Lawrence van Hagen's Pop-Up & What to See in Chelsea

One of the most refreshing exhibitions in Chelsea right now is Whats Up New York the Pop Up three story show at 132 10th Avenue, curated by Lawrence van Hagen. Unfortunately I only learned of it a week before its upcoming closing on Thursday the 25th. Amazing stuff, with work shared between Americans and Europeans, most of the latter group unknown to me previously, but who made me glad to have come. For instance, the Larry Bell painting seen in the photo that includes van Hagen, is mirrored by two works by Martini Basher while the Daniel Turner reflects similarly paint slashes by Johnny Abrahams. There’s a really unusually configured Kenneth Noland and a super small John Chamberlain that appears to be in an argument with a crushed metal work by Ernesto Burgos. All in all, an exhibition worth visiting.

Another amazing show at Friedman Benda, a leading design gallery, combines cleanly carved work by Wendell Castle and wildly inventive furniture by Ron Arad, Humberto & Fernando Campana and a host of other designers that make a trip to this site fanciful fun. And at David Zwirner there is the never ending shock of the late conceptual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres with a huge room bordered by wrapped candies and two small electric clocks as the only display on the opposing wall. At Lisson Gallery paintings by the centenarian Carmen Herrara show work from the last six years and at Matthew Marks the last work by the late Ellsworth Kelly document that he was still engaged in his work until the end.

Saw lots of other not always so interesting shows, but did want to mention Charlie Ahearn at P-P-O-W. Ahearn combines film and wall art, documenting street culture and the rise of hip hop in New York City, with videos like Bongo Barbershop and Dancing industry. There’s life in these works and he makes the most of it creatively. Just one last scene – at Allan Stone Projects there is a one man show of James Havard that is quite amazing. Without describing it I suggest you pay a visit. Havard hasn’t been seen in quite a while and I wonder why now that I’ve seen this exhibition.

There’s a lot going on in Chelsea that you will never see at the big fairs.

Curator of  Whats Up New York , Lawrence van Hagen adjacent to a Larry Bell painting

Curator of Whats Up New York, Lawrence van Hagen adjacent to a Larry Bell painting

Exhibitions in Winter

Susan Teller, Director of Susan Teller Gallery

Susan Teller, Director of Susan Teller Gallery

We attend some exhibitions because we expect to learn something new about art, antiques or various noteworthy collectibles, and some we go to because we hope to be surprised.

 And that’s exactly what happened on Sunday at the newly named “Metro Curates,” a channeling of the Folk Art Show of yesteryear. The slightly off kilter photograph, the eccentric cabinet object, and the amazing folk art object came together for a few days in the Metropolitan Pavilion. New off the drawing board contemporary art seemed somewhat out of place, perhaps because it wasn’t weird enough, but there were plenty of old folk friends who filled that bill.  Also somewhat startling was a wall of early works by William Baziotes at Susan Teller Gallery. Hadn’t seen those before and thought they seemed as far from Baziote’s mature style as does Roy Lichtenstein’s early work differ from his exploding Pop Art images.

Since the Estate of William Baziotes does not permit photographs of his  work on display, we posed Ms. Teller in front of partial images of Hugh Mesnibov and Ann Ryan, whose estates she also handles.

Hours later, at the annual Winter Antiques Show at the 67th Street Armory, the splendor of the best in 18th/19th century furnishings, art and ceramics was revealed. Although the antiques market in general has declined, the Best of the Best never does, whether in fine or decorative art, and there were outstanding artifacts in this fair’s edition. I was particularly impressed by the gorgeous chandeliers and lighting fixtures, and some lovely paintings that fill the eye in the way that empty idea canvases do not. In front of a John Singer Sargent and a Childe Hassam painting are Fran Zeman and Ellen Epstein, both appraisers with ASA and RICS designations, and Alan Adelson, Assistant Director of the gallery founded by his father, Warren Adelson, and notable for work by Sargent and Mary Cassatt. Alan is among a new generation of art dealers to join the ranks of the many sons and daughters of established gallerists.

Fran Zeman , Ellen Epstein and Alan Adelson

Fran Zeman , Ellen Epstein and Alan Adelson

 The Winter Antiques Show runs through much of this week, but if you were lucky enough to get there over the weekend you’ve missed the slough through the snow that lays ahead. Good luck.

 By Elin Lake-Ewald

What to Look for When Collecting Photography (Part II)

On the most basic level, starting a collection in photography requires thought about the type of photography you actually like. Possible categories could include black and white, color, landscapes, nudes, living, vintage, documentary etc. Movements in photography are also good ways to define what you are looking for (Modernism, Pictorialism, War Photography etc). This seems simple but knowing how to define what you like is the first step to making successful purchasing decisions. Each of these different categories or movements will have specific knowledge associated with each.

Deepening your knowledge in these areas will help one develop an “eye.” Having an eye for art can come naturally for some but usually it requires years to perfect and is often difficult to obtain and maintain, even for appraisers.  For this reason seeing accurate documentation on anything you purchase, and keeping accurate documentation yourself - how you obtained it and when, should be a priority. Building a written inventory will ultimately save you a lot of headaches later on should you want to sell, or the work is stolen or damaged.

As art experts for the Public Administrator of New York, who handles estates without a will, we experienced just such an issue. Two senior appraisers from OTE were going through piles of mixed objects removed from the apartments, which included jumbles of furniture, framed artworks, collectibles, libraries and miscellaneous materials. Spread across several work tables, was a huge mass of what appeared to be old Kodak film boxes.

Looking through the meticulously maintained photographs, an anomaly considering the rest of the disheveled apartment, they had inadvertently stumbled upon the work of a real artist. Without OTE the collection of photographs by Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, great documentarians of the Paris/New York art scene in the second half of the 20th century, might never have been discovered.  The director of a major French museum and those of American museums and film societies arrived to review and the Public Administrator was persuaded to set up an auction for the photographs to be sold as one gigantic lot rather than dispersing them overtime. 

Excitingly The Lichtenstein Foundation, thanks to Dorothy Lichtenstein and Jack Cowart, acquired the massive collection at auction for $2 million.   After this the foundation began the collating the collection and set up a system to allocate segments of the collection to many museums worldwide.  The photographs are now considered invaluable in recording the history of major artists of the second half of the 20th century. A triumphant conclusion to what had almost become a treasure lost forever.

 

Fragments of Adam: an OTE Case

The separated head and torso looked disconcertingly familiar to me when they appeared in a photo on the front page of The New York Times on Sunday, November 9th. “Recreating Adam, From Hundreds of Fragments, After the Fall.”

Screen capture of the New York Times article 

Screen capture of the New York Times article 

The history of how it happened, the secrecy that ensued, the resurrection, and finally, revelation is the plot of this terrifying tale of Tullio Lombardo’s great Renaissance marble masterpiece. I hadn’t felt able to speak about it in detail for 12 years. A promise is a promise.

After the fall, when the initial horror of the museum staff had worn off, but only slightly, a few of us,  engineers , technicians and art specialists, were called upon to render professional opinions about what had gone wrong and what was going to be done about it. I and a colleague from this firm were led, as if to a chamber of horrors, into the conservation laboratory where the sculpture lay, shattered  yet still magnificent .

The papers write of it as if it had been scattered in a thousand fragments across the marble floor of the Velez Blanco Patio at the Met, but I remember it as retaining recognition as a very late 15th century Lombardo, head and much of the torso and one leg intact. I can’t recall exactly because I had to turn over all my photographs immediately after our report was rendered. Those were the days before digital where nothing dies. I guess those were the “28 recognizable pieces” that Met conservator Jack Soultanian mentioned in the newspaper article. The rubble had been bagged and identified.

From time to time, from hushed voices, we learned a little about what was going on in the lab, but very little. Massive amount of research were undertaken by this firm and we traced the sculpture back to its original site. The Renaissance scholar on staff, Leatrice Mendelsohn, was amazing in her pursuit of all the critical information required to help me arrive at a value of the sculpture before the fall and how much the piece had lost in value because of the damage.

A few months later I sat at an endlessly long wood table in a secluded section of the Met of which I had not been previously aware, facing what seemed to be an endlessly long  line of dark suited attorneys representing the multiple organizations and firms involved in the disaster.  Oddly enough, I don’t remember being scared because I was so overwhelmed by the grandeur of the setting, with light streaming down behind the group of what appeared to be judge types sitting to my left. I felt like it was an old Warner Brothers film about the trial of Charles the First.

Okay, not to prolong this because, after all, I survived and am writing this blog now. I mean, I wasn’t the one at fault anyway. I didn’t push Adam off his pedestal. The fact that its six foot three, one thousand pound marble body had been standing for so many years on a modest wooden pedestal might have had something to do with the disaster.

So it was with relief that I found that the Met has decided to open the floodgates of information, always a wise course to take, and one that suddenly seems in favor at major museums nationally. So much better than having misinformation leaking out in bits and pieces and that can prove far more detrimental than a simple admission and explanation.

I wonder if reality shows have been influencing all of us.

Written by Elin Lake-Ewald

Opening Night at the IFPDA Print Fair 2014

Opening night at the Print Fair brought crushing crowds and some amazing power on paper!

 A growing market for early 20th century British printmakers seemed to grow exponentially as several dealer booths focused on displays by Sybil Andrews, CRW Nevinson, Claude Flight, Margaret Barnard, Cyril Edward Power, and Lill Tschude, much admired but scarcely known in the US. Prices ranged from the low $30,000s to over $100,000, so it’s clear that there is as strong market for these vigorously colored linocuts. Kempner Gallery appeared to have the largest selection.

 Equally striking, but in the most subtle of ways, was an unusual series of eight silkscreens by Fred Sandbeck priced at $25,000. Famed for his string sculptures, these prints showed the varied configurations of a structure of strings as if it were in motion. At Diane Villani, publisher.

 At Barbara Krakow was another series of nine geometric black and white silkscreens from a set of ten (I still can’t figure that out), by Sol Lewitt, from 1982, and also priced at $25,000.

 So much to see and so much to remember, but two prints whose images remain with me: an engraving by William Black of Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrimage for $60,000 at the Fine Art Society of London, and at Hill-Stone an etching of Death and the Knight, a beautiful impression, for $225,000.

 This year may have brought in the largest group of non-American dealers that I can remember, and certainly a great number of non-New York dealers, a good many from Chicago. Definitely a sense of energy and excitement prevailed, but the increase in prices for prints was discernible. Perhaps, at any price, prints can be made to seem like near giveaways in the light of the  prices at the auction sales currently going on.

Written by Elin Lake-Ewald, Ph.D, ASA, FRICS


What to Look for When Collecting Photographs (part I)

"A True Photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words" - Ansel Adams

While this holds true in the visual appreciation of a photo, when purchasing at auction you may want to be a little more loquacious. At a lecture in conjunction with Heritage’s October photography auction in New York City, OTE staff picked up some tips for collecting photographs. Rachel Peart, Heritage Director of Photography and Alice Sachs, the President of Art + Business Partners and an avid collector of photography, stressed a number of elements important for buyers to evaluate, whether purchasing from an auction or private sale.

The market for photography has remained relative stable over the last couple of years and as of June of this year ArtTactic reported the overall confidence in the market increased by 9 percent. Sales at auction have also increased. The Modern Photography market saw a 22 percent increase and the Vintage photography market had a particularly large increase of 125 percent, while the market for Contemporary photography remained the same from 2012 to 2013 (ArtTactic Photography Market Report January 2014). However, it is the Contemporary market that continues to drive sales at the top end. Prices for iconic photographers (i.e. Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz) can get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars while a large percentage of sales are affordable, under $10,000.

The photography market is a tricky one. Collecting is often motivated by rarity and personal aesthetics, which makes paying attention to a photograph’s catalog description key.  This may seem basic, but interpreting how a photograph’s print date and the print type relate to an artist’s market is more confusing than it looks.  In a typical description of a photographic lot at auction there is the artist’s name followed by the italicized title and a date (in red in the example). This represents the 'negative date' – the date when the photographer took the image. 

Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

The actual date when the photography was printed is usually found either next to or as a part of the type of print (gold star above). For the Bernice Abbott photograph above “Vintage” is the only indication of when the photograph was printed. Some photographs, like the Cindy Sherman photograph on the right, are accompanied by the exact printing date (also in red). The print date informs a collector about how the specific photograph fits into the timeline of an artist’s body of work. The context of a photograph produced significantly later than the negative date is different than one printed close to when the photograph was originally taken and is a variable to be taken into account when purchasing.

Here is a guide to non-specific print date references:

  • Vintage Print: printed within five years of the negative.
  • Early Print: printed within ten years of the negative.
  • Later Print: printed at least ten years after the negative.
  • Modern Print- printed many years after the negative.
  • Posthumous Print: printed after the death of the artist.
  • Contemporary Print: currently being printed.

How much the date of printing matters in the valuation of a photograph depends on the artist. Bill Brandt’s (British, 1904-1983) later prints are darker and are valued differently than his early prints. Some descriptions will specify the person who printed them. If someone other than the artist printed the photograph it can have a strong impact on value; positive or negative, depending on their relationship with the artist. Photographs by Ed Weston (American, 1886-1958) printed by his sons are considered valuable because they were trained by him and followed his methods, but if the photographs were printed by another party this would likely not be the case. The type of photograph (the process used to create the print) is a variable that should not be overlooked.

The most common types of photographs seen at auction are:

  • Gelatin Silver: a black and white print made from 1870s to the 20th century.
  • Chromogenic prints: (also referred to as C-prints) color prints made since 1940.
  • Dye Transfer: color prints made since 1928.
  • Digital prints: (also called Digital Inkjet prints) a printing process developed recently.

In looking at the type of print it is helpful to know an artist’s typical practice. While rarity is often a positive attribute, this is not true in all instances. Ansel Adams is well known for his gelatin silver photographs in black and white and though his color photographs are rarer they are not as well received at auction. Aesthetic considerations aside, successful purchasing decisions are often based on understanding what specifically to pay attention to for an individual artist.

This blog referenced information from:

 

Piano Restoration: A Sound Investment

When you own something as melodiously beautiful and expensive as a Steinway piano there are factors to be aware of in the event of water damage. From a pipe leak to hurricane Sandy, OTE appraisers have found that water and moisture are among the most common and harmful types of damage to pianos.  Piano cases are made of wood and are particularly susceptible but then so are most of the parts:  the felts, keys, soundboard, pin-block, tuning pins and strings, etc. Prolonged exposure to water can even lead to corrosion and rust in the metal components.

There is, however, a solution. When Alanna Butera, an OTE specialist appraiser, visited the original Steinway factory in Queens, she saw firsthand how Steinway pianos are built and restored.   

Steinway Grand Piano,   Photo: © Copyright Steinway & Sons via Wikimedia Commons

Steinway Grand Piano,   Photo: © Copyright Steinway & Sons via Wikimedia Commons

Steinway & Sons, one of America’s leading piano manufactures, was founded in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway who began as a master cabinet maker.  By 1900 the factory had moved to Long Island City in Queens which is still in operation today and where pianos are built and repairs take place.

A Steinway Grand Piano can take over a year to build through handcrafting. Not only does a Steinway piano produce beautiful music, it is an excellent investment.   According to Reuters: “A 10 year old Steinway in good condition, usually sells for about 75 percent of the current retail price, which goes up about 4 percent each year;” that’s a lot better than your car. Steinway even issues a five year warranty on their repaired pianos, the same warranty they give to new pianos.

From an appraisal standpoint, a damaged Steinway piano repaired by Steinway can be valued at 85% of the current retail price of a new one. But restoration isn’t cheap. In our experience the cost for a restoration caused by water damage is approximately $30,000 to $40,000 for a single grand piano.

Close up of a piano in progress at the Steinway factory

A peak into Steinway's factory in Queens

On the positive side, what our appraiser observed at the Steinway factory is that you can be certain time and care is taken in restoration efforts.  When Steinway restores pianos they keep the cast iron block and original case, barring any extensive damage to either. They then refinish, re-guild and replace all the hardware with Steinway parts, entirely by hand. Steinway still continues to provide hand rubbed finishes. To maintain the value of a Steinway piano, restoration and replacements should be done solely by Steinway, using only their authentic parts. Steinway restorations come with a certificate, so if you are thinking of selling make sure to hold onto it. 

Steinway calls their pianos a “sound investment” and we happen to agree.

Appraisal or Estimate? Why Free Is Not Always Better

I spoke with someone recently who told me how they got all their appraisals for “free” at auction houses. What they got were not really appraisals but estimates of value.

An estimate by an auction house will likely only reflect what the auction house believes the seller will receive at auction. These sorts of “appraisals” are not good for insurance purposes and are not viable in court. Most art insurance policies rely on the retail replacement value, meaning the compensation would be for the retail value  of an artwork, as opposed to the price at auction (which is usually lower than a retail value).

This article is by no means knocking auction houses, which have amazing experts and specialists, but it is important to understand that an auction house’s primary job is to sell art, and offering a free estimate is one way to draw in business.

If you go to an auction house and are not serious about selling with them but merely attaining a value this is probably not the best option for you. Although auction houses have a considerable amount of information at their disposal, they rarely have time to conduct extensive research into an artwork that is not being consigned to them. A free estimate is not necessarily giving your artwork the time and attention it deserves.

The case of Ravenna v. Christie's in 2001 is a good example of relying too heavily on a free estimate. Guido Ravenna sued Christie’s as a result of his wife’s meeting with an Old Master Specialist at Christie’s in New York after she was given mistaken information about the provenance of the painting. The Old Master’s specialist, after only seeing photographs of the work during their short meeting, valued it at between $10,000 to $15,000, as he thought it appeared to be the work of minor 17th Century Italian painter, Nuvolone. Ravenna, then sold the work for $40,000 to a dealer who only months later consigned the work to Christie’s. 

The Lamentation, by Ludovico Carracci

The Lamentation, by Ludovico Carracci

This is where it gets a little sticky. After the painting was examined again, it was determined to be a work not by Nuvolone but rather by Italian Baroque painter Ludovico Carracci, who is far more significant. The Lamentation, as it was renamed, was sold at auction in 2000 for $5,227,500 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it now resides. Ouch.

Heritage Auctions does a good job of explaining how auction house appraisals/estimates work:

“Usually, the request for an "appraisal" actually refers just to an evaluation for the potential value of an item through auction or private sale… Heritage regularly provides quick and free evaluations of the current market value of art or collectibles. This is in the form of a verbal or written auction estimate — the range of value that one would expect to see the item sell for in today's auction market. This valuation is not intended for use as a formal appraisal or for any purposes of establishing a value for insurance, tax, estate planning, collateral or third party transactions.” (Heritage Auctions - Defining Appraisals)

If you want to divest an artwork quickly, auction houses are the way to go. But if you are serious about finding out about the value of something you own, make sure you get an authentic written appraisal from a USPAP certified appraiser.

 

Gold, Fine China, and the Truth About Tarnishing

Have you ever wondered what the word “gilding” means? It’s an ultra-sensitive and very beautiful decorative treatment that turns a surface into gold without actually creating something made of gold.

Gilding generally refers to the liquid gold applied through paint or other techniques to porcelain and other ceramics. The good news is that it looks lustrous and lovely when first applied.  The bad news is that it shows wear when used frequently and is sensitive to its environment. In fact, after working with a recent client an O’Toole-Ewald appraiser found that it doesn't always require heavy usage to cause distress to gilding and that the saying that gold never tarnishes can be disproven.

Porcelain saucer with gilding

Porcelain saucer with gilding

About 20 years ago the client bought a beautiful bone china set decorated with extensive and intricate gilding. It had been placed in storage and when she recently retrieved it from the box in which it had been resting for two decades she found that the 24 carat gilding had taken on a red/black discoloration. Tarnishing film often looks red or black in appearance depending on what base metal is used, copper or silver respectively. However, it is extremely rare for high carats of gold to tarnish, so this case was at first a bit of a mystery.

While pure gold is not susceptible to tarnishing, almost all gold is mixed with some small percentage of other alloys, which can be vulnerable to tarnishing would only seen below 14 carats. In some cases 14 and 18 carats or even occasionally higher carats can tarnish, but it is extremely rare in gold as high as 24 carats.

If the base metals, in particular copper or silver, are exposed to corrosive agents, especially sulfur and oxygen compounds, tarnishing is entirely possible. Moisture, perspiration, perfumes, how you wash it, the water in which it is washed and even some foodstuffs can be responsible for the corrosion of gilding. But because the china in this case had never been used, it was unlikely that any of these were the culprits.

Through expertise, persistence and considerable in-depth research, OTE was able to determine the prolonged exposure to the organic sulfur containing compounds in the storage bags, in combination to the oxygen and sulfur in the atmosphere, had caused the gilding to discolor. The damage was determined to be inherent vice resulting from the chemical reaction of the gilding in its storage containers.

 This case is a rarity. In India and the Middle East, especially, there have been more incidents of the tarnishing of higher carat gold, which appears to be a problem more specifically linked to the region. In Europe and North America tarnishing in higher carats of gold is much more unusual. In the past 30 years, there has been only one other instance, filed with the manufacturer of this china, of red and copper discoloration occurring on the gilding. Without the persistent research efforts of OTE appraisers combined with scientific sleuthing, this case may not have been solved.

Why It Is Important To Insure Your Art

In New York City Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for many art enthusiasts to insure their art but there is still a lot of uninsured or underinsured art out there. According to Kathryn Tully in 2012 article for Forbes “the premium value of insured art globally was somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. If those estimates are right, there’s a lot of uninsured art out there.”

Many people have collections of art, or perhaps just one valuable piece but rarely know exactly what they are worth.  It is surprisingly easy for a painting, sculpture or even a more experimental piece of art to be damaged due to some unforeseen event, which is why it is important to be aware of its value. This summer alone there has been a significant amount of flooding in the tri-state area, and this has resulted in thousands of dollars in damages. 

To protect your investment obtaining an appraisal of the retail replacement value means that you will be sure you have the right insurance coverage. The majority of standard home-owners insurance policies have limitations in regards to what can be reimbursed in the event of damage or loss to art and antiques.  So it is a good idea to look closely at your policy if you are not exactly sure what your insurance covers. 

If you are a serious collector you will probably need a more specialized policy tailored specifically to your collection. Insurance companies that are particularly qualified for this are: AXA, Chubb, and AIG.  However, it is still important to be aware of your art’s value as the years progress.

The art market is continually fluctuating which is why it is a good idea to update these appraisals every couple of years. The value of your art will probably change with the shifting market. Unlike other luxury goods, such as a Chanel handbag or a BMW, a work of art is unique and difficult to replace.  This is why using an appraiser who is USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) certified and a member of the ASA, RICS, or ISA, is essential.  An appraisal by a qualified appraiser will be fully researched and legally sound. And always make certain, no matter who the appraiser is, that he or she has the right experience to evaluate the specific piece you own.

Chelsea Art Walk 2014

Last night OTE’s team took advantage of the late gallery hours in Chelsea. Below are a few shows and works we found most noteworthy.

We all enjoyed seeing Tara Donovan’s enormous installation pieces at Pace Gallery.

In this work, the millions of acrylic pieces create a mesmerizing shimmer. The form recalls a fluffy puppy. A reaction to Jeff Koons, perhaps?

 

 

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald thought that Pierre Dorion’s trompe-l’œil paintings at Jack Shainman Gallery were riveting – about the best examples she saw on the walk.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ewald found it not altogether surprising that most of the larger galleries closed on the Chelsea Art Walk last night. The art explorers wandering the streets, from 19th  to 26th, didn’t look quite up for a $30 million Christopher Wool or a $50 million Koons production. It was for the most part  the medium sized and smaller galleries who opened their doors (and occasionally their wine bottles), to the Gen X crowds.

