Published: November 1, 2016
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
BOSTON, MASS. — When Robert Four was commended on the longevity of the Boston International Fine Art Show (BIFAS), he mused, “Twenty years later, I’m used to it.” He and Tony Fusco, the show’s managers, have plenty to be proud of. The duo seemingly have a perennial event on autopilot as the modestly sized, 40-dealer art fair celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts October 20–23. On display were the diverse collections of well-regarded dealers that ranged from historical to contemporary art and included Sixteenth Century drawings, contemporary glass, Modern art, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American and Continental paintings, bronze sculpture, symbolist works and more.
“They were parking blocks away to get to the show,” said Tony Fusco when we spoke the following week. Following a delightful Thursday night gala, the Friday opening got off to a rocky start when a water main break a block away shut down access to the area. “Our gate on Friday was significantly down from last year because of the break, so we were greatly relieved on Saturday that it was cleared up.”
As Bostonians found their rhythm again, they flocked en masse to the Cyclorama to reinvigorate a show that has become a staple in the Boston arts calendar for the past 20 years. “Saturday and Sunday were gangbusters. Sales were very strong across the board,” said Fusco.
While diversity reigns at BIFAS, a strong showing of Massachusetts and New England maritime works were on display in more than a few booths. Paintings by Milton Avery and the Hudson River artists Alfred Thompson Bricher and William Trost Richards could be seen, as well as works by John Singer Sargent and John La Farge. Prices ranged from a few hundred to half a million dollars, appealing to all levels of collectors.
Sixteenth to Twentieth Century original drawings were plush in the booth of Découvert, Rockport, Mass. “We’ve had this business for four years,” said Donald Stroud, “but we’ve been collecting for 40.” Stroud, along with his partner Steven Law, presented a fine array of works by well-known and early Continental artists, including Giovanni Balducci, Francois Lalaisse, André Durand and Franz Kaisermann. Front and center in the booth was a striking Florentine Balducci pen and ink “Design for an Apse: Paradise Christ and the Virgin in Glory” depicting an amphitheater of angels and saints raised around the holy figures.
“There’s no point in putting a dividing wall between us,” said Donald Gajadher of Jason Jacques Inc, New York City, in regard to the joint exhibition between that gallery and Galerie Fledermaus, Chicago. “It gives viewers a stronger sense of the period.” The pair displayed works from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Symbolist period, incorporating a wall of works on paper by Egon Schiele as well as pieces by Gustave Klimt and Koloman Moser with pottery works by Amphora, Jules Cayette, Max Laeuger and Atelier de Glatigny.
Susanna J. Fichera, Brunswick, Maine, brought a thoughtful mix of Twentieth Century works to her booth as she showed off a small Henry Moore bronze, “Girl and Dwarf,” in front of a strong-lined oil painting by Joseph Gualtieri, “Mexican Maiden,” where the female subject stands with a hot dog cart in front of abstract structures. One of the more traditional paintings in the booth, an Augustus Koopman oil painting, circa 1907, featured an Italian processional service. A charismatic flowing fjord painting by Philip Barter and an oil of a vibrant crashing sea by Howard Cook were on the adjoining wall.
“We’re here mostly for the food,” quipped Richard Rossello of Avery Galleries, Bryn Mawr, Penn., and New York City, as the waiters made their rounds during the opening gala Thursday night. The art that hung on the wall behind him was likely his second reason for attendance. “We bring American paintings when we come to Boston, we try to give people a good representation of the gallery.” Rossello featured a Maurice Prendergast still life painting in his exhibition; the oil featured apples in various dishes sprawled about on a table and dated from 1910–13. Across the booth was a wonderful Allen Tucker oil painting, “October Shadows,” featuring a barn on a hill colored in bright autumn oranges, yellows and greens. Rossello also featured works by Corot and Moran.
Glenn Aber of Ai Bo Gallery, Purchase, N.Y., took two spaces in the show, one to feature contemporary Vietnamese art, which is what he specialized in when he began dealing, and the other to show contemporary glass. Aber brought glass works by Tomas Brzon, an artist working a few hours outside of Prague who studied with Martin Rosol. The brightly colored works in azure blue, fluorescent pink, glowing red and golden yellow presented sharp lines that would shift in color and dimension as the viewer moved about them.
A John La Farge portrait sat on the wall in the booth of Thomas Colville, Guilford, Conn., and New York City. History dictates that following a study with William Morris Hunt, La Farge returned to Boston with a taste for the Barbizon style and a desire to promote it. Such was his success and stature in the Nineteenth Century Boston society that soon all of the “Boston Brahmins” were commissioning and collecting Barbizon paintings. So it was fitting to find a La Farge hanging in the perennial art fair of his hometown city, still casting his influence over collectors and patrons. “A Boy and His Dog (Dickey Hunt)” is only one of two full-length portraits known to have been done by the artist. Colville had other paintings by La Farge, as well as works by Georgia O’Keeffe and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
The Hudson River school was on full tilt at William Vareika Fine Arts, Newport, R.I. The dealer devoted entire walls to both William Trost Richards and Alfred Thompson Bricher. The Luminists proved rather popular at the show, with viewers crowding the booth early into the opening night gala.
“I always try to show the Cape,” said Kevin Rita, of Garvey Rita Art & Antiques, West Hartford, Conn. The dealer showed off modestly priced works by Charles Cahoon, Eric Aho and Andrew Winter. “That’s the only Andrew Winter Provincetown painting that I know of,” said Rita, as he pointed toward an oil depicting a row boat through a group of dock pilings. The New England imagery didn’t stop there for the dealer, who also displayed a circa 1915 Jane Jarvis Mumford oil, as well as a Harold Dunbar painting of the Barnstable dunes. Rita said he plans to move to the Cape next year where he will open up a gallery selling books, antiques and fine art.
Three notable Boston artists were hung by the hometown dealers at Vose Galleries, and they all lined up nicely, one after another. A John Singer Sargent charcoal on paper portrait of a young man beautifully captured the subject’s youthfulness. A similar portrait of the sitter’s mother and brother resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Next was a stunning Philip Leslie Hale oil painting, “Reading,” depicting an interior scene of a woman reading amid vivid red drapery. Finally, a Hermann Dudley Murphy oil painting, “Pink and White Peonies,” brought a sense of formality to the wall. The relationship between Murphy and Vose Galleries extends back to 1915, when Murphy asked Robert C. Vose to take over managerial duties for his prestigious Carrig-Rohane frame shop.
Casterline Goodman, Aspen, Colo., and East Hampton, N.Y., exhibited a fine array of Modern works, including pieces by Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Christo and others. One provocative wall in the booth featured a Sam Francis work next to a piece by Kenneth Noland. The Francis oil painting appeared as ink blots in water, contrasting the deep, dark blues with bright oranges and reds on a plane of white space. Noland’s work had the appearance of an archery target with a blood red perimeter.
“Diversity has always been our main theme,” said Tony Fusco. “We’re trying to reach an entire market.”
The Boston International Fine Arts Show will be back next year at the Cyclorama on October 19–22. For more information, www.fineartboston.com or 617-363-0405.
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