By Carol Sims
NEW YORK CITY — The 15th annual Works On Paper show was colorful and jazzy like the Donald Sultan flowers in red and yellow at Mary Ryan Gallery, New York City, and refined and muted like the caryatid drawn by Orazio Samacchini (1532-1577) at the display of Galerie de Bayser, Paris. The common denominator of paper left plenty of room for variety, and New Yorkers had plenty of time to see everything. The show opened with a benefit for the Citizens’ Committee for Children on New York, Inc on Wednesday, February 26, and ran through Sunday, March 2.
Predictably, there were many works by Mattisse and Picasso. (The Mattisse Picasso exhibition at MoMA Queens opened prior to the Works on Paper show). At least eight galleries brought drawings or prints made by Mattisse and about 12 galleries hung works by Picasso. There were many works by Miro and Chagall on the floor, too. It was a good year to pick up a work by a European master.
Advertised as “Quality fine art at realistic prices,” the show serves our economic times and the beginning collector very well. Here one can find hundreds, if not thousands, of original works of art that are within most people’s reach. Some works at the show were priced under $100.
There were good values like the $3,100 Kawase Hasui wood block print of “Pine trees after snowfall” from 1929 and costly valuables like the $25,000 1833-4 print “Night Snow at Kambara, Kambara Yorunayuki” by Hiroshige, both offered by Carolyn Stayley of Seattle. The six-figure Mary Cassatt etching/aquatint at Hirschl and Adler, while expensive, was still an excellent value and opportunity compared to her nearly unattainable oils.
There are some artists whose best works only appear on paper – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec for one. The postermaker is best known for his lithographs on paper. (Gary Bruder, of New York City specializes in Lautrec, exclusively, and a few other galleries brought some work by Lautrec).
There is also something kind of fun about owning a preliminary sketch of a well-known painting. Elrich Manley Fine Art, New York City, displayed an Edward Hopper sketch for his 1950 painting “Cape Morning.”
The hand of the artist is clearly sensed in a charcoal drawing or watercolor. Take the John Whorf watercolors at Spanierman Gallery, New York City — or the Jane Peterson gouaches at Tom Veilleux Gallery. There is an energy and vibrancy in these spontaneous works that many collectors prize. Richard Norton, Chicago, had three little pastel landscapes by Albert Krehbiel that were loose and charming, and yes, humble.
Unlike specialty shows that focus on just prints, photos, books, or even watercolors or drawings, this is the only show that bundles all those works on paper together in one New York City venue. Show originator Sanford Smith tries to balance these different categories so that no one category predominates. He has seen changes in what galleries have been bringing over the past 15 years, “In the early days there were more Old Master drawings. Now we are seeing many more galleries bringing contemporary work.”
Tobai International, based in Chicago, sells contemporary Asian art. Owner Andrew Bae has been doing the Works on Paper Show for six years. He loves the access the show gives him to the New York collector. “The show is great. What we bring is not typical -not everyone is crazy about my work, but some welcome this new kind of work and we have some good followers.”
Over the years the number of dealers from Europe has increased, according to Smith. Of the 2003 show’s 88 dealers, 67 are from the United States, one is from Canada, nine are from England, seven are from France, three from Germany and one each from the Netherlands and Sweden.
Jane Roberts Fine Arts Limited, London, had a phenomenal show. “I sold 20 drawings and watercolors mainly in the $2,000/5,000 range, although I sold a Millet drawing and a Rousseau watercolor and a Decamps gouache for bigger sums (above $20,000), all French, all by recorded artists but all fresh material, never seen in the States before, and nicely framed. I also sold two contemporary photos by Ronald Hurwitz who I showed in Paris in November ($700 each). I was expecting to do nothing and was most pleasantly surprised as it is a very tiring and expensive operation to come from Europe,” she wrote after the show. Roberts likes the atmosphere at WOP and appreciates the camaraderie of the exhibitors. She said the show, which is the only show she does in the United States, “attracts nice new young clients.”
The Old Print Shop, New York City, brought several prints by Martin Lewis (1881-1962). “Rainy Day Queens,” a 1931 drypoint, showed a wet and glistening Stillman Avenue. The Old Print Shop has represented the estate of this remarkable printmaker since 1987, and had many excellent examples of his work on hand.
Marion Meyer brought a group of spontaneous prints by Man Ray and some interesting Francis Picabia drawings. Thomas French of Fairlawn, Ohio, had a whole wall devoted to prints by George Bellows. Conner Rosenkranz brought several pieces by Marion Greenwood.
Andrea Marinkovich, co-owner of the gallery Burton Marinkovich, brought works by Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler and Wayne Thiebaud, among others. “Ochre,” a 1983 woodcut by Diebenkorn, was acquired from Kathan Brown, his publisher. According to Marinko-vich, it had 28 separate veils of color. “I specialize in the top end of each artist,” said Marinkovich, who has been doing the show for nine years.
Shopping Works on Paper one needs to be prepared for tremendous variety. Reinhold Berg of Regensburg, Germany, brought a tantalizing array botanicals, as well as beautifully conserved old maps. Mark J. Weinbaum Fine and Vintage Posters, New York City, had travel posters for Nantucket, Florence and other destinations, as well as art posters for exhibitions and performances. Ronny Cohen brought a whole booth of work by important women artists. One fun piece was a Jennifer Bartlett pastel from 2000 that was a colorful, textural drawing of a tropical island.
Gordon’s Art, Phoenix, brought prints of old views of New York (circa 1765) by Pierre Charles Canot, one a southeast view of the city and the other from the southwest. Gordon’s also brought famous sports photographs and a sweet little blue bird by Milton Avery in 1953 that the artist printed on two sides.
Chris Beetles, London, brought exquisite Nineteenth Century Victorian still lifes by William Henry Hunt Ows (1790-1864) and by John Sherrin (1819-1896). Peter Fetterman, Santa Monica, Calif., had stunning color photographs of India by Steve Mc Curry as well as black and white photos by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ruth Bernhard. Gerald Peters Gallery, New York City, brought a mixed media work by Jamie Wyeth entitled “Island Windfall.”
Works on Paper is a show that offers an unusual variety, good values on every aisle, and a great way to get started in collecting.