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.

Review of "John Cage: The Sight of Silence" at the National Academy Museum

We’re in the art business so we are expected to visit museums and galleries on a regular basis. That’s a given. So we dutifully attend every new exhibition at the Met (there seems to be something opening there every week), MoMA, the Whitney, the Asia Society, the National Academy Museum – not so often the New York Historical Society, the Museum of Natural History or the Bible Museum (this is better than it sounds and has some first-rate shows), and perhaps I’ve overlooked…oh yes, the Neue Gallery on 86th Street. Remind me if I’ve left something really important out.

A few of the galleries have put on exhibitions that rival those found at museums, and not only the mega galleries, but some select small ones. But you have to look – seek and ye shall find. And that’s exactly what happened on Sunday when I went to see an all-woman artist exhibition at the National Academy. On walking down the stairs from the top I noticed a one-level show, not particularly well-publicized, of a rather extraordinary show of work by John Cage, “The Sight of Silence.” Years in advance of now avant-garde (does anyone besides me use that word anymore?) sound art and the general use of computer art, Cage practiced chance art based on a process that incorporated a set of predetermined rules and parameters. Earphones (not all working unfortunately) provided excerpts of Cage created music. The rolls of dice determined in which gallery a work would hang and on which wall they would hang, the exact location of the work on the wall and then the vertical or horizontal position of the work.

All right, you don’t understand what I am writing. I hardly do myself, but after listening at some length to Cage’s video explanation of how he created his paintings it was beginning to become clear. Frankly, I had always wondered. Hours afterwards I got a glimmer and then I thought about it that evening and finally – I got it. Real art is a constant learning process and do not let anyone tell you differently.

John Cage departed the scene in 1992, after 50 years of influencing the culture of this country, and perhaps the world, as the post-World War II influence on music. His most famous piece was probably 1952’s “4’33” in which a complete orchestra sits, holding instruments, and does nothing. The “music” is the sound of the environment. It dawns on me that might have influenced Andy Warhol’s extraordinarily boring endless films in which nothing happens except the day and night passing in silence. Cage limited his non-music to a bit over four minutes and it made sense. He wanted listeners to hear and be aware of “sounds.”

There is a current run on pretentious conceptual art that flings about stuff and calls it, with great seriousness, “The remembrance of my first day in nursery school and six leagues beond.” Or something like that. It is rather satisfying to enter the thinking processes of a creative intellectual who was neither stayed by jeers nor undone by praise. He was that rare avis, the man who thinks for himself.

December 2012 Review

What’s a weekend in New York’s art world like these days?

If we can start with Thursday evening by getting a head start on the three days, there was a panel presentation by Herrick Law Firm on Holocaust Restitution and its current status as regards collectors and museums. In my opinion, nothing new, but apparently the UN has decided that enough is enough as far as pursuing Holocaust claims. We’ll check on exact reading of the statute and report back.

Friday afternoon was spent with a former OTE appraiser who is now Curator of Feminist Art at the BrooklynMuseum where we saw the Mickalene Thomas exhibition of glittery evocations of the world of African-Americans, as well as the fantastical glass sculpture of Othoniel. For those with an eye for the intellectual in the art world there was an extraordinary exhibition of conceptual art from the collection of art critic Lucy Lippard, a show organized by Catherine Morris. We saw it in the company of the widow of the late Dennis Oppenheim, a major figure of this era and those following, giving us insights into the work from a very personal viewpoint. There is no question that the BrooklynMuseum is neglected by Manhattanites. Just get off the #6 train at Nevins and hop across the platform for a train that takes you directly to the site.

The following morning we met with about 30 members of ArtTable at the NewMuseum on the Bowery, where an exhibition of the Cosmos of Rosemarie Trockel, an important German artist, was laid out on three floors. Her myriad works in a great variety of media was clarified in a talk  by co-curator for the exhibition, Lynne Cooke, who had been with the DIA and is now Mellon Research Fellow at the National Gallery in D.C. What was most fascinating was that, included among the works on display, were those by other artists whose work has impacted on that of Trockel. We were particularly drawn to the miniature collaged books by Manuel Montalvo and the hand-wrapped wool pieces by Ousider artist Judith  Scott. We should at least mention the nicely mounted triptych by an the orangutan Tilda, a very serious practitioner with a paint brush.