The galleries we checked out for the most part had wall works (and sometimes floor works) in the $10,000 – $25,000 range. A well-thought out way to attract potential investors in art.  If a collector has the ability to pay just about anything for what he wants in his home(s) he can visit those spaces any day any time. Or send his art advisors. He doesn’t have to wait until working hours are over. Great strategy. Good show.

 

 

Julia Plotkin was intrigued by Nick Gentry’s paintings on mosaics of old floppy disks at C24 Gallery:

and by John M. Armleder’s mixed media glitter-covered paintings at Galerie Richard:


and also by Jerry Kearns’ wall paintings at Mike Weiss Gallery. Whoever buys one has the artist’s studio team come and repaint it in their space, à la Sol Lewitt.


Most of all, Julia loved the fare at Unix Gallery, which offered a box of chocolates by Peter Anton and a lollipop by Desire Obtain Cherish:





Alanna Butera’s choice for the best curated exhibition goes to Procedural Portraiture at Caroline Nitsch Project Room. She was captivated by the intimate interaction between each artist’s exploration of faces, and the different use of media and line to reveal the inner essence of the subject.

Walking into Franklin Evans’ paintingassupermodel at Ameringer McErny Yohe, she was immersed into the artist’s mind and his artistic practice. The walls and floors were adorned with tape, digital prints and photographs.

 

 

As the sun set, however, the galleries closed their doors and the OTE team headed home.


July 2013 Chelsea Gallery Tour

Not easy on the feet to make the rounds of Chelsea in July as heat waves radiate from the hard cement streets. You want to linger longer in the air conditioning of the galleries, but that’s no way to make the rounds if you’re aiming for about 20 stops before you succumb to rising temperatures and your endurance flags.

I’ve waited a few days to recount my visit and in the interim have forgotten most of the exhibitions I saw – attributable to either lapsed memory or lapsed interest. What stuck in my head?

Wolf Kahn at Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe for one. At 85 he’s more than had his chance to get it right, and in many ways he does. One of the best pastelists practicing today, Kahn’s lushly vivid scenes literally grab the viewer’s attention and holds it by its decorative color. Not great, but good art by a serious artist.

Kind of interesting, although slightly dated in it depictions of very old, proudly wrinkled survivors of the Cuban Revolution superimposed on the antiqued walls of that city. Shown in Cuba, as well as across America, the paintings combine the images with writings and evokes a sense of intimacy shared with people the viewer will never know. The show is at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery.

Not going to say where, but saw two identically themed exhibitions that were take off by younger artists on famous images of Modern Masters. But in these cases, why?

Leslie Tonkonow always has interesting shows. This one, of 20 color photo images depicting men, women and children in the middle of absolutely nowhere at night in the glare of a pinpointed light source, in this case a powerful flashlight. The effect is slightly weird, strangely riveting, rather scary.

The kind of show that always gets me – amateur photos of “The Flight Attendant Years: 1978-1986,” at Lombard Freid Gallery. It’s exactly as described. A male flight attendant photographs his friends and fellow flyers in various combinations (not pornographic but friendly), and somehow allows the viewer to for the moment step into the past when flying was fun, both for the attendants and for the passengers.

A most satisfying visit was to Paula Cooper Gallery to see an exhibition of that very fine photographer, Eliot Porter’s vintage prints, both black and white and color – dye-tranfers. I’ve always thought of Porter as a naturalist who loved to photograph trees, but this show is much more and much greater. Much to be admired.

At Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert (about to move to the Lower East Side) a show called “October 18, 1977” caught my eye. Based on Gerhard Richter’s 15-painting cycle about the imprisonment and finally the end of the Baader-Meinhof West German terrorist gang from the 1970s, the commissioned artists riff on the master’s version. This goes back to what I was writing about young artists utilizing directly the work of their predecessors. It’s always been done, but does it have to be so literal? Where are the original ideas? It’s not possible that in the artworld we’ve used them all up, is it?

Please don’t answer that.

June 2013 Chelsea Gallery Tour

The season may be winding down according to the calendar, but there’s still a lot of life left on the art scene.

It may be because there are so many artists and so little room in which to fit them. That is why group shows were invented. I saw so many on Saturday that I no longer remember where they were as I wandered the crowded streets of Chelsea, packed with tourists (I always figure if they are overweight and in shorts they are tourists) and art students. The buyers were probably in the Hamptons which accounted for the absence of directors in situ.

I take that back about not remembering group shows – there was “5 Rooms” at Robert Miller Gallery that included Yayoi Kusama with a paint decorated upright piano in red with her overall obsessively repeated decorations in black and white.

This is in no way a sequential tour since I just dumped the press releases for the shows in my MZWallace (designer married to David Zwirner) bag and they were scrambled when taken out this morning.

There were a few surprises, at least to me, at the Luhring Augustine exhibition of works by Philip Taaffe who used to be such a straight lines and bold dark color guy just a few years back. Now he is into gestural painting with hand-drawn relief plates, linocut printings, gold leaf and marbeling, with sources from around the globe which he has traveled a lot. Almost as much a jolt as when Stella went from minimalist work into phantasmagorical. There was a lot more fantasy at the Pace show of Tim Hawkinson, but the gallery wasn’t handing out handouts so I can’t give you the names of the pieces.

Leila Heller always has something interesting to see. This time it was something called “The Consumption” by Negar Ahkami, which is basically a bunch of scared figures being consumed by whirling blue tsunami waves of destructive force. She also showed twisted rugs by Faig Ahmed, oddly disturbing weavings of distorted carpets that at first seem standard but after a second look you realize there’s something crazy about them.

What made the tedious cross town journey to Chelsea totally worthwhile was my visit to Galerie Lelong where there was an extraordinary exhibition of the late works (1981-85) of Ana Medieta that included a segment from a documentary film currently in post-production about the artist’s fellowship and residency at the American Academy in Rome. There was also a film depicting earthen silhouettes of the artist’s body in a landscape in which gunpowder is ignited and which are related to her floor sculptures, similar to those she created in the landscapes of Cuba, Iowa and Mexico. This was the 9th solo exhibition of Medieta’s work at Lelong. I wondered that there was such a trove to show since the artist’s death was so untimely.

There was a beautiful exhibition of Linda Stojack’s paintings – the operative word being “beautiful” because the artist’s evocative images latch on to your imagination with their lush palettes, half formed images and striking lines. It’s old fashioned expressionistic painting with a contemporary twist. At the same gallery was the powerful work of Bruno Romeda, an Italian artist who deals with simple forms in a complex way.

Maybe I was tired by then, or maybe it was hard to get out of the way, but the rope sculpture of Specer Finch at James Cohan Gallery almost got me. This site-specific installation called “Fathom” (a measure six feet in length used to measure to depth of water) is composed of a very, very long (120 feet) twisted heavy rope to which are attached paper tags and swatches of color that the press release says may “best be considered a drawing of Walden Pond.”

At Andrea Rosen Gallery there was more conventional unconventional art in the form of Wolfgang Tillmans’ 11th one person show that consists of works selected from a four-year project begun in 2008 and includes a wall of 128 pages from Tillmans’ newest book Fespa digital/Fruit Logistica.

At Bruce Silverstein’s was Rosalind Solomon’s exhibition that drew crowds – “Portraits in the Time of AIDS, 1988, which brought in groups led by lecturers. It was too crowded to wait and figure out how the talks were conducted but it might be worthwhile to return on a quieter day to review this award winning photographer’s third gallery show.

There were multiple other exhibitions to remember from last Saturday, but it’s not possible to skip three – “Landscape Painting in the Civil War Era” at Driscoll Babcock, New York’s oldest art gallery, taken from the gallery’s holdings of Hudson River School paintings. Refreshing to see these old friends like Blakelock, Durand, Inness, Kensett and Fitz Henry Lane (gave his name in full because just writing ‘Lane’ won’t do it).

At Friedman Benda the first solo gallery exhibit in the United States starred the Campana Brothers’ “Concepts,” a really unusual body of cowhides that include a wall-mounted bookshelf, table, and standing shelf; a “Racketz’ collection of chairs and a screen in vent brass with nylon stitched base and hand-stitched motif made from remnant Thonet chair backings, A cabinet made out of tanned and leathered skin of the world’s largest fresh water fish and a sofa and chari created out of a series of life-like stuffed alligators. Naturally the brothers are from Brazil. The editioned alligator sofa is $90,000.

Really tired now so I’ll wind up with a visit to Gagosian Gallery where I took in two outsized Venus sculptures in polished stainless steel, polychromed Hulk statues, a black granite Gorilla, a humongous balloon swan, rabbit and monkey of monumental scale, standing huge and gleaming in a light filled huge cavern at the rear of the gallery. Koons sculptures are always flawlessly executed and shiny. One tiny finger print would throw the whole show out of kilter. There will have to guards galore at the Whitney Museum when it presents a major retrospective of his work in 2014.

Okay, quickly, what else did I see? “Chasing the Light,” Deborah Dancy’s oils on canvas at Sears-Peyton Gallery Jannis Kounellis’ classically composed installations of coal, wool, iron, glass and stone, mixed with personal articles like overcoats, shoes and hats at Cheim & Read; small dreamlike paintings by John Lees at Betty Cunningham Gallery, and finally, Christopher Evans’ clearly delineated landscapes at Fishbach Gallery.

Whew! I had no idea I had gotten around so much in just a few hours, and still had time and shoes enough to get uptown and shop. It just proves that even though those who pass for fashionable in this city absent themselves (or never leave their air-conditioned apartments) on weekends it doesn’t mean the city dies. Museums are still open, galleries still operate, artists still work, dealers still sell. So much art, so little time.

May 2013 Summary of NYC Art Events

‘tis the season of semi-hysterical hyperbole regarding the art market. Christie’s with its all-time all-star contemporary sale, the plethora of exhibitions, the panting over-the-moon prices for rectangles of canvas and sticks of synthetics. It’s exhausting and not altogether fun. The promoters say it’s fun, the publications say it’s an other worldly experience. The eye says it’s tired.

Frieze was noisy and crowded with expensive foods and nothing extraordinary in the booths. Maybe the artists are tired too. They’ve been at it day and night to produce enough saleable stuff for all these fairs, 200 thus far and counting. We played “what four works do you remember from the show?” during dinner that evening with collectors and professionals. They were hard-pressed. Maybe they were tired too.

For some reason, instead of recalling marvelous contemporary work I still see the Rauschenberg cardboard construction soaring on the wall at Gagosian’s. And the two Dennis Oppenheim drawings in a London booth. Why can’t I remember the more recent items? Great art holds up. Doesn’t mean the emerging artists don’t have some chance at immortality, or at least a mention in the art history books, and perhaps walking through the show with others isn’t the way to take the work seriously. And maybe that’s the problem with these big shows that are proliferating like dandelions in May. Perhaps the sheer size doesn’t allow us the opportunity to engage with the art in these 100 plus exhibitions where we tend to rush through, looking for that “wow” piece or the one we can chuckle over with our companions. And then there are always those satellite shows, some of them interesting but too many boring or bad.

Now there are design shows as well as art shows. One recently at the  pier on 15th Street (never been there before) was filled with chairs and tables and desks that required discussion, but there was relatively few people with whom to discuss anything- at least on opening day. The displays begged for signage, explanations, some sign that the sellers were interested in the pieces they were showing.

But on the weekend, at the conference on Initiatives in Art & Culture I remembered why I had enjoyed the art world so much once. Put together by Lisa Koenigsberg, the two-day conference on American Art was filled with intelligent talks on a part of the art world that has been shamefully neglected for the past several years – art made in America from the 1700s into the mid 20th century. Perhaps if we called it “international art made in America” it might have a better chance. Much of the great art from our older American artists is in museums or important private collections, but there is a wealth of overlooked artists from the past. We may see a resurgence of interest in the discovery of these now obscure painters and sculptors of the past. But will collectors whose eyes seem blind to all but the one-stop shopping artist’s in your face creations find any excitement in the moderately priced homespun heroes of yesterday? And will their hearts beat faster at the prospect of not competing with the $50 million trophy? And does the $7.2 billion spent on art in 2012 have much to do with art?

