Published: March 19, 2002
By Carol Sims
NEW YORK CITY
Works on Paper offered valuables such as the Titian oil on paper (mounted on canvas) at Spanierman Gallery or Hirschl & Adler’s drypoint aquatint of “The Banjo Lesson” by Mary Cassatt. There were also economically priced works (at least one sale was just $56) by lesser-known artists. One could also argue that to buy a work on paper is going to be economical in any collecting category. How else can one expect to own an excellent work of Impressionism by paying only in the low six figures?
Works on Paper exudes vitality and plentitude. The exhibition walls were frequently crowded with work, and in addition, most dealers brought display racks for unframed pieces. The effect was inviting. People spent time at booths. Browsing wasn’t hurried.
There were photographs, pastels, watercolors, gouaches, oils, collages, cutouts, drawings in graphite, charcoal and chalk, and every variety of printmaking: woodcut, silkscreen, etching, and lithography to name a few. Only the artists’ choice of ground (paper) gave the fair its theme. Centuries (Sixteenth to the Twenty-first), country of origin, and styles changed from dealer to dealer, and often within a gallery’s offerings.
Opening with a Wednesday evening preview to benefit the Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York Inc., the fair ran from Thursday February 28 through Sunday, March 3 at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue. Sanford L. Smith & Associates, Ltd. manages the fair.
“I thought linking with the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York was an excellent idea, as the organization worked very hard to bring a new group of people to the show floor,” said Jerald L. Melberg, president, Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, N.C.
Shelley Farmer of Hirschl & Adler said during the fair, “energy is really good. Dealers are upbeat. Everyone is happy to be back at the Armory. It is comfortable here.”
Michael Verne of The Verne Collection, Cleveland Ohio, said, “This was the best show I have ever had at Works on Paper. The [Wednesday] opening was also my best for an opening night. Sanford Smith did a great job promoting the show and getting everything ready on very short notice. It was great to be back in the Armory and in New York.”
Attendance overall was excellent, except perhaps on Thursday when things were a bit slow. It didn’t hurt that Friday’s edition of The New York Times had a very favorable review by Grace Glueck. Readers of that review were instructed to come with “high expectations” – and they did. The armory was fully energized on Saturday and Sunday.
More than 20 exhibitors came from other countries, giving the fair some international flair. A little more than a third of the participating dealers/galleries came from New York City, others came from major US cities (Chicago, L.A., Washington D.C.), and some came from less-traveled places like Lincoln, Neb., Memphis, Tenn. and Fairlawn, Ohio.
Jerald L. Melberg said, “This is the eighth or ninth year in a row that I have done this exhibition. It is one of our favorites to do, as I enjoy working with Sanford Smith and it is a convivial group of dealers.” Melberg brought eye-catching color to the fair: Wolf Kahn pastels, lively art by Romare Bearden and Robert Peterson and others. “It gives us a venue in New York once a year. Also we sold more than enough to cover our expenses and it gives me opportunity to continue meeting more of my colleagues on a national and international level,” he continued.
When asked how it felt to be back in New York City, German dealer Robert Berg, of Reinhold Berg Antiquariat, Regensburg, replied, “Unfortunately there is still a certain sadness to feel, when people speak about the attack last year. However, I think you also can recognize that people are trying to get back to their normal lives. I was in October last year in New York City and I think it is already much better.”
Berg said, “We were doing the show for the third or fourth year, and for us it is a great chance to meet many of our clients from New York and other parts of the East Coast. We are doing about eight to ten shows every year in the entire US (this since several years) and we have a large number of repeating customers.” Berg continued, “there were curators and as well collectors and of course also people, who are just starting in collecting or only looking for great pieces for decorating their homes.” Berg specializes in antique maps, and decorative prints from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.
Cynthia Reeves, director of The Spheris Gallery, in New York City and Walpole, N.H., had this to say, “The Works on Paper was a very strong show for us, as it has been for the past now five years – hard to believe! We felt that the tenor of the show had shifted a bit, more toward the serious buyer and away from the impulse buying that had marked the last few years. The clients seemed to be making more considered decisions, and purchasing more significant work, rather than acquiring for the sake of doing so.
“For us, this seems to indicate that we will be continuing our conversations with these clients over time, and many did indeed express an interest in making a time to see additional work – oil paintings, etc,” she continued. The Spheris Gallery spotlighted loose oil on canvas landscapes by Eric Aho whose expert sense of color captured all sorts of atmospheric conditions.
“The highest quality pieces are running out of here,” said New York City art dealer Gary Bruder on Saturday. He had his eye on a Toulouse-Lautrec [his specialty] at William Weston Gallery, London. It was gone before he got a second chance. “You are putting 30 of the finest print dealers in one location. Broad-based collectors looking for the top end and highest quality can find it here.”
Bruder sold a signed Toulouse-Lautrec entitled “La Clowness Assise” on Thursday morning to a private client for $225,000, and the sales didn’t stop there. “There is no pressure [at this fair]. All the buyers are anonymous. It is very easy to come and look.”
Just adjacent to Bruder was the booth of Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, New York City, with quite a different array of art. Markel sells work of emerging artists. “Historically this fair has been very good for us,” said Katharine Lord of the gallery. This year most of their sales happened on Sunday. They sold works by Stephen Pentak, Judy Barrie, Pamela Moore, Tamar Zinn, and Donna Levinstone.
Works on Paper had a good depth of Old Masters (there were about eight or nine specialists in Old Masters). R. S. Johnson Fine Art, Chicago, Ill., featured “The Large Horse,” a 1505 engraving by Albrecht Dürer. They like the fair for the easy access it provides to museum curators, and were happy with their sales as well.
Galerie Andre Candillier, Paris, France, had a good collection of works including “Le Depart Pour le Travail,” 1863 by Jean-Francois Millet.
Hill-Stone, New York City brought Dürer and Brueghel and Rembrandt. They had a stunning etching by Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804) of Rococo elegance.
Mary Lublin Fine Arts, New York City, sells American works on paper. She offered a William Trost Richards watercolor (on carpet-lining paper that he favored for its texture, neutral gray color and large format), circa 1880 entitled “Conanicut, RI, Coastline.” The image size was 22½ by 36 inches. Showing a moody sky and sea, rocky coastline with grazing livestock and soaring birds. It was priced at $85,000.
Rock J. Walker of San Diego, Calif., showed modern masters like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Roberto Matta, Henry Moore, Robert Indiana and Frank Stella. Walker said, “Time eradicates all but the best. That is why we are still listening to Bach and Beethoven.”
Works on paper are proving that they can withstand the test of time; so has Sanford Smith’s fair, which is now looking at its 15th season in 2003.
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