Published: November 5, 2019
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
BOSTON – Thirty-one galleries, 13 emerging artists and seven special programs combined October 24-27 to make the 23rd annual Boston International Fine Art Show (BIFAS) a memorable one. The cornerstone art event in the Boston cultural calendar is an accessible and enlightening show that continues to bring a sense of freshness to the table.
While the event brings in art from all corners of the world, it is perhaps one of the finest displays of buyable Boston-area art to occur year in and year out. Almost every booth has a Boston-area artist, whether contemporary or historical, and across the range of recognition, from the unsung to the lauded.
Show managers Tony Fusco and Robert Four were pleased with the edition. “I was really thrilled this year,” Fusco said, following the event. “Our numbers were up considerably, even with that rain on Sunday.”
Programs spanning booth talks, artist talks, trend discussions and moderated panels filled the weekend calendar. The show’s colorful discussions aim to create an informative and engaging environment where collectors, scholars and casual art patrons can come together to learn something new. “You could stay here all day and learn,” Fusco said, emulating the caliber of programming at most major museums.
Friday’s events included meet and greets with the Emerge artists section, a talk from Michael Rose of Michael Rose Fine art titled “What Has Your Gallery Done For You Lately?” and a panel discussion on “Major Trends in the Art Market.” Saturday followed with a long panel discussion on “Living With Art,” where interior designers Anelle Gandelman, Lucina Loya and Craig Tevolitz spoke with editor Joshua Rose about how they incorporate fine art into living spaces. It was followed by guest speaker and founding editor-in-chief of ArtNet Peter Hastings Falk in the afternoon, when he spoke on “An Insider’s View on Valuing Art.” Sunday featured the book launch of former New York Times antiques columnist Eve M. Kahn’s Forever Seeing Beauties: The Forgotten Impressionist Mary Rogers Williams, 1857-1907 (see Antiques and The Arts Weekly, issue September 20, 2019, for a full interview with Kahn on her new book).
Two Boston scenes from Massachusetts artist and architect Thomas Fransioli (1906-1997) were found with Susanna J. Fichera Fine Art, Brunswick, Maine. Fransioli’s interest in painting began when he worked in architectural capacity with John Russell Pope on plans for the exhibition galleries at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Fransioli’s work first gained recognition in Boston when he was represented by the Margaret Brown Gallery in the mid-Twentieth Century. The works on exhibit with Fichera were both street scenes, titled and depicting “Church Street, Cambridge,” a 1954 oil on canvas, and “Berkeley Street, Boston,” a 1946 oil on Masonite.
“I had a really great response to both of the Fransioli paintings,” Fichera told Antiques and The Arts Weekly following the show. “They didn’t sell…but I had almost continuous discussions with people about them. It was great to see people discussing the two neighborhoods depicted.”
Among works that did sell from the dealer’s exhibition was a bronze nude by Ezio Martinelli, selling to a Boston collector, and a small watercolor landscape by H.B. Warren, a Boston-related artist.
Newly incorporated into the show’s material range were select offerings of decorative arts and jewelry provided by dealers Jeff Tillou, Litchfield, Conn.; Shaia Oriental Rugs, Williamsburg, Va.; Silver Art by D&R, France; Brad and Vandy Reh Fine Jewelry, New Canaan, Conn.; and Glen Leroux Antiques, Westport, Conn.
Along with American furniture found in the Wendell Family Chippendale block-front chest, a circa 1760-75 mahogany example probably made on the coast of Massachusetts, Tillou featured a selection of fine art led by Russian-born artist Nicolai Vasilieff (1887-1970). Vasilieff graduated with honors from the Moscow Academy of Fine Arts and described his style as post-expressionist. Of the artist, Tillou said that he has lived with the work for decades and he has never grown tired of it. The mid-Twentieth Century New York Times art critic and art editor Howard Devree called Vasilieff an artist’s artist.
Brad and Vandy Reh Fine Jewelry, New Canaan, Conn., were excited to exhibit a pair of vintage Verdura flowing 18K yellow gold and diamond earrings that the dealers had just acquired. “It’s the most sought-after name in jewelry,” Brad Reh said. “They are very elegant and exclusive. I’ve never seen another pair like them.” Also included in the dealer’s booth was a Van Cleef gold necklace reportedly gifted to the consignor’s mother from Aristotle Onassis, who liked the design so much he bought three of them.
Boston’s Vose Galleries featured works from Theodore Wendel, one of the earliest Americans to visit Giverny in the summer of 1887. Featured in the exhibition was one such scene, “Blossoming Trees, Giverny.” Wendel brought his impressionist approach to plein air paintings back with him when he settled in Ipswich, Mass. Wendel’s “Fishermen’s Houses along a Cove, Gloucester,” depicted a calm harbor scene on the Massachusetts coast.
