary and of course, the good ol’ USA. The eighth annual Boston International Fine Art Show took place November 11-14. There was an old/new dichotomy to the show that made it lively. More than a few galleries reached out to collectors of listed artists and collectors of contemporary works by living artists. Clarke Gallery, Stowe, Vt., took a booth for each. Other galleries, like Sunne Savage, Winchester, Mass., offered half a booth of older works and half a booth of more contemporary works.
Fine art dealer Grier Clarke came to Boston from Stowe, Vt., to meet new people and to “put a face to the website.” He brought very important living artists such as sculptor Peter Woytuk, known for his animalia sculptures; Elliot Offner, former head of the sculpture department at Smith College and current president of the Society of American Sculptors; painter Rett Sturman “who is in major corporate and private collections all over the country”; and Altoon Sultan, “a very significant American painter.”
“These contemporary artists are equally if not more important than the deceased artists,” said Clarke, who sold well from both of his booths. Clarke is known for Cape Ann artists such as Aldro Hibbard, who started painting in Vermont in 1918. These North Shore artists captured Vermont farmers in much the same way they captured fishermen in Cape Ann.
Richardson-Clarke Gallery, a Boston gallery with an address on Newbury Street, specializes in American and European Nineteenth and Twentieth Century paintings and drawings. The outer wall of its stand had eight handsome and colorful pieces of various wildfowl. Inside the booth presented an array of high quality paintings including William Paxton’s (American 1869-1941) quiet oil portrait of his father and the colorful “Pansies in Red” by Laura Coombs Hills (American 1869-1941).
To be published in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné is the beautiful “Summer Landscape” by Camille Pissarro (French 1830-1903). The catalogue raisonné will be written by Joachim Pissaro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollarts (Wildenstein Institute, Paris). The wonderful provenance was enough to make anyone lust to acquire it: “Mary Cassatt, descended in her family to the current owner.”
Davidson noted that members of the Asian Art Society of New England, founded in Boston, stopped by to look at her Shin Hanga and Sosaku Hanga prints. Shin Hanga prints are older, 1920s and 30s, and were a revival of the original ukiyo-e prints. The Shin Hanga woodblock prints were a collaborative effort of artist, carver and printer all working for a publisher. Later, in the 1950s and 60s, artists took more creative control and forsook the collaborative system. These woodblock prints are known as Sosaku Hanga or creative prints.
“I sold Shin Hanga, Sosaku Hanga and contemporary at the show. Much to my surprise Shin Hanga, or the traditional prints, were the most popular this year. Overall, it was a very good show,” said Davidson.
Gladwell and Co, London, had a bold painting of wild elephants by David Shepard entitled “Tuskers” at the center of its booth. Also shown were still lifes and florals, notably by Gyula Siska, a Hungarian artist, Johan de Fre, a Belgian painter, and Paul Brown, an American. There were two impressionistic street scene paintings by Edouard-Leon Cortes (French 1882-1969) among the offerings.
Acme Fine Art, Boston, had a good-looking booth of Twentieth Century modernism by artists who are on the rise. There was a wall of “shorescapes” by Kenneth Stubbs (1907-1967) that were little abstracted beach views painted with clean hard edges that recall collage, but are actually gouaches on paper. Stubbs taught at the Corcoran and summered on the Cape. There was a charming painting by Houghton Cranford Smith (1887-1983) entitled “Double House, Provincetown” circa 1965, that came from the estate of the artist.
Gleason Fine Art, Boothbay Harbor, Maine, brought Scott Kelly’s “Great Blue Heron,” 40 by 30 inches, and “Brown Pelican” 30 by 40 inches. The two huge watercolors were priced at $6,800 each. A wall was devoted to six Andrea Peters oil on wood paintings and featured Charles Woodbury’s “The Valley” 1933, a 36- by 48-inch oil on canvas that captured the light tones and colors of a snowy bright day.
Brick Walk Books and Fine Art, West Hartford, Conn., displayed three Milton Avery prints as well as a group of loose and easy landscapes by Stuart Shils. Four oil on board contemporary landscapes by Pat de Groot were presented unframed and looked very clean and fresh. They were priced at $3,500 each. There was a group of Pam Sheehan paintings and a John Lo Presti barn painting that recalls the work of Wolf Kahn.
Godel Fine Art, New York City, brought an Earl Horter (1881-1940) pastel on vellum, 12 by 141/2 inches, entitled “Gloucester, Mass,” 1932. Also sure to appeal to buyers from the area was “The Mary Returning to Port,” 1857, by William Bradford (American 1823-1892). Godel brought some exquisite still lifes, including one by Severin Roesen. A knockout at this booth was the William Trost Richards autumn landscape. A Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967) watercolor on paper in soft greens was a spontaneous and inspired painting entitled “Rain Drops” (Bedford Glens-Blue Vista).
Alpers Fine Art, Andover, Mass., had a painterly 50-inch-square oil by Ellen Granter called “Juncos in Snow, Last Light.” Second-year exhibitor Peter Alpers said, “I was very pleased with the level of traffic throughout the weekend passing by and throughout the booth. I was gratified by the response to the work. We had at least one sale a day. It felt very affirming to me – I walked out with a bounce in my step every evening and woke up every morning eager to get back into town. We met ten truly excellent prospects for future multiple purchases.”
When asked how collectors of listed artists responded to the booth, Alpers said, “What I am getting from them is a passing glance and a patronizing smile of charitable indifference – a look that clearly says to me that ‘what I see here is not what I came to town to see.'”
Other showgoers rated his art selection very highly. Alpers described an encounter with an attractive couple in their 30s- “They had an air of comfortable prosperity, not ostentatious. She said ‘I’d like to congratulate you. We’ve now done two full circuits of the floor and by far and away you have the most compelling work here. Off the top of my head I’d say there are eight pieces here we would like to own.'” They took home one, a Granter, and promised to visit “their new favorite gallery” in Andover.
Jim Levis and Blake Benton of Levis Benton Fine Art, Boston, had a double booth. Levis said, “We were pleased both with the sales and interest at the show and had good follow on sales.” They sold works by Henry Gasser, Albert Wein (who will have a retrospective at an undisclosed museum in late 2005 or early 2006) and Jane Peterson. They also had a lot of interest in Marguerite and William Zorach, with sales in William and strong interest in Marguerite.
“There was very active buying participation from members of the World Presidents’ Organization,” said Jim Levis, who is educational chair for the Art Smart program, a program he created for the World Presidents’ Organization of which he is also a member. He worked closely with Tony Fusco, co-producer of the show with Bob Four, to bring about the WPO’s involvement with the show.
Fusco had a final count of 175 members from the Young Presidents’ Organization and “49ers” of the World Presidents’ Organization attend the art market symposium at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel to hear Alexandra Peers of The Wall Street Journal and Missy Sullivan of The Forbes Collector. The financially muscular CEOs were ferried over to a special reception at the show that was timed a half-hour before the gala opened.
Fusco also said that about two-dozen museum curators from New England museums attended the show, including curators Cheryl Brutvan, Erica Hirshler, Dr George T.M. Shackelford and director Malcolm Rogers of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The snow took people by surprise. The weather started to turn on Saturday, with three or four inches of accumulation by Sunday. Fusco said, “The attendance was only down by about 100 people on Saturday, but then we made up for that on Sunday, when attendance was slightly up.”
The show takes place at The Cyclorama on Tremont Street, home of the Boston Center for The Arts, and is only two turns from the Copley Square exit off of I-90 (Mass Pike). There is a large parking structure within steps of the show and valet parking at the entrance. The live-performance theater right next door to The Cyclorama is now open, bringing even more people to the interesting South End neighborhood. Next year’s show will run November 10-13.
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