Published: December 5, 2006
Emerging from the riot of color, collage and sculpture that marked the fifth annual running of Art20 at the Seventh Regiment Armory, November 10–13 were new artists, new trends and new audiences for old names.
On the opening page of the show’s directory, Sanford Smith, show producer, says this “international art fair, 1900 to contemporary, owes its success to the knowledge and experience of the exhibitors.” It took only a quick look around to ascertain the level at which the 59 participating dealers are playing, and only a few interviews to discover that they are as much astute demographers pushing the leading edge of a changing market as they are experts on art and art history.
With sculptures from nearly every period of Twentieth Century art on display in the forefront of many booths, it appeared there might be renewed interest in statuary. Tom Veilleux of Tom Veilleux Gallery, Portland, Maine, corroborated, saying, “Sculpture seems to be a segment of the market that has probably been neglected. We are selling more sculpture in this past year than we have in previous years.”
Highlights of the genre were Francisco Zuniga’s “Evellia de Pie (Mujer de Pie),” 1975, at Jack Krutberg Fine Art, Los Angeles, and Harriett Whitney Fishmuth’s “Humoresque,” a lovely bronze with greenish patina, 1924, of a nude reaching with outstretched hand, at Manhattan’s James Graham & Sons. A polychrome bronze by Max Weber, 1917, called “Figure in Rotation,” was shown at Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts. And sprawled across the floor of Hirschl & Adler’s Gallery, New York City, was a massive but graceful bronze turtle by Paul Manship. Only recently cast in bronze, it had remained in its original plaster form at Roman Bronze Works for many years until the artists’ son authorized it cast. (The turtle is from an edition of 12 plus one proof.)
Of a more contemporary nature but equally appealing were the dogs at Galeria Antonia Jannone, the Italian Factory — which brands itself as a “renaissance” of Italian painting and sculpture projected into a European context. Cast of iron and cement, the 2006 works of what appeared to be Italian greyhounds are by the artists Velasco.
Elsewhere, while Modernist masterpieces mingled side by side with Abstract Expressionists and Fauvist flavored offerings hung én suite with American Impressionism, the works of the superstar old guard anchored the exhibition much as they anchored the Twentieth Century, providing first a departure from the academy and later on, a category for later movements to rail against.
In fact, the center aisle of the first booth that most visitors saw on entering the armory was that of Galarie Boulakia, Paris, which beckoned with Picasso’s “Femme Accropin,” 1954, Chagall’s “La Fruite a Sels,” 1952–1968, and Edouard Vuillard’s “Les Petit Dejuner aux Pavilions,” 1918. Outside walls were hung with Robert Rauschenberg’s “Palms,” from the Urban Bourbon Series, 1989, and Jean Michel Basquiat’s “Red Joy,” 1984.
The contrast foreshadowed the depth and scope of the offerings to come. Nearby, Tasende Gallery of Los Angeles and San Diego hung a stunning work by Fernando Botera titled “Venus,” 2005. While there were smaller Boteras scattered about the booth, a large vertical painting by Wayne Thiebald commanded interest with a skyscraper, city at its feet, palpating against a mushroomy sky. The sculpture in this booth was a totemlike object by Nike de St. Phalen. An Armando Romera painting, “Le fest de los payass,” was painted in tones of black and brown offset by figures in candy striped hats and red clown noses.
Over at Babcock Galleries, the works of David Smith — “Figures in a Landscape, 1931–33” — commanded a great deal of interest. Also John Marin’s “Island,” circa 1921, from Maine, which was given by Alfred Stieglitz to the owner, was fresh and exciting. In the contemporary realm, Chuck Close was represented, as was Alan Gussow. But it was Will Barnett’s tall painting titled “Paddleboy,” 1987, that captured both eye and heart.
One of the outstanding minimalist pieces was on the floor outside Jacobson Howard Gallery’s double booth. Entitled “Instrument for La Monte Young,” 1966, the stainless rectangular box with ball was created by Walter de Maria. A representative for the gallery said that the piece was wired to create sound. Jacobson Howard also showed Louise Nevelson’s “Moontide II,” a large three-dimensional wall sculpture made of wood, with black paint as well as Roy Lichtenstein’s “Brushstroke Still Life with Lamp,” 1997, a brightly colored screen printed oil-based enamel ink and hand painted Magna on a honeycomb core aluminum panel in wood frame designed by the artist.
Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, Inc, of Chicago, showed a range of artists working in different media. Sue Fuller’s “String Composition,” for instance, created in 1955, was exactly that — an abstract design created from colored stretched string attached to Masonite. Mary Callery’s bronze sculpture “Circus Riders,” was a fluid execution of two riders on a horse in graceful opposition. And George Josimovich’s “Nude Reading (in stockings)” 1928, was an expressively sensual painting.
