Published: November 2, 2015
Review and Photos by Carol Sims
BOSTON, MASS. — The well-heeled, eclectic little art fair of New England — the Boston International Fine Art Show (BIFAS) — had some incredibly wonderful art October 22–25 at the Cyclorama in the Back Bay area. With 40 exhibitors, BIFAS is the perfect size show for kibitzing with dealers and browsing the more than 3,000 Old Master to contemporary artworks. There are always pleasant surprises and fresh-to-the-market pieces at this show.
Newport, R.I., dealer William Vareika took the double booth at the show’s entrance, and this was indeed his year to shine with scores of beautiful works. The gala on Thursday, October 22, had 300 in attendance and was a benefit for Boston College’s McMullen Museum. Bill Vareika and his wife Alison recently gifted the museum with gorgeous John La Farge leaded glass windows. He featured Hudson River paintings and modernist Walter Beck and also had a handsome pair of Gilbert Stuart portraits of Mr and Mrs Roger Cordis, painted circa 1812.
At Vose Galleries’ stand, you could expect to find works by Boston artists and one of the most notable is Paxton. William M. Paxton’s “The Blue Jar” has been extensively honored and exhibited from the time it was painted in 1913. Paxton also painted a beautiful girl with a saucy, bold gaze, on display at the Vose booth. Another star artwork there was Childe Hassam’s “Street in Pont Avers, Brittany- Evening,” 1897, oil on canvas, 24 by 21 7⁄8 inches. However, the brightest star in its constellation of artworks was “An Open Window” by Winslow Homer (1836–1910).
Director Carey Vose was exceedingly glad to present the seven-figure painting at BIFAS on behalf of the consignor. Her great-grandfather, Robert C. Vose, once had a chance to acquire this lovely oil painting from the artist for the sum of $500 and passed on it because Homer’s innovative composition was ahead of its time — Vose didn’t like the woman shown from behind in silhouette against the window. So, another dealer acquired the work for $500. It was purchased for $1,500 back in the late 1930s and has descended through three generations in the same private collection since that time. Homer’s delicately balanced composition is recognizably masterful today.
Living artists are a big part of the show, with several passionate dealers driving this primary market of new talent, which at BIFAS revolves around works that were created with vision, skill and technical expertise. Perhaps the most “contemporary” of the contemporary works was a beautiful free-standing sculpture of stacked black boxes showing black and white videos of a waterfall by Madeleine Altmann at the booth of 555 Gallery, Boston. Craig Allen’s large mixed-media paintings of multitudes of tiny figures on a white background added a cool cutting-edge touch to the booth of Renjeau Galleries, Natick, Mass. However, the word contemporary at this show refers primarily to representational works by living artists, such as the small, yet powerful seascape from Ralf Feyl shown by the Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn.
According to co-producer Tony Fusco of Fusco & Four, Eisenhauer Gallery had “the best show of anyone.” They showed dynamic, large scale representational works, as did Renjeau Galleries, which also did extremely well. But sales were to be had by Old Master and period American art dealers, and others, too.
“Gate was down overall, but the people who came were buying,” said Fusco. “Curatorially, it was one of our strongest shows ever. Also, the really big sales tend to happen privately in the weeks and months to come, rather than on the show floor. I am sure I’ll be hearing from dealers about pieces that are now under consideration.”
Susan Powell Fine Art had a fine oil painting of flowers by Kathy Anderson, who studied with Richard Schmid as one of the Putney (Vermont) painters. Titled “Spring Fantasy,” it measured 16 by 12 inches and was marked at $2,600. Powell also featured several cityscapes by Vincent Giarrano, who lives and works in New York City.
Questroyal Fine Art, New York City, brought a Henry Martin Gasser picture of a house in a snowy landscape, priced at $22,000. A Fairfield Porter painting was priced at $95,000. A nocturne of a mining camp on a rocky gorge by Herman Herzog had all of his famous detail, narrative essence and devotion to wilderness themes; it was $65,000. In tune with the fall foliage season was “Hunters Rest” by Worthington Whittredge, priced at $37,500.
Adam Adelson, director of Adelson Galleries, Boston, featured a lovely 1909 charcoal drawing of Margot Tennant Asquith by John Singer Sargent, done at a time when Sargent had stopped doing large portrait oils, but still liked to capture likenesses of his friends. A 17 by 21½ inch plein air oil painting from 1888 titled “River Bank, near Oxford,” exhibits Sargent’s luscious brushstrokes and captures what must have been a gorgeous day. Returning by boat, the still-wet painting was brushed by low-hanging willow branches, which left their marks in the surface.
Ed Pollack of Brunswick, Maine, brought something for everybody: A classical-looking marble bust; an Eduard Vuillard lithograph; Alphonse Mucha’s lithograph “Job”; Nepalese ritual masks; a painted folk art carving of Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden by Tom Kelly; a William Hunt Dietrich paper cutout of an archer on horseback; and an array of prints and drawings from notable American artists like John Stewart Curry, Paul Cadmus and others.
Principle Gallery, Alexandria, Va., and Charleston, S.C., featured some outstanding still lifes, including Larry Preston’s “Canton with Daffodils” of blue and white china with daffodils, and James Neil Hollingsworth’s “High Fructose” of a green Coca-Cola bottle in its red paper carton. They also brought some interesting figurative paintings by Casey Childs and Robert Liberace.
BIFAS is an exciting show for collectors of all stripes. Next year will mark the show’s 20th anniversary. For information, www.fineartboston.com or 617-363-0405. The next Fusco and Four events will be Boston Design Week, March 31–April 10, and AD 20/21, April 7–10.
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