Vose Galleries also featured a nicely balanced work by Jane Peterson (1867-1965) titled “The Red House, Gloucester, Massachusetts.” A scene of similar nature was on hand with Avery Galleries in the 30-by-46-inch oil on canvas “Gloucester Harbor.”
Avery also featured thrilling works from Winslow Homer. Two of them, “Saved,” an 1889 etching, and “The Life Line,” an 1884 etching, feature a dramatic rescue on stormy seas. “He was showing that this is really about life and death. Man against nature,” said principal Richard Rossello, noting the frothing waves and sense of chaos. Each relate to Homer’s oil painting “The Life Line,” in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the subject of a 2013 exhibition there.
Martha Richardson Fine Art, Boston, put on a show of material focused on the Twentieth Century. The gallery represents the estate of Boston artist John Wilson and a handful of the artist’s works were on exhibit. Reception was warm and the dealer was able to send one work out on approval. Wilson could draw by the time he was 12 years old, earning him a full scholarship to the Museum of Fine Arts School. He went on to graduate from Tufts University. After winning fellowships to study in Paris with Fernand Leger and Mexico alongside Elizabeth Catlett and Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, Wilson returned to the United States and taught at Boston University, in so doing becoming one of the city’s greatest and well-regarded Twentieth Century artists. Richardson also brought the work of surrealist Philadelphia artist Leon Kelly, who was of the same generation of Wilson. Richardson has mounted a show in her Newbury Street gallery on Kelly’s work in an effort to introduce the artist to the city. “Surrealism is a hot style right now and we don’t see a lot of it in Boston,” Richardson said. That exhibition is on through December 7.
New York City gallery Robert Lloyd Inc was exhibiting a selection of original illustration art for the Irish beer company Guinness. The trove of work was produced by the S.H. Benson advertising company, which worked with the brand from 1929 to 1969. The archive was brought to market ten years ago and Lloyd has represented all of them since. According to Lloyd, about 75 percent of them were painted by artist John Gilroy. Lloyd was exhibiting a number of works from the “Zookeeper” series, which was one of the longest advertising campaigns in history at 27 years running. Gilroy would paint himself into the works as the zookeeper. Lloyd said he has sold about 400 of these works since they were first released, and he just received the last shipment of them, another 200, which he said included some of the very best examples.
Masterworks in fine art were presented by neighboring booths Guarisco Gallery, Washington, DC, and Trinity House Paintings, New York City. The latter was exhibiting coastal water works by French artists Henri Jean Guillaume Martin (1860-1943) and Eugène Boudin (1824-1898), as well as an oil on canvas scene by Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) titled “Regatta at Henley,” one of England’s great regattas.
A pastel on paper laid down on canvas portrait by Mart Cassatt (American, 1845-1926) was on view with Guarisco. The 1906 painting featured Bernard Charles Marie de la Motte St Pierre and came with a full provenance back to that family’s collection. It had been exhibited at both Adelphi University and the Joslyn Art Museum.
On the heels of the well-attended Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gary Brudder Fine Art mounted a booth exhibition dedicated to the artist. In it, the New York City dealer featured an example of the first lithograph that Lautrec ever did, featuring La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge in 1891. A related photographic group featured three photographs of La Goulue’s Theatre (Theatre De La Goulue), a traveling street side show that she opened following her career at the Moulin Rouge. Brudder remarked that by the time she did this, La Goulue was no longer in her prime and many people did not recognize her from her earlier shows. She begged Lautrec to decorate her stand and he did, painting her three panels that would show visitors, through Lautrec’s association, that this was indeed the Queen of Montmartre. The photographs show three candid shots of La Goulue and others alongside the caravan.
New to the show this year was the Emerge section of the fair, which pulled together 13 emerging and mid-career contemporary artists between two salons at the front of the show. The artists worked in mediums and styles ranging from realism, abstraction, photography, modern art, wood sculpture and more. These artists included Michele Kortbawi Wilk through the Principle Gallery, Orr Michaely, Michael James Murray, Kelly Milukas, Scott J. Morgan, Irina Gorbman, Fabiana Walsh, Kim Alemian through the Edgewater Gallery, Susan Hunter Petree, Patricia Busso, Nick Peterson-Davis, Eveline Luppi and Anna Thurber.
“We decided early on to try this and we know already that we’re doing it again. It really adds a lot to the show,” Fusco said. “A lot of them sold very well. It doesn’t happen overnight for anybody and I think for an artist to be able to say that their work was exhibited at BIFAS, it’s good for the resumé. They all talked about the people they met, the designers, the connections were really all there, and I think that ultimately will pay off for them down the road.”
The show will be back again October 22-25, 2020. Fusco & Four also manages the growing Boston Design Week, which will take place March 25-April 5, 2020. For more information, www.fuscofour.com or 617-363-0405.
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