Because of the location, we decided to do some exploring among the recently minted galleries on the Lower East Side and found Mickalene Thomas again at an offshoot of Lehman Maupin Gallery where all the paintings had been spoken for – small wonder.

Traveling without a compass on the streets of the area led us into any number of quite well done up galleries that echoed the interior spaces of smaller Chelsea galleries and should be taken seriously. Of course it had its derivative examples, but you can also find those in plenty in tonier neighborhoods, even as far as 57th Street and certainly in the 20s. But it’s certainly worth exploring. Just pick up “LesGalleriesNYC” or find it online, check your Google Map and pick a day when the winter wind isn’t having tantrums.

We managed to get in the new Matisse exhibition at the Met, along with the final days of Bernini, and an easily missed mini-exhibition in the African wing of early 20th century artists influenced by African sculpture. There’s always some wonderful shows at the Met that you have to stumble across because they are rarely advertised. We also made it to MOMA where 20th century Japanese artists are newly exhibited, and since we were there we had to peek in at “The Scream” which wasn’t drawing half as many onlookers as “Wintery Night” by van Gogh, a longtime favorite. The more I see “The Scream” in all its variations the more I wonder how it remains such an iconic image. I believe the reproductions, particularly when oversized, do more for the work than seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.

I think I’m missing another stop or two, but that’s all I can recall at the moment. It seems like a lot of art-going, but to be quite honest, I am feeling guilty on Monday morning because I didn’t get around some more. This is the season for the art-serious to be in Manhattan. In between museum and gallery shows the spectacle of commerce at its best – the displays in the windows and glittering on the buildings of the city – is itself a form of popular art.

Visiting the Chelsea and Lower East Side Galleries

In the past couple of weeks I visited a number of Chelsea and Lower East Side galleries.  I was pleasantly surprised to see more red dots than usual on artwork by emerging artists; something I haven’t seen since the downturn of the art market at the end of 2008.  The art market appears to be thriving in both Chelsea and the Lower East Side.  David Zwirner and Pace are opening galleries in London.  Pace closed the 22nd Street space and has opened a new gallery space next door to their second gallery on West 25th Street.  Marlborough is opening a new gallery space in the Lower East Side.

The last time I visited the galleries in the Lower East Side there were a mere 10 galleries.  Now there are close to 100.  This neighborhood has really turned around.  I remember riding down Chrystie Street with my father and being told never to walk down this street.  It was far too dangerous.  You will find that the Lower East Side galleries are very spread out.  From north to south they border between East 1st Street to Canal Street and east to west from Mott Street to Avenue B.  It is very doubtful you could visit them all in one day.

The gallery spaces are reminiscent of the EastVillage galleries of the 1980s.  On the one hand the spaces are extremely small intimate storefronts.  Walking from storefront to storefront you feel like you are in a real neighborhood as opposed to an industrial area.  On the other hand there are architectural masterpieces, such as the Sperone Westwater gallery on Bowery.  It was designed by the same architect who designed OneWorldTradeCenter and has three floors.  There is a hydraulic freight elevator that artists can choose to show work in as part of the exhibition.  From the second floor you can view the work on the first floor.  Right now there is an incredible nine panel work by Chinese artist Liu Ye depicting a subtle interpretation of bamboo in celadon.  The work is breathtaking particularly when viewed from above.

One of the noteworthy galleries showing emerging artists is the Dacia Gallery on Stanton Street.  The owner immediately engaged me in conversation about the artist as I entered.  Leah Yerpe’s charcoal and pencil drawings on paper are some of the most impressive works I have ever seen.  Her realistic compositions of groups of people falling are exquisitely executed with attention to every detail.  Her prices ranged from $800 for small pencil drawings 8 x 10 to $14,000 for her largest sized charcoal drawings 80 x 100.  Only two works in the exhibition remain unsold.

Most of the Lower East Side galleries are not listed in Gallery Guide.  If you visit you will find a majority of the galleries listed.

Gallery Night on 57th Street, October 2012

In what has quickly become a New York tradition, yesterday dozens of galleries stayed open late for the biannual Gallery Night on 57th Street walk. Whereas this gallery-goer noticed eerily empty corridors during the last couple of rounds, the fall 2012 event seemed to have all the markers of success: sardine-can packed elevators, side-step-only passing through select exhibitions, and lots of people everywhere carrying little gray maps. Measuring by the yardstick of personal taste, a few artists and shows really stood out:

- D. Wigmore Fine Art, Charming Observations: Modernism of the 1930s and 1940s: including several canvases by the American painter Doris Lee, at once deeply contemplative in their monochromatic abstraction and delightfully charming in their subject matter

- Pace Prints, Santi Moix: silkscreen monotypes with hand-coloring; bursting with spontaneity, a dynamic and visually striking series with infinite layers of line, shape, and color

- Nohra Haime Gallery, Olga de Amaral: Places: large fabric compositions seductively dancing with light from afar and shimmering glamorously up close; metaphorically, like evening jewelry for the wall

- Bonni Benrubi Gallery, Abelardo Morell: Rock Paper Scissors: featuring “tent camera” landscapes photographed simultaneously with the grassy patches of ground beneath the camera itself, seamlessly combining two views into one deliberately confusing but beautiful experiment in texture and context

October 2012 Summary of Art Exhibits

There’s just too much art around if you’re a professional in the field; it’s hard on the eyes, feet, brain and calendar, leaving little time for anything other than visiting art exhibitions, attending art panels, going to galleries, attempting all those Art Nights on 57th, Chelsea, Lower East Side, Williamsburg, Lower Batavia, etc.

What’s hardest of all is trying to distinguish one artist from another, or which gallery showed which artist, or trying to remember what you actually thought of any of those artists whose work you can’t sort out anyway.

Clutching a sheaf of papers, invitations, announcement cards and print-outs as I hobbled into the office this morning, I’m trying to recap just a few, a very few, of the shows I attended over the weekend – this is not to include the two or three museum visits I made as I skittered around and through The Korean Day Parade, The Polish Day Parade and the Columbus Day Parade – the parade trifecta. Never let it be said again that New York is the easiest city in the world to get around in – no, no, no, not if there’s a parade going on.

Not in sequence of either time nor area:

Driscoll-Babcock Galleries is celebrating its 160th year in the business by moving to Chelsea and opening its initial exhibition with both 19th century and contemporary artists. There’s a 5.5 million dollar Hartley in one room and a Jeff Koons polka dot painting in the next. A John F. Kensett show is coming up next, but like so many other American Art galleries it is allowing space for what really brings collectors inside their doors – new art.

I’ve been following the work of Louise Fishman for many years and her new work at Cheim & Reid somewhat startled me this time. After 50 years of presenting a wide range of themes, the art has exploded into a blue thunderclap with red slashes. After five decades that’s quite an energetic viewpoiont.

Andrea Zittel at Andrea Rosen, continues to explore the relationship of art to consumable art objects, choosing in her own words to work at the intersection between textiles and painting, working with a group of weavers and artisans to create hanging textiles, some based on Navaho designs, and a giant rug, 144 x 192 inches. One of three, it is $85,000.

Robert Miller Gallery showed some marvelous vintage photos, primarily from the 1930s – Walker Evans, Dorothea Lang, and the usuaal suspects, but I made special note of the newer photos by Jorn Lehr. These offered a contrast to the otherwise very good photos I’d seen the night before at The Affordable Art Fair, held this year on 11th Avenue. Yes, it was affordable – in fact one of the best things I saw in the show was a $375 work by an artist in the Under $500 booth, but the difference between what is affordable and what is gallery worthy leaves some growth room in between.

At Pace the Richard Tuttle exhibition is of free-standing works that expands the space of his smaller creations. Couldn’t help but think of these when the next day I attended “Eyes Closes/Eyes Open,” the recent acquisition of drawings at MoMA. There was displayed the work of German artist Franz Erhard Walther from the decade of the 60s, a suite of interactive sculptural objects, shown for the first time since its original presentation in 1969.

There was tons more to speak of, but I’m not going to be the one to report it. I ended my afternoon in Chelsea on the highest of high notes, at Luhring Augustine where I sat through a performance in 12 parts by Guido Van Der Werve, an extraordinary visual video with a full orchestra that intertwined homage to Chopin with the history of Alexander the Great and the artist as guide, swimming, biking and running from Warsaw to Paris – 1,000 miles - dressed always in black. I lost count of the time for the music alone held me bound to the folding chair on which I sat, not knowing if I was comfortable or not and wishing it would go on for even a little while longer. I don’t usually react that way to art videos, but this time was different. When Chopin died in Paris, his sister promised to bring his heart back to Warsaw to be buried there, smuggling it out and having it was interred in the Church of the Holy Cross. The last scene showed the artist laying a gift at the foot of the artist’s monument in the Pierre Lachaise cemetery.

Biennale des Antiquaires 2012 Report

Art lovers were blessed with perfect weather last week at the 2012 Biennale des Antiquaires held in Paris’s Grand Palais.  In its 26th year, the fair is the foremost showcase of art and antiques for dealers from the Société National des Antiquaries (SNA).  

In a venue designed by Karl Lagerfeld this year, dealers exhibited in lanes of two-storey white shop fronts, and there was no shortage of stunning antiques to admire.  Amongst a healthy mix of old, new and Revivalist pieces was a rare, blue slant top desk varnished in the Chinese taste, by Pierre IV Migeon and the “frères Martin,” France c. 1735 offered by Anne-Marie Monin (Paris), an ornamented walnut and marble cabinet by Édouard Lièvre c.1875 offered by Galerie Marc Maison (Paris), and an 1874 Emile Reiber rosewood, ebony, walnut, gilded and silvered bronze corner cabinet with enameled cloisonné offered by Oscar Graf (Paris). 

While galleries such as Richard Green (London), Galerie Mendes (Paris) and others brought striking examples of Dutch floral and Old Master work, the fine art leaned toward European Modern and Contemporary.  Italians Lucio Fontana and Georgio Morandi appeared beside the French:  Yves Klein, Fernand Leger, Simon Hantai.  One stand-out was Galerie Patrice Trigano (Paris) showing a selection of still life paintings by the self taught Séraphine de Senlis.  The man of the hour?  Fellow primitive Jean Dubuffet, with pieces being offered by no fewer than 20 galleries including Galerie Zlotowski (Paris) whose booth featured Dubuffet en Papier, a grouping of the artist’s works on paper.

Last, but certainly not least were the jewels.  Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Dior, Bulgari, Piaget, Siegelson (New York), Chanel, Boucheron (Paris), Chaumet (Paris), and Wallace Chan (Hong Kong) - the list goes on. 

If you were looking for sparkle, one couldn’t have asked for a better venue.  Spirits (along with Mr. Lagerfeld’s balloon) seemed high.

Exhibition Review: Gustav Klimt: 150th Anniversary Celebration at the Neue Galerie, May 24-August 27, 2012

New York City’s Neue Galerie is the latest venue to jump on the Klimt exhibition bandwagon this year. Nearly every museum in Vienna has pulled up a chair to the artist’s 150th birthday party, and while the Neue might be seated at the far end of the table, its contribution to the potluck is more impressive than many of the others’.

During a recent tour through Vienna, an OTE staff member found Klimt’s famous face and kissing couple on every wall, billboard, and bus. But while the streets are like a museum of Klimt reproductions, finding an actual Klimt inside a museum is trickier.

With the exception of the magnificent Death and Life canvas, The Leopold Museum’s display primarily consists of what seems like every scrap of paper that ever passed the artist’s desk – interesting, but a letdown to a tourist who spent the entire tram ride staring at the exhibition poster. The Secession and the Kunsthistorisches Museum have built temporary ramps to allow visitors a closer view of the artist’s wall murals, and the Albertina is showing a group of lovely drawings and preparatory sketches. Finally, the Belvedere’s glittering Kiss, regal Judith I, seductive Wasserschlangen (Water Snakes), and about ten other masterpieces give the Klimt party crasher a reason to get really excited – over and over again.

Meanwhile at the Neue Galerie, the sumptuous Adele Bloch-Bauer I, arguably the Mona Lisa of North America and made all the more dazzling by her $135 million price tag in 2006, is joined by her contemporaries in The Black Feather Hat, The Dancer, and Pale Face. Displayed with the ladies are three beautifully-patterned landscapes and a comprehensive array of black and white photographs, light sketches and finished charcoals, and lithographic posters. All of the works are from the museum’s holdings, courtesy of (lucky for us) Klimt’s biggest fan Ronald Lauder, and all selections are extraordinary examples of the artist’s talent.

Ultimately, the Neue Galerie show offers a satisfying Viennese dessert table (pun most certainly intended) that proves second only to Vienna’s best.