Let the shows begin! Last year the Art Dealers Association of America, ADAA, held its annual presentation, called The Art Show at the 5th Regiment Armory, at the same time as the Armory Show and its growing bevy of satellite exhibits in hotel rooms. It was a confusing overload of art viewing.
This year the ADAA opened the Art Show earlier, this weekend, and that's good; they're of very different breeds. The coming art fairs are more about the contemporary, flash and cash, while the Art Show is more sedate, blue chip-resale. Not that the cash isn't important here, and it also has its celebrity following. I saw Steve Martin quietly making his way through the booths on Thursday afternoon; I like his new autobiography by the way.
What I like best about the Art Show is getting to see some exquisite gems, paintings, drawings, prints, and some sculpture that is in transit from one collection or estate to another, never to be seen again, until resale.
For instance, I've seen very little of Jacob Lawrence's work other than the Migration series; DC Moore Gallery had a beautiful, small still life, very rare (for me). Knoedler and Co. had a De Kooning oil on paper next to a 31 x 20" oil on plywood, Ocean Park study by Richard Diebenkorn, next to a small Rothko oil on board, next to a very nice Milton Avery painting. At the beginning were three small drawings by Edward Hopper stacked one atop the other, next to an early Diebenkorn drawing. The bottom Hopper, a study of light streaming through a window could easily have been mistaken for a Diebenkorn Ocean Park study; I did a double take.
The Art Show has many surprises like this. A small Grandma Moses painting at ACA Gallery, which director Jeffery Bergen had me pick up to see the fading sticker on the back with Moses's photo and archival info. The same at Gallerie St Etienne, although a larger, more rare, snow scene. That's the beauty of this show: it's intimate and full of rare gems. If you have a lot of cash to spend most galleries have a small back room with even more to tempt you to part with your tax rebate or hedge fund bonus. Much of the work on paper is in the $30,000 to $60,000 range, while paintings will require a bit more flexibility. I think Grandma Moses would have a mini-stroke if she knew what her pictures were selling for. But you don't have to buy. The show is open to all, $20 will get you in the door, and it's well worth it.
I also made a few stops in Chelsea, notably including Mark Bradford, whose work I first got to see at the last Whitney Biennial, is showing at Sikkema Jenkins. New to me, Spanish painter Juan Usle's abstract works at Cheim Read. Made with a complex process of vinyl, dispersion (medium), and dry pigment, creating some very interesting translucent results. Once you grasp the process, all the better.
A highlight of this trip was the opening of painter and fellow blogger extraordinaire Joy Garnett at Winkleman Gallery, which finally provided the chance to meet her in person. I've followed Joy's work for several years, both her paintings, often of raw social commentary, and her writing on the site she runs, Newsgrist. She is a passionate writer on all things art, especially the issues around copyright infringement and free usage of image sources for artists.
Her paintings have never looked better. An artist will often work and work for several months/years, and then for whatever reason a cohesion happens. