Thoughts on Patronage and Collecting: Then and Now

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald 


One of the fascinating aspects of being a professional in the Art World is that you get invited to a lot of events at organizations you have never heard of before but which often have considerable followings. And then you feel “out of it” because you’ve never heard of them before, but also “in” because now you have.

Last Friday I attend the National Symposium of Collectors For Connoisseurship, held at the Sacerdote Auditorium of the Uris Center at the Metropolitan Museum. Titled Patronage and Collecting: Then & Now, I was addressed by curators at the MET, the Frick and the Morgan Library, followed by a panel of speakers representing different aspects of the market.  Perhaps in an audience of diverse backgrounds different people took away different messages, but the main one seemed to me was that collectors in the past were often deeply involved in the intellectual and aesthetic aspects of their collections, while today’s collector may be seduced by branding and name recognition.

Will brick & mortar galleries continue as they have or will art fairs and online sales take over? We were all interested in that question which, of course, cannot be resolved in one symposium or even in 50, which I am certain will probably occur in the next year. What makes it so necessary for people to keep chewing over the same question so often without reaching for a resolution? Sort of like the talk talk talk re the current plethora of stories about abuse of women in business. A thousand stories so far, but haven’t heard one suggestion about a real solution.


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

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