Dealers were energized for the opening of the Boston International Fine Art Show (BIFAS), knowing full well that anything could happen. The gala celebration took place Thursday, November 13, at the Cyclorama; it attracted a good crowd. People came to the party to get a first look at the show and support the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In its 12th year, the show has been polished and refined by show producers Tony Fusco and Bob Four of Fusco & Four. The 41 participating galleries brought art from the past and the present, with the contemporary pieces being devoted to realism for the most part.
Jason Samuel Fine Art, Milford, N.H., brought a carved alabaster sculpture by Martin Glick of New York titled “Torso, Classical Dancer,” priced at $6,500. Glick is the only living artist the gallery represents. This was its second BIFAS. Jason Hackler said, “I was so impressed with foot traffic there. I was expecting less traffic than last year and sometimes it was a real flood of people.” Three paintings were sold and much of follow-up is expected. “I never handed out so many cards and brochures,” said Hackler.
Charleston Gallery, Charleston, R.I., brought contemporary art with the emphasis on the Rhode Island shoreline. There were panoramic paintings of tidal marshes, paintings of ocean breakers, a deckhand’s view of a sailboat running with the wind, studies of swimmers, etc. A suite of still lifes by Shawn Kenney included a 24-by-24-inch oil on canvas of a container of Chinese food and chopsticks aptly titled “Take Out.”
Gold-framed Barbizon landscapes beckoned showgoers into the restful booth of Heinley Fine Art, Boston. There was a wonderful 20½-by-40-inch oil on canvas by Alexandre DeFaux (1826‱900) titled “Flock of Geese, Montigny sur Loing.” Donna Heinley brought works by Charles Daubigny, Antoine Guillemet, Jean-Ferdinand Chaigneau, Henri-Joseph Harpignies and others. Heinley has been showing Nineteenth Century French painting at the Boston International Fine Art Show since its inception and has a good following there. She sold the large, $200,000-plus Chaigneau at the show entrance. She also sold a Jules Dupre and a H.C. Delpy painting and still has one or two sales in the works.
Landscapes could be found throughout the show; the Willard Metcalf oil on canvas of trees in yellow fall foliage in “The Golden Screen” dating from 1906 at the two-booth display of Spanierman Gallery, New York City, was particularly beautiful. In the spirit of the show, Spanierman also had fine works by living artists, such as Sarah Lamb’s “Leeks and Earthenware” painted in 2006. It was nice to see the green marble sculpture of Jose De Creeft (1884‱982) titled “Desseus” from the 1960s.
Questroyal Fine Art, New York City, brought a snowy vista of a small town by Henry Martin Gasser titled “Winter Road” that captured the high-contrast lights and darks of winter light reflected on a snowy landscape. A large Milton Avery painting in soft blues, greens and beiges titled “Bather” was an important focal point at the booth. There was also a charming 73/8 -by-93/8-inch 1924 oil on panel by Max Kuehne (1880‱968) titled “Fishing Sheds, Provincetown” that was attracting the interest of collectors.
The Guild of Boston Artists, established in 1914, comprises New England artists working in the realist tradition. Artist member Stapleton Kearns was staffing the booth at the gala. His oil painting “Blow Me Down Brook” was painted at a Willard Metcalf location. Kearns’s painting shows a meandering brook cutting its way through ice and snow on a sunny winter day. The artist recounted dealing with subzero temperatures while he worked.
The father/daughter team of Richard and Nina Rosello of Avery Galleries, Bryn Mawr, Penn., sold two paintings to two new clients who reside in New England. Their booth was filled with a variety of seascapes, landscapes and florals, including a soft, fresh painting of a garden by Francis Coates Jones that featured white and orange flowers basking in the sun. Jones painted the piece in 1908.
This was the first year Cincinnati Art Galleries participated, a brilliant addition to the show. “Birch Trees, Alcala, Spain,” 1886, was an oil on board meticulously painted by Spanish artist Emilio Sanchez-Perrier (1855‱907). Measuring 17½ by 8¼ inches, it was one of the more valuable paintings at the show. In it, a stand of birches leans into the picture, a tangle of detail that does not derail the serenity of the piece. Behind the birches is a softly painted hillside reflected in gray, still water.
Another standout at the booth was an storybook Russian landscape by Ivan F. Choultse (1877‱932), a painter to the tsar. Titled “Winter Luminescence,” it presented an untracked, curvaceous field of snow, pines with snow-laden branches and a sky with eye-catching puffy clouds †all bathed in a warm glow that belied the cold. A lone cabin increased the sense of quietude and isolation. Dealer William Mosely said, “Russian art has increased in value in a very pronounced way in the last couple of years.”
Vose Galleries of Boston brought a contingency of their antique art, as well as filling an adjoining both for Vose Contemporary. Lilian Westcott Hale (1881‱963) painted “Spring by the Wayside, Dedham, Massachusetts” in 1922. A painting by Jerry Farnsworth titled “The Picnic” was a focal point. At Vose Contemporary, Joel Babb (b 1947) turned his keen eye from cityscapes to the rocky Maine shoreline in “Seaside Rocks,” a large oil on canvas. The work of Constance Barnard Pach shared the limelight at Vose Contemporary. The octogenarian sculptor created “Bee” in 1976, a 10-by-19-inch bronze.
There was an interesting marine nocturne, “Opening Ceremonies, Brooklyn Bridge” by Dusan Kadlec (Czech, b 1942), at the booth of Marine Arts Gallery.
Several contemporary oil on canvas paintings by C. O’Malia of soft blue shadows cast on snow by barren branches stopped people in their tracks at the booth of Renjeau Galleries, Natick, Mass.
The Flow of Art Gallery, Norwalk, Conn., featured a trio of sculptures by Reuben Nakian, as well as two of Nakian’s free-flowing sketches on paper of nudes.
Peter Buckland Gallery, New Brunswick, Canada, offered a rich selection of contemporary art from Eastern Canada. There were lively, colorful, painted wood sculptures by Werner Arnold, including a flamboyant piece called “Showing Off,” a 42-by-32-by-9-inch painted pine construction of a circus performer on the back of a horse.
Iris Gallery of Great Barrington and Boston, Mass., showcased photography produced within the last 30 years. Dealer Allison Collins was helped at the show by her husband, photographer Fred Collins. They brought a playful photo of a long-stemmed flower by joSon, an ascetically pure image of ice in Antarctica by David Burdeny, an exotic butterfly by Doug Landreth and many others.
Newman Galleries, Philadelphia, brought Fred Wagner’s impressionistic “Winter Afternoon on the Delaware,” the river thick with slush and ice, smokestacks on the shore puffing white steam and smoke into the air. Tucked into a corner was a beautiful little painting by George Sotter, “Bucks County Winter, Farmhouse at Night” that measured 16 by 20 inches and was priced at $160,000.
An eerie scene of a lone young girl standing vulnerably at the edge of a seawall was masterfully conceived and painted by Michael Whelan. It was featured by Tree’s Place Gallery, Orleans, Mass.
Waterhouse & Dodd, London, made its first appearance at the show, presenting several oil and wax on canvas works by Irish artist Michael Canning (b 1971). His darkly beautiful botanicals feature tall, silhouetted plants against a cool, atmospheric background.
Contemporary realism is a mainstay of Arcadia Fine Art, New York City. The booth spotlighted several outstanding still lifes of hats by Steven J. Levin (b 1964). The largest of these, “29 Hats,” went out with a collector on opening night. Also at the Arcadia booth, figurative paintings by Malcolm Liepke and others.
Panopticon Gallery of Photography, Boston, had delightful images taken by Alex MacLean out of the window of the airplane he was flying. He captured a group of about 50 colorful dinghies tied up to a dock, and thousands of picnickers on a grassy field. The gallery also represents the stunning aerial landscape photography of Brad Washburn and civil rights photographs by Ernest C. Withers.
“Fusco & Four is 29 years old. Over the years we have worked with close to 200 arts-related organizations,” said an ebullient Tony Fusco after the show. Each day BIFAS had important panel discussions and individual guest speakers. This year, Friday night was Art & Design Night, which had three sponsors, each inviting its own clients. There were five events on Saturday, not including New Collectors Night (there was plenty of art in lower price ranges); and Dr David Dearinger, the Susan Morse Hilles curator of paintings and sculpture at the Boston Athenaeum, spoke on Sunday afternoon.
“We sent invitations to the Museum Council of the MFA and a lot of people came,” said Fusco. “The traffic was great&†Over 450 for the gala. Really strong throughout the whole weekend.”
“A lot of dealers sold one or two pieces. Selling wasn’t as good as last year, but exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. Dealers saw their people, met new clients,” said Fusco. “We’ve got the spring show AD20/21 in March. It will be about half art and half design.”
The 2009 BIFAS will take place November 12‱5. For information, www.fineartboston.com or 617-363-0405.