Review of the 2013 AIPAD Photography Show and Affordable Art Fair

What struck me about the most recent AIPAD photography show last week was how black and white it was. I mean that all those oversize contemporary color photos that had so dominated past shows seem to have been kept in the closet this time ‘round. There has been so much to see since then that the illustrated cards I picked up and kept on my desk between then and now may or may not have been what I thought were  the most interesting exhibits or just the ones that offered attractive cards.

The naked Asian lady stretched out on a divan reading a book is a C-print by Gao Yuan from Throckmorton Fine Art, New York. Then there’s a famous photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963 at Daniel Blau Gallery, Munich and London.

Staley Wise Gallery in Soho was billing Bert Stern as the “Original Mad Man,” with a snap of the photographer sitting on a sofa next to a posed shot of Marilyn Monroe, hair askew, empty wine bottles and overturned shoes and cigarettes strewn about the floor. A sort of inside joke I suppose, made sad by what we know now.

I know why I picked up the brochure from Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd, Exclusive reps of the Eliot Porter Estate, and that was the Eliot Porter images from the Great Smoky Mountains, Concord River, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. If you are into color photography Porter says it all.

And then there were the black and white frontal face portraits by John Kenny of African tribal members shown by Capital Culture, London. The intensity of expression in those otherwise still faces is both riveting and just a little scary.

From famous photographers to the unknown emerging artists at the Affordable Art Fair held this year at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street. Not much to say about that show since I apparently failed to pick up postcards, or perhaps they weren’t being offered (to cut down costs), but I do remember that that the 2013 version of how to fill the walls of your apartment without robbing your kid’s college fund was a major improvement over the 2012 offerings. The usual “looks just like” and “what’s affordable in this show?” struck me as I wondered through. I kept thinking of how many people want to be artists whether they have significant talent or not, and how easy it is to evade an answer with derivative creations. I was looking for crude but innovative or not-quite-there-but promising. Didn’t find it, but there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm among the viewers and works to go were being wrapped up, so maybe I’ve seen too much over too many years and see the often dead famous artist in all those emerging artists, or maybe there are just too darn many art shows and we’re all getting tired.

Review of the 2013 Armory Show and the ADAA Art Show

Last week disappeared in an art tsunami that left show-goers dazed and glassy eyed. Started with a private showing by Paul Morris, one of the Armory (revisited) founders who set up an exhibition of contemporary superworks in a gutted 1882  bank building on Beekman Street downtown. All the names the big collectors want to own given its own separate peeling walls space in a one-off (42 works)  exhibition to reel in the biggie buyers. It’s Morris’ contention that the 200 per year art fairs have run their course and sellers must conceive a new direction. This is his. We must agree about people being weary of art fair crowds who appear more and more to party, while fewer come for the art. El Anatsui, Anish Kapoor, Ai Weiwei, Basquiat, Calder, Cindy Sherman, Dan Flavin, Yves Klein, etc. – they were all there in great form. The artworks I mean.

And to speak of crowds – the lines at the Armory Pier Show Sunday were an hour long – to get in, to get from Pier 94 to 92, to get a taxi. The only quiet spot was the VIP Lounge where bottles of water cost $4 and a small tea was $3.50.  At least it didn’t cost $80,000 for a (looks like styrofoam) melting 6-foot snowman artwork who stood guard outside one booth.  I could see its amusement appeal if situated in the atrium of a Miami villa during a Basel Miami week party. Pier 92 was filled with first rate examples of art that revisited the 70s, the original Armory Show, the established names, and was a comforting and familiar sight for serious collectors. Probably more exciting than the ADAA exhibition at the 68th Street Armory, which had some really fine one-person sightings.

Mitchell-Inness & Nash displayed a wonderful group of Arp sculpture, drawings and reliefs; “political pop” shouted from the walls of Mary Ryan Gallery with the Big Daddy portraits of grotesque men in various guises; Galerie Lelong surprised with the early paintings and works on paper (1975-1980) of Sean Scully, the kind of show that lets you see where an artist is coming from before he got here; another kind of surprise by Kiki Smith with her flat metal dogs, birds and flowers bolted to the wall; and the leaves of ore of Tam Van Tran whose fluttery leaves adhered to panels occasionally flutter off the backing (as the artist intended), but did he intend an endless departure? Mystery to me.

At Sean Kelly Gallery a Mapplethorpe photo of Roy Lichtenstein, from an edition of 3, was available for $40,000, and at James Goodman Gallery  a large classic  pencil drawing of a woman  by John Graham was available for $250,000 while a large painting of two men by the artist dominated another booth at $3.5 million.  A small “Elegy” painting by Motherwell looked inviting at $750,000 at Lillian Heidenberg Fine Art, and at Pace Prints a Barnett Newman silkscreen on plexi on wood, from an edition of 125 from 1966, was yours for $60,000. Probably an excellent purchase if you’re looking into the future.

All right, we could go on and on and on. There was so much art to be seen around New York this past week it was overload for those whose livelihood derives from that source, which to others may be pure viewing pleasure. It makes for a very overcrowded eye, if there is such a term. If not, we invented it today.

Midtown Manhattan Gallery Tour

Manhattan galleries have been sucked from their Upper East Side niches into the immense maw of Chelsea, with its impersonal streets, very occasional eateries, and definitely deplorable transit service. Still the diehards remain, peppering the 57th street area with the artistic offspring of earlier times and the occasional interesting newcomer who might be lost elsewhere in the lower regions.

A casual stroll around midtown on Saturday allows the perennial art stalker to revisit the work of some well-known artists, such as Joan Brown, Gene Davis and Beatrice Mandelman, all working creatively in the 1970s, work that looks just as avant-garde in 2013.

Mandelman was a Taos Modernist, associated with the artists colony of New Mexico since the 1940s. She studied in Paris with Leger, later forming artistic relationships with both East Coast and Bay Area artists. She worked through much of the 1990s and her paintings can be found in the collections of museums both east, west and states in between.  The current exhibition is at the David Findlay Jr. Gallery.

I’ve always thought  Gene Davis to be one of the most overlooked artists of his generation, that of optical and stripe painters, and it was a pleasure to find work of his from the 70s at the D. Wigmore Gallery on Fifth Avenue, where he shares space with Tadasky, another stripe painter whose colors and forms are far more assertive, but less effective than those of Davis. A member of the Washington Color School, which included Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Thomas Downing, Paul Reed and Howard Mehring, Davis was credited with being the first artist (1958) to use masking tape to achieve clean lines. Davis died in 1985; Tadasky survives.

Ms. Wigmore has revived the career of any number of Op and Stripe artists from mid-century America, and in the surroundings of her gallery the result is highly convincing.

Joan Snyder has been exhibiting her art since 1966 and received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1974, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1983 and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007.  This is her first exhibition at the Gering & Lopez  Gallery.

Wanted to mention two artists at Davidson Contemporary: The extraordinary cocktail umbrella construction of Lauren Wax (the work may not be for the ages, but the conception is marvelous), and the paper constructions of Jane South who builds entire mini-machines out of delicately cut and painted paper, as well as smaller mini-constructions in a box. Both artists build with a delicacy that contains power thinking.

The photographs of Nicholas Nixon at Pace/MacGill Gallery, evoked visions of “Amour,” with its close-ups of aged mouths and wintered eyes. Somehow Nixon even made his photos of infants grotesque, and his flowers lonely and depressed. Having said that, I thought them exceptionally appealing.

If cold weather keeps you closer to home and out of the blustery winds of Chelsea, don’t despair. There is plenty to observe in the warm galleries of midtown Manhattan.

Review of the 2013 Outsider Art Fair

No question about it – this year, 2013, was the best ever for the Outsider Art Fair. Quality was up, as were the prices. Interesting to note that many of the more famous Outsiders, such as Bill Traylor and Thornton Dial, had not increased in price from last year (at least not notably), while virtual unknowns (except regionally), are commanding prices in the 20 and 30 thousands.

Found the work and back story of Gayleen Aiken particularly fascinating. Her work was featured on the first page of the NY Times Art Section on Friday the 1st, a cardboard replica of Gayleen’s imaginary family – 24 “cousins” together with her mother and father, each with a name and individual characteristics. These were her family and companions for years in her Massachusetts home. I was told by her art dealer, Luise Ross, that the artist would even bring some of the “cousins” on the porch with her so that she would not be lonely when she sat outside. At $130,000 (although they can be sold individually), the family would fit suitably into a museum collecting Outsider Art.

The repeat pattern paintings of Winfred Rembert at Kinz & Tillou Fine Art was another interesting insight into the work of untrained artists, although somewhat optically challenging. Another repeat patternist was Josephe Jovelus of Haiti, at prices in the $2,000 – 5,000 range. But what really struck me was the similarity of Sylvain Corentin’s spirally plaster sculptures at the Cavin-Morris Gallery because they were so related to the spirally plaster sculptures of Enoch Perez, who is represented by major galleries in Manhattan. The difference is that an 86-inch work by Corentin is $6,700, while one by Perez is certainly ten or more times that. And the similarity between the outsize mud and stick and wood slat work of Bill Trayor and the outize mud and stick and wood slat work of Anselm Kiefer, all except the price. The Traylor’s were in the $65,000 - $75,000 category and the Kiefer’s are in the strasophere.

I have to comment upon the size of the crowd, despite the fact that the Super Bowl was just short of kick-off. There were so many visitors that the catalogs had sold out hours before, and the place – the former DIA Foundation – was packed. It was noticeable that work was selling at a fast pace – a change from other crowded art fairs where there has been a lot more smoozing than selling.

Art Fairs on Both Coasts

Last weekend Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald visited the Los Angeles Art Show:

The LA Art Show brought in so many unexpected visitors that there weren’t any brochures or catalogs to purchase by 1 on Sunday, January 27th. The place was mobbed, primarily with an under 50 crowd of eager-to-look, not so quick to buy visitors. Or so it seemed. It was disappointing to those who were seeking to see familiar names or big gallery artists. This was a show for emerging artists, or artists who had been around a while but never could make it out of their home territory.

One of my fellow travelers, a young woman who knew little about art (or so I thought) mentioned in a mild tone that the works seemed a lot like those of famous artists, but not quite. She meant derivative, and so right she was. Yet their prices matched those of artists in NY who had had a showing or two: $2,500 - $10,000.

I came away impressed with how many more people have been exposed to art and who wanted to live with art than has probably ever been the case in this country. And it’s wonderful to see how many different nations and states participated in the fair, from Georgia to Germany to Nubia and numerous countries in between.

Funny thing about art shows away from your home base…when you bump into an a professional acquaintance it’s like coming across your best friend unexpectedly in a foreign country. You can’t stop talking. Bump into the same person when you’re both in New York and it’s “hi” and pass by.

Well, I’m delighted I went. I did bump into an old friend and came away with a ticket to the Maastrict Fair in March. So it was worth the traffic on the 101.

Meanwhile in New York, Julia Plotkin made the rounds at the Old Masters auction previews and the annual Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory:

At Christie’s, upon entering the exhibition I was offered an iPad loaded with short video clips of Christie’s specialists explaining the art historical significance of many sale highlights. Hearing the dialogue while standing face-to-face with the works tremendously enriched the preview, and I hope both auction houses expand on this practice.

One of the stars of the Old Master sales at Christie’s was a rare, tiny canvas by Chardin, The Embroiderer, measuring only about 7 x 6 inches but worthy of its $3 - $5 million estimate (realized $4 million). Another gem-like painting displayed beside it was Watteau’s La Déclaration, about 8 x 7 inches, estimated between $500,000 and $700,000 (realized $600,000). Both are precious in size but powerful in execution.

At the Winter Antiques Show, at least two strong examples of paintings by George Bellows from private collections were spotted. It looks like collectors and dealers hope the market for Bellows will heat up in tandem with his retrospective currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum. Asking prices reach into the nine digits.