Art Fairs, From the Bottom to the Top

OTE President Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald at  TEFAF in   Maastrict, Holland

OTE President Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald at TEFAF in Maastrict, Holland

From Maastrict to the PierShow with little time between – that’s the way the art world can spin. My first exposure to the European Fine Art Fair in Maastrict Holland, the most beautiful and civilized art scene I’ve ever attended. There were crowds of course, but nicely mannered and for the most part smartly dressed; the food was good to taste and elegantly presented, and the dealers in the booth eager to explain the history of their wares – for three quarters of the booths presented  Old Master work and the remainder was Modern, not Contemporary.  It was an oddly smoothly experience after all the razzmatazz of the earlier weeks in Manhattan and the hustle of the latest, the newest, the most provocative.

One fascinating fact: at the Weiss Gallery booth I was drawn in by the 16th portrait of Marie de Huelstre by Frans Pourbus the Younger and got into conversation with the dealer from whom I learned that a great source of these early portraits was from the United States! Apparently when the colonists came to America the most affluent of them were accompanied by ancestor portraits (or perhaps they weren’t yet ancestors at the time). Now there is a sort of restitution – those Europe originated paintings are being brought back across the Atlantic by English dealers and finding closer connections within England and the European Union. All I could wonder was who could possibly have wanted to part with any of these portraits, even if not a sentimentalist?

TEFAF

TEFAF

On the other hand there was literally nothing in the way of jewelry and collectibles you couldn’t find at the Pier Show last weekend. Visiting that vast space on the windy water site is like landing in the middle of a thousand attics and jewel boxes spilled higgely piggely out onto the stadium floor. No Old Masterpieces to be found here, but it’s lots of fun, especially if you enjoy bargaining a bit. As noted in the nearby photos, some booths sell well, while others look as packed at the end as they were at the beginning. Most of the dealers only show at these events and hold day jobs, so for a number this is a hobby, not a profession. You may know as much as they do, so not much chance for intimidation. For the new collector, and for those who are shy about asking prices, this may be the perfect start for dabbling your toe in that swirling pond we call the Art Market.

Written by Elin Lake-Ewald

 

Exploring the Outsider Art Fair

Gaela Fernandez, Creative Growth Gallery

Gaela Fernandez, Creative Growth Gallery

Whoever missed the Outsider Art Show this year missed a lot of fun. Lots of interest and enthusiasm shown on the faces of fairgoers. Not used to seeing so much courtesy and information provided by dealers speaking with people I was pretty sure were interested but not able to buy the often expensive art on the walls. I saw one dealer giving a lot of time to students who were taking notes while a couple of well-heeled potential clients cooled their heels in her booth.  Maybe it wasn’t good business, but I liked what I saw.

 There were two notable things about the exhibition. One was the very high quality of the offerings and the other was steadily rising prices. Outsider art has moved into the big time, although the highest price I found was the $260,000 for a Martin Ramirez graphite, tempera and crayon drawing on paper, 48 x 36 inches.  AT Creative Growth Gallery, Oakland, California, there was a Judith Scott ball of twine priced at $50,000. (Currently Scott has a show at the Brooklyn Museum curated by Catherine Morris, an OTE alum). The photo, seen left, is of the woolly ball and Gaela Fernandez, the gallery’s Paris representative. Almost as much as the $60,000 asked for a Henry Darger mixed media work on paper, 8.5 x 11.75 inches from 1950, depicting a fierce looking military man.

 At Marion Harris the strange photos of dolls who are posed as children, and who look like children, by Morton Bartlett, are priced in the $22,000 range. Can I say I enjoy them but at the same time they creep me out? Well, I just did.

 What did I think was the most exceptional work in the show? Since I think it may be the closest to fine art, albeit by an untrained artist (although trained as a draftsman), the extraordinary living buildings by A.G. Rizzoli struck me as most memorable. “A Building with Mr.and Mrs. Harold Healy Symbolically Sketched” from 1937, revealed how one artist’s thinking process worked. He apparently loved the Healys because he made their elegant lofty twin towers very beautiful, while their unliked cousin was a square concrete box, and a rambunctious 3-year-old became his own structure. The artist predicted the rambunctious boy would become mayor when he grew up. While  the kid never made it he did actually run for the office as an adult. Bonnie Grossman, the director of The Ames Gallery in Berkeley, California, (see below) stands in front of one of Rizzoli’s great buildings. While this one is priced at $92,000, there are a number of smaller drawings that are in the $2,000 range.

Bonnie Grossman, The Ames Gallery

Bonnie Grossman, The Ames Gallery

 I’ve always like the work of the mysterious Gayleen Aiken at Luise Ross Gallery, her depiction of her imaginery family, all carefully named and described in detail, have always fascinated me, and their prices, $8,000 and $12,000, seem within reason for a true outsider artist.

 All in all, a show that should not have been missed by anyone who enjoys the art of the unknown by the untrained.


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