Published: March 20, 2001
The Art Show:
NEW YORK CITY-What do a drawing by Paola Farinato (1524-1606), William Merritt Chase’s ”Shinnecock Hills” of 1893 and Loraine Shemech’s ”Arch,” completed in 2001, have in common? All could be seen at this year’s Art Show. A walk through the Art Dealers Association of America’s showcase exhibition gave a glimpse of a cross-section of the country’s – and especially New York’s – more conservative art market. The event took place at the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, February 22 to 26, with heavy crowds on every day of the show.
The show provides dealers and collectors with the rare opportunity of meeting face to face without the pressure of a prearranged appointment. With so many dealers to see at one location, collectors can be very casual about their interest. It gives them a chance to investigate new pieces, or see work that is fresh to the market without appearing overly eager.
”The Art Show is very important. It’s branding. People identify you with what you bring to the show. Collectors come to get a look at you ‘up close and personal.’ The biggest collectors don’t necessarily go to auctions in person. They might send an agent or bid by phone. At The Art Show, there is no back room, no upstairs; the dealer is exposed. No appointments are necessary,” said Ann Freedman, president and director of Knoedler & Co. She makes a point of being present at the show as much as possible during its five-day run.
The show was off to a good start with a preview benefit that started at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, February 21. It raised $800,000 for the Henry Street Settlement and was attended by 2000 people. Co-chairmen for the evening included Karenna (Gore) and Drew Schiff.
Of the 70 participating dealers, 58 have galleries in New York City. The others came from St Louis, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Carmel and La Jolla. Unless otherwise noted, the galleries in this story are based in New York City.
Knoedler had an outstanding array of art from the mid-Twentieth Century – their main focus. One dealer commented that the Knoedler booth made her go weak in the knees, it was so beautiful. Freedman explained how she approached the show. ”We plan this as a five-day mini-exhibition of significant examples of the period. Our first priority is the quality of the work. Next we look for pieces that are medium in scale and relate well to each other.” They brought a Jackson Pollock that was a magnet at their exhibit. ”It is very rare to find his premium drip paintings. All the works we brought were fresh to the market.”
Freedman observed that the crowd at The Art Show was very serious. ”Not only does the show attract the most serious collectors from all over the country, it is also attended by museum directors, curators, artists, art historians and scholars.” Freedman makes a point of purchasing show tickets for artists represented by the gallery.
There was plenty of new work from living artists, contrary to the show’s image of being exclusively secondary market. One of the living talents featured at The Art Show was Michael Triegel, an unassuming German artist who had several of his portraits and still lifes at the show. Represented by Worthington Art of Chicago, Triegel paints with technical virtuosity that is not cold and dry or stiff, as some of that kind of super realistic work can be. He just recently completed a mural for a town hall in Germany ”in the Dürer tradition,” his dealer was careful to point out. (Dürer, apparently, had also been commissioned to paint a mural in an out-of-the-way German town hall. In Europe, you never know when you might run into a masterpiece in some little obscure church or town building).
American talent abounded at the show too. Close by at the booth of PPOW Gallery, a monumental painting of a boat with a couple of life-sized people afloat on a luminous surface. This painting would require a very large wall in a very large house. It has a quintessentially American look. The artist, Bo Bartlett, first began showing with the gallery in 1998. Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Bartlett has found inspiration with Thomas Eakins, but also with Diego Velasquez. Since the artist summers in Maine, he has months to observe light on the water and has put this observation to good use.
David Findlay Jr brought work from Jeffrey Blondes and Peter Poskas, among others. Blondes’s oils are painted plein air in Scotland and France on prepped marine plywood. They look perfectly fine and fresh unframed. This is an artist whose sparse esthetic is in keeping with the raw landscapes he captures. Poskas’s more detailed watercolors of New England houses are less contemporary in that they depict historic homes and coastal scenes and are presented more traditionally.
Conner Rosenkrantz featured a magnificent garden sculpture that was in such good condition it might possibly find a home in a spacious interior or orangerie, if not a museum. ”Isoult” by Edward McCartan, was cast in 1926 in bronze. ”It is the only one we are aware of,” said Janis Conner. According the dealer, Mc Cartan’s model was Janis Fair. Both model and artist kept their love for each other unspoken. After the artist’s death when she learned of his true feelings, she too admitted her love for him, alas, to be forever unrequited.
This was the second year at the show for Conner Rosenkranz. Their whole clientele is heavily weighted with museum curators. ”Sculpture one part of the field where museum curators are way ahead of the curve and private collectors are getting left behind,” said Conner. She was pleased that the show crowd brought in about half a dozen painting collectors who were interested in acquiring sculpture of the same period as their painting collections. ”They want to add a dimension to their collections,” quipped Conner.
David Tunick of David Tunick Inc, had a beautiful Sixteenth Century Italian mixed media work on paper by Paola Farantino entitled ”Fame.” Its provenance includes Peter Lely, and the piece is stamped with the famous collector’s initials. ”This piece should end up in a major American museum,” said Tunick. The exquisite brown ink drawing was penned over a gray wash on gray green paper, and heightened with white.
Beadleston Gallery brought major works by Domenico Gnoli (1933 – 1970). Gnoli was a huge success within his own short lifetime, both in Europe and in the United States, but now his enormous and soothingly stylized close ups of shoes, furniture, clothing and hair are more likely to be recognized by Europeans. Gnoli was an innovator who flew in the face of abstraction. He enriched his painting surface with sand and glue. When you see his work up close, the surface has a textured granular translucence. Since most major European museums have Gnoli’s work in their collections, it is likely to regain the interest of American collectors with Beadleston’s efforts.
Natasha Beadleston said that the show was very good for them. They sold a number of Wolf Kahn pastels, two John Alexanders and sparked serious interest in the Gnolis and other works.
There were very realistic still lifes from Denise Mickilowski at the Fischbach Gallery. Her paintings were of Macintosh apples arranged in vertically positioned wooden crates. Her treatment of the crate itself is remarkable. The rough texture of the oil paint she uses for the straight on view of the crate’s edges form a frame for the work that has the appearance of an actual wooden strip.
Curt Marcus Gallery had a series of paintings by Richard Pettibone who transforms other artist’s work through successive mutations. For example, he took Duchamp’s ”Nude Descending a Staircase” and through a series of about seven different paintings, arrived at piece that had elements of the Duchamp but was completely different. Sort of like playing a visual game of ”telephone.”
Another artist who appropriates earlier work is André Raffray. Show goers were doing double takes as they passed the booth of Achim Moeller Fine Art and saw Raffray’s huge Picasso-inspired colored pencil drawing. The original Raffray is the same size as the original Picasso, but done in colored pencil rather than paint. Raffray’s works hang in European museums because of their own merit. He has taken the art of derivation to the limit. The ”Picasso” at The Art Show was sold to a Swedish museum, where it will join two other Raffrays.
Dealers brought a variety of very interesting works to The Art Show this year. It is a consistently strong exhibition that features a mix of older blue-chip art and recent work by living artists. One senses that many of the galleries will be around in ten or twenty years – or even longer.
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