The Richard Norton Gallery of Chicago led with a portrait by Robert Henri of a boy — architect Daniel Bernhams’s business partner’s son — that was delicious in tones of “innocence” and red. Three watercolors on paper of Isadora Duncan by Abraham Walkotitz, from the artist’s estate, were fresh to the market.
McCormick Gallery, Chicago, featured “The Idol” by Melville Price. The artist, one of the youngest and most impassioned of the “ab exs,” as the wall tag stated, typifies some of the early Abstract Expressionists whose work is now coming into vogue. Having painted intensely, Price never made enough to live comfortably in New York so he took a teaching position in Philadelphia and commuted by train back to the city with Franz Kline, who became a great influence. Major exhibitions of work followed Price’s death at age 50, but this recognition came too late for the dedicated painter to enjoy.
Price is representative of a second wave of Abstract Expressionists, and later on graphic designers, who never felt the white-hot light of success during their careers. Today, with the market for the founders of movements reaching stratospheric proportions, collectors are reaching out to their art and these artists are now coming into their own.
Franklin Riehlman of Franklin Riehlman Fine Art, New York City, put it best when he said, “As it becomes more difficult to collect Jackson Pollocks’ at $130 million, the second generation is coming to market. So you’re talking about the difference between art and art history. Because history often wants to see what came first, who would benefit, other people were often pushed a little to the back because they were younger. These people actually continued to paint and that hurt them in the market.” Until now.
Another of this subset of artists is Alfred Jenson, whose works incorporate numbers. Born in Guatemala, Jenson worked in New York City and his works reflect the artist’s obsession with Aztec numerology. Mark Rothko was one of the first supporters of Jenson’s work.
Similarly, African American art is gaining ground. Historically, the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York City, has made significant contributions in bringing the work of African American and women artists to recognition. The gallery’s booth reflected this with offerings by Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Beauford Delaney.
When asked about the current interest in African American artists, Rosenfeld, said, “Museums, rural and urban, have been a very strong part of the market as they look at the demographics of their cities and realize that African Americans are underrepresented. Collectors of American art, too, are discovering for the first time the quality of these underrepresented artists and adding them to their collections.” Ultimately, he concluded, “there is a wide and diverse audience for the material and it’s the quality they are impressed by.”
In other booths, the current generation of artists was being shown. For instance, Nohra Haime of Nohra Haime Gallery displayed Nicola Bolla’s “Vanitas, Boxing Gloves” made of Swarovski “diamonds” and an untitled work by Mimmo Paladino featuring a jute bag, two faces and leather gloves. On the bag is stenciled, “Product of Zaire.” Valerie Hirt’s “Games Men Play,” was a tour de force of the strategies that occupy men’s minds. It was brought to life with images of past and present super heroes and heroes. Remarking about the strength of the work, Haime said, “She [Hirt] did this after September 11. Before that she did paintings that turned into tapestries.”
At the Forum Gallery booth, “Eighteen Components” by photorealist Robert Cottingham, a 2006 work that grew out of a grant from the Mac Dowell Foundation where he experimented, was on display. Colorful images of machine parts, which the artist made out of cardboard and then expanded into water colors as he played with high color tones, will be part of a show next year. It will be held in conjunction with the Mac Dowell community’s centennial anniversary.
Across the way at Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Thomas Parker, talked about the large Neil Welliver painting that dominated the booth. Eight feet by eight feet, it featured a main subject, with an emphasis on trees and water. “It’s that kind of soul searching in nature that was so typical of the artist,” Parker said. The painting, circa 1970, which had arrived that day, had been in the Reader’s Digest collection until 1988 and had escaped the auction block, going instead to two private collectors before arriving at Art20.
Gallery Henoch, New York City, featured the best pieces of the artists they represent. Outstanding among them were John Evans beach paintings and landscapes. Filled with light and color, and abstract except for the images and forms of boats, the paintings were captivating. Also intriguing — and of a totally different bent, photorealistic, in fact — were California artist Eric Zenner’s painting of sleek men and women in or near the water. A staple amid the gallery’s stock is Daniel Greene, with the oil on canvas “Whack-A-Clown” highlighted. Sharon Sprung’s “Reclining Nude,” a realistic masterpiece in depth and detail, was hung near one of her student’s works. David Kassan’s exquisite portrait of girl standing was remarkable for a 29-year-old artist.
Art20 was a feast for the eyes and a boon for collectors. For further information contact Sanford Smith and Associates, 212-777-5218, or www.sanfordsmith.com.
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