Works on Paper, an art show whose name explains it all, opened to an enthusiastic crowd on Wednesday evening, February 25, with a gala preview during which at least one $1.5 million sale was recorded. The benefit raised substantial funds for the Citizens Committee for Children of New York.
Dealers were optimistic as the Sanford Smith-managed show opened to the general public the following morning with rumors of strong sales emanating from every corner. Red dots seen throughout the stands confirmed the activity of the previous night. Red dots continued to appear as the scurrying crowd made its way through the show after Thursdays noon opening. Sandy Smith reported good sales and a solid gate. Attendance was up slightly from last year with a “slow” crowd after the initial opening on Thursday, and a moderate crowd on Friday. “The 50 to 50 to 60 degree weather on Saturday and Sunday hurt us; everyone wanted to be outside for the first really nice weekend of the year,” commented Smith, “but we still saw good attendance for both days.
This show, now in its sixteenth year came about when IFPDA founder and former president, the late Marty Gordon, approached Smith to manage a print fair. Smith’s response was a resounding “No,” although Smith had concurrently been exploring the idea of expanding into another Manhattan art show. Smith proposed a show that would incorporate a wide range of art, everything on paper, original art as well as prints, the idea was adopted by Gordon and Smith and Works on Paper was born.
“This is a much more buyable show for young collectors,” stated Smith, “Typically the top end of the market at Works on Paper is $300,000. At the Art Show [another Smith-managed show that closed at the armory just three days prior to Works on Paper opening] the top end is $3 to $4 million. At Works on Paper you can buy a good print for $100, at The Art Show the bottom end is $100,000.”
Not only are the dealers pleased with the venue, but shoppers have long flocked to the show for rdf_Descriptions at all ends of the spectrum. Old Masters to contemporary, prints to originals, Works on Paper satisfies many appetites.
The top selling rdf_Description in this years event came from the booth of R.S. Johnson Fine Art, Chicago, with a Rembrandt etching and drypoint entitled “Christ Crucified between Two Thieves: The Three Crosses” selling during preview for $1.5 million. The third state Old Master print had a Strasburg Bend and Lily watermark and was circa 1653. Stanley Johnson called the piece a “very fine, richly, yet sensitively, inked impression of the extremely rare third of five states. It is a masterpiece,” he stated. A rumor that the piece had sold to Passion movie-maker Mel Gibson were unsubstantiated. Johnson was also quick to point to a Albrecht Dürer woodcut from 1497 that hung on the back wall of his booth. The rare piece, entitled “Samson Kills the Lion,” had also sold preview night at $225,000.
Twentieth Century images seen around the floor with sold tags included an Andrew Wyeth watercolor in the booth of Farmington, Maine, dealer Tom Veilleux. The large piece, entitled “Nicky in the Woods,” depicted a snow-covered hillside wooded landscape virtually void of color apart from the gray and black trees that dominated the scene, except for Nick’s small red cape in the distance. The piece sold during preview going to a private collector for an undisclosed price. Ironically, Veilleux’s information tag for the Wyeth, a simple white card with black lettering, closely resembled the watercolor once the small red dot had been placed on the card.
Veilleux commented that there is “nothing like being in the Park Avenue Armory. It’s a good neighborhood.” This is the third year the dealer has participated in the event and by far his best. “We sold 15 pieces,” he said “Making 15 sales at a show is pretty remarkable, there was certainly a lot of enthusiasm.” Among the other pieces to move from his booth was a large full sheet watercolor by William Zorach entitled “Our Home in the Fall,” several Jane Peterson pieces and four Carl Sprinchorn pastels and watercolors that depicted beach scenes and bathers.
Picasso linocuts in earthy tones dominated the outside walls of Walker Fine Art, New York City. “Woman with Necklace,” 1959, and “Large Head of Woman with Hat,” 1962, were featured. The linocuts were number 14 and 28 of editions of 50, respectively.
The centerpiece of Simon Capstick-Dale Fine Art’s stand was a stunning Edgar Degas entitled “Femme a Ecoudec,” price on request. A charcoal with brown pastel on paper, the piece had an exhibition history of The National Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Chicago Art Institute. Other standouts in the booth included a Fernand Leger gouache, brush and ink on paper entitled “La Fermiere,” 1952. The piece, depicting a woman feeding a bull from her hand with bold dashes of red, blue, yellow and green dissecting the work, was priced at $240,000. Also offered was Marc Chagall’s gouache “Bouquet et Nu” that carried a sticker price of $265,000.
“It was a fair Fair,” commented Robert Newman of The Old Print Shop, while impressed with the crowds the dealer did very little business during the opening days of the show. Saturday and Sunday, however, Newman stated that they “did very well. We sold a Martin Lewis ‘Tree Manhattan’ print which we were especially pleased with since we represent his estate.” The dealer also reported selling numerous pieces by contemporary printmakers and photographers that the gallery is representing. “About 15 to 18 pieces of the contemporary rdf_Descriptions that we featured this year were sold,” stated Newman, including a black and white photograph of the Eli Cathedral in England by Rama, several Alan Petrulis etchings and prints by Michael Arike. “These pieces were very popular with prices ranging from a low of $300 to $400 and a high of $1,000,” said Newman.
London dealer Sims Reed featured a selection of books with Historie Naturallewith at the forefront of the display. The Picasso Buffon, bound in Moroccan leather by Martin Fabiani, 1942, had 31 original etchings by Picasso and a signed and inscribed full-page original gouache depicting a cat. It was priced at $115,000. Other books included Claude, an album of 30 with etchings by Claude Lorrain that was stickered at $55,000.
Hirschl & Adler offered up a good selection of art including two Edward Hopper etchings that were attracting attention. Both were signed and dated with “The Locomotive,” 1923 priced at $85,000, while “The Cat Boat” was offered at $125,000. A Mary Cassatt drypoint soft ground etching and aquatint printed in colors and inked was from an edition of 25 from the fourth and final state. Another unusual rdf_Description in the booth was an Oliver Chafee color woodcut depicting as lady in a tropical setting that was accompanied by the original pine print block.
To see Romare Beardon’s collage “To See Go Into The Shade,” one needed to merely walk into the well lit the booth of New York City dealer Gerald Peters. The vibrantly colored piece in springlike greens accented by earthy toned figures and flora, 1973, was an eye-catcher that was attracting a great deal of attention, $175,000. On the opposite wall was a Jamie Wyeth entitled “Island Windfall” priced at $60,000 and Milton Avery’s “Autumn Trees,” 1963, at $110,000.
Chicago art specialists Aaron Galleries offered a diverse selection of materials in a wide price range. The study for “Romance,” a mixed media with tempera, 1931-32, 12 by 11 inches, by Thomas Hart Benton was $125,000. The opposite wall boasted two wonderful Robert Mapplethorpe photos of Gregory Hines dancing, $12,000 each, while the back wall of the stand offered a selection of black and white lithographs with local themes such as Howard Cook’s 1932 image of the “George Washington Bridge” with Cook’s wife shown walking on the sidewalk amidst girders and cables, $7,000, and “High Bridge” by Louis Lozowick a second printing from an edition of 20, 1928, $4,000.
Berlin dealer Joeng Maass displayed a variety of materials including an Otto Dix watercolor and India ink entitled “Matrose Und Madchen,” 1923. The dealer also offered a woodcut by Erich Heckel “Frau Am Spiegel,” 1908, $4,000, a woodcut by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner “Nackte Tan Zerinne,” 1909 price on request, a Kirchner litho on yellow paper “Reityer Im Gruenewald,” 1914, price on request, and a Karl Schmidt Rottluf woodcut “Knieende,” 1914, $45,000.
“Wild Things” by Maurice Sendak received center stage billing in the booth of Battledore, Kingston, N.Y., with both original illustration book art and special project art offered. Pieces ranged in price from $35,000 for an original watercolor of a Hillbilly Wild Thing, 1997, to a high of $450,000 for a 10 by 283/4-inch watercolor for an American Express advertising campaign, circa 1989.