Published: May 15, 2018
After nearly 20 years conducting “Dogs in Art” sales, first at Doyle’s, then at Bonhams, Alan Fausel has been tapped as the new director at the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Museum of the Dog, which is in the process of relocating from Missouri to Manhattan. Antiques and The Arts Weekly wanted to ask the godfather of dog art about the landscape for Dog Art and his plans for the museum, which will open near the time of the 2019 Westminster Dog Show.
‘Dogs in Art’ seems to be a fairly specialized niche in the art market that seems to be your particular passion – how did you stumble into it?
‘Dogs in Art’ was conceived in 1998, when I forged a marketing alliance between Doyle, where I was working at the time, and Bonhams. I’d been in a brainstorming session and noticed that the Westminster dog show was on the television. I remembered that Bonhams had conducted sales of pets in art from the mid-1980s; within a year, the first Dogs in Art sale was held at Doyle’s. I ran that sale for another five years, then ran them at Bonhams until 2016.
How has the Dog Art market evolved? What are current collecting trends? Where do you see the Dog Art market going?
Like Victorian paintings, which many of them are, the market for dog art is fairly soft right now. External factors contribute as well; hunts are not popular in the United States, and it has been banned in England. Fewer people shoot with gun dogs now. Most of the top dealers of dog art used to help support the market but they have increasingly left the field. They will occasionally splash out if they have a client for something, but that’s hurt the market. As far as decorative things, people just don’t collect like they used to. The majority of good dog paintings bring four, maybe five figures; it is difficult to find a good six-figure painting these days.
Are there artists, genres or breeds that have withstood the decline? What has particularly suffered?
Hunt paintings are still desirable, and generally command bigger prices. Works by William Hamilton Trood, which are more anecdotal or narrative, with a sense of humor, are sought-after as well. British artists, such as George Stubbs, John Emms, Arthur Wardle or Thomas Blinks have held their value better. Americans still like works by Edmund Osthaus, John Martin Tracy and Percival Rosseau. Perennial favorites have historically been English setters and pointers; the Labrador retriever, which is now one of the most popular breeds in dog art, came into popularity in the early Twentieth Century.
Are there regional distinctions in the market?
Over the years, there has been a growing interest from Southern states, and sales of dog art are a bit stronger there. City collectors tend to like dog portraits.
Why is the museum relocating from St Louis?
The museum originally opened in Manhattan in 1982, but in 1987 was given a good opportunity to move into a historic house and park outside of St Louis, Mo. The suburb location was not ideal for foot traffic and, when the AKC decided to return its corporate offices to Manhattan, it seemed natural to move the museum as well. We will be in the Kalikow building, where the AKC corporate offices are and which is on Park Avenue, just a few blocks south of Grand Central Station. I expect attendance to increase seven- to ten-fold.
What are the strengths and highlights of the museum? Are there areas you hope to develop?
Being sponsored by the AKC, the collection is strong in dog portraits. Among the highlights are works by James Ward, Sir Edward Henry Landseer and John Sargent Noble, to name a few. I am interested in expanding the collection to include works that show canine-human interactions or are more anecdotal. There is an opportunity to expand in areas, such as photography and contemporary, that are exciting as well.
Once you’ve made the move, what are your immediate and long-term goals for the museum?
This is the only museum of its kind and it is our mandate to tell the story of all dogs. I want to emphasize the canine-human bond. The first exhibition will be to show highlights from the museum’s collection, which will open to coincide with the 2019 Westminster Dog Show. I want to look at dog art by women artists, like Marguerite Kirmse, Maud Earl, Lucy Dawson and Diana Thorne. We will have themed exhibitions on individual breeds, or specific categories, such as dogs in service or dogs in war.
I imagine a prerequisite to your job is a love for dogs. Do you own one?
We recently lost our 14-year-old English springer spaniel. Thanks to a connection through one of my former clients from Bonhams, I recently acquired a Welsh springer spaniel puppy, which I watch on my puppy cam during the day.
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