Published: November 1, 2022
Review & Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
BOSTON – After a two-year pandemic pause, the Boston International Fine Art Show (BIFAS) was back at Boston’s Center for the Arts October 20-23. Housed in the city’s 1884 Cyclorama Building in Boston’s South End, the glittering event welcomed 46 exhibitors, including 13 in its “Emerge” section, which presented the work of individual juried artists in dedicated booths at the front of the show.
The show is produced by Tony Fusco and Robert Four of Fusco & Four. When Antiques and The Arts Weekly spoke with Fusco in his booth at the gala, he said, “set up went really well” and he was “thrilled at the gala preview.” About 600 people had signed up online to attend the show over the weekend, numbers that would supplement those who came to the opening night party or who would pay at the door over the course of the event. He noted that the show fielded several new dealers, and so many people wanted to exhibit that he had sold out booth space in August.
“I think it went really well,” Fusco said when we spoke with him in a follow up call. “We were really pleased with the turnout, the sales and the reaction of the audience. It has been a full three years since the last show – the last one was in 2019 – and it was wonderful to see how many people returned to the show. Even more gratifying were all the new faces: new buyers who were focused and interested and curious.
“The population of Boston has changed significantly in the past three years – there’s been an explosion of biotech companies in the Boston area, accompanied by a growth of luxury properties, including many of them just blocks away from where we hold the show. We reached out to concierges in new high-rise buildings and got a lot of advertising from our media sponsors, both in print and online. GBH (formerly WGBH) ran our spots alongside shows like Antiques Roadshow, so we hit the right demographic.”
Fusco & Four has recently published a catalog of the complete lithographs of modernist New York City and Rockport, Mass., landscape artist, Vera Andrus (American, 1896-1979). It is a project the Boston dealers have been working on for more than 30 years. The volume includes a total of 76 lithographs that were produced in very small numbers, which made finding all of them difficult.
“We had a great reaction to Vera Andrus; that display really helped us focus people on her work. She was our most successful artist at the show, and we sold several of her pieces,” Fusco confirmed.
Art and antiques shows do not operate in a vacuum and many dealers we spoke with after the show noted it seemed harder than usual to get potential buyers to commit to a purchase. Was it the economy and inflation? The stock market? Upcoming mid-term elections? No one seemed to have a ready answer, only that despite avid interest and enthusiasm, there were signs of hesitancy not typically seen, but all were optimistic that the show was a jumping off point to extended conversations that would eventually lead to sales.
Zachary Hall of Trinity Hall Fine Art, which tends to stock Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern British and Nineteenth Century works at a fairly high price point, has another take on how varied markets affect their business.
“When markets are down, people want to invest in something tangible; when they’re high, there are different potential buyers who now have greater capital to spend. When markets are steady is when investors are more likely to keep their money where it is.”
“It was great to be in Boston once again. We adore the town and location,” Hall said, noting this is only the second time the Cotswolds-based gallery has shown at BIFAS. “We met a couple of new people, which is always good, and reconnected with several people we’ve sold to previously. Of great interest to me was that this was parents’ weekend at several of the local colleges and we saw clients – both new and existing – from places like Chicago, Palm Beach and Michigan – so the clientele was even broader than from just Boston or Massachusetts.”
Hall said one of the clients from Michigan who “knew their stuff” and who the gallery had never worked with before purchased a mid-level painting and has interest in other works that gallery has but which were not brought to the show.
Long-time BIFAS exhibitor Avery Galleries put a dynamic winter landscape by Rockwell Kent front and center in their booth. When they had exhibited it previously in Philadelphia and New York City, it garnered considerable interest, including from an institution. While it remained unsold after BIFAS, managing director Nicole Amoroso said it was one of the paintings people were really drawn to, more so than at previous fairs and “was the painting that received the most praise and admiration.”
“We had realistic expectations after the pandemic, but it was good overall and a very positive experience for us.”
Brunswick, Maine, dealer Susanna Fichera made a few sales and said she was very happy with the show, noting it was particularly wonderful to reconnect with people. Two of her sales were to new clients – one visiting Boston from the South and another local to the area. A George Hallowell landscape of Arlington, Mass., sold to someone who had grown up in Arlington and a Neil Welliver print found a new home with private collectors in Boston. Other sales included a landscape of Ogunquit, Maine, by Charles Woodbury, and a cityscape of Cambridge, Mass., by Thomas Fransioli. Prices for her sold works ranged from $2,000 to $18,000.
Fourteen-year show veteran Steve Bowersock, who’s eponymously named Provincetown, Mass., gallery was front and center, featured works representing a few different styles, from abstract and traditional to hyperrealist. Most of the artists he represents are based in Massachusetts, including Paul Beckingham, Jeanne McCartin, Lisa Bernstein, Julie Beck and John Brickels, whose three-dimensional stoneware fantastical architectural works paired nicely with the hand-blown glass pieces of Dylan Martinez.
“Networking was a win for us and I’m happy with it overall, very glad we did it,” Bowersock said when we called him after the show. He said he thought the show was more diverse and more contemporary than it has been in the past.
Across the aisle from Bowersock, three prints by Picasso were prominently displayed on Colm Rowan’s side wall. All from the Vollard Suite, the East Hampton dealer had acquired them from different sources: “Femme sur un char Romain” from a Dallas collection, “King on Horse with Nude” from a London dealer, and “Sculpteur, Modele, Sculpture et Poisson Rouge” from a New York collection. While examples of these prints come on the market from time to time, Rowan said the quality of these was exceptional and he had priced them all around $20,000.
Cameron Shay is the proprietor of Graham Shay 1857 and he was showing at BIFAS for the first time. Several of the noteworthy works in his booth were “Ten Pound Hammer” by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), done in bronze in 1967. Also in bronze was Paul Manship’s (1885-1966) “Flight of Night,” which is considered one of the artist’s most elegant works. Cast at the Roman Bronze Works in an edition of six, it stood an imposing 26½ inches tall and was featured front and center of Shay’s booth.
A large booth in the center of the show floor housed works on offer by Guarisco Gallery of Washington DC. A range of work – both sculptural and framed – was in plentiful supply to tempt every palate and budget, from works by Nineteenth Century European masters like Pierre Auguste Renoir’s (French, 1841-1919) 1918 oil on canvas “Etude de Femme au Chapeau Jaune” to “Audrey Hepburn,” by contemporary American artist Doug Powell, who creates pictorial mosaics from upcycled computer keys.
Great Barrington, Mass., dealer Robert Lloyd was premiering the original Guinness illustration art that served as the prototypes for the brewery’s advertising. The original art had been recently discovered in the archives in London and had never previously been offered for sale.
Works from the estates of two artists were included in the show: Boston-based Surrealist David Omar White (American, 1929-2009) was represented by his daughter, Amy Pratt, who was on hand with White’s companion, Sally Williamson. Paintings and drawings from White’s prolific 70-year career were on hand in their first ever public showing.
Also making their BIFAS debut was another artist’s relative – Naomi Baum – who was on hand to promote works from the estate of her grandfather, Mark Baum (1903-1997). Born in Poland, Baum emigrated to New York City in 1919 with no artistic background. A contemporary of Rothko and the Abstract Expressionists, Baum eventually turned to deconstructed landscapes.
“It was a complete pleasure doing the show; the venue and neighborhood were both wonderful and the energy was fantastic,” Baum said in a phone call after the show. “It was a very good crowd and wonderful in terms of exposure. People were engaged and interested in having sustained conversations about the work and we’re doing follow up. I had several great conversations with the art and design students from the local colleges.”
Sculptor Michael Alfano has been creating figurative and surreal sculpture for both private and public settings for more than 20 years but has never previously exhibited on his own at BIFAS. Though it was early in the evening when we came through his booth, he had already sold a bronze work titled “Player & Played,” which was made in 2020 and inspired by cellist Yo-Yo Ma; it had been priced at $10,000. Several of his large scale works are currently on view at the Boston Harborwalk, near the USS Constitution.
“I had a lot of interest and sold quite a few of my small pieces, a few of the medium sized ones, even one of the large ones,” Alfano said after the show.
One of the “Emerge” exhibitors who had a strong show was Wiley Holton, of Medford, Mass., who uses math equations to create contemporary abstract paintings that explore the intersections of geometry, color theory and mental health. It was the first art show for the artist who struggles with ADHD and paralyzing anxiety. She uses kaleidoscopes to demonstrate how debilitating and overwhelming anxiety can be to her. Prices in her booth were comparatively modest; she sold four works at prices from $450 to $4,500; the most expensive piece in her booth was priced at $8,000.
“It was a busy weekend! It went really well. Sunday was the biggest day for me, purchase-wise, and I was able to line up some commissions. All in all, it was a great weekend,” Holton commented.
Fusco & Four’s next event will be Boston Design Week, April 25-May 6; the dates for the 2023 25th annual Boston International Fine Art Show are TBD. For more information, 617-363-0405 or www.fineartboston.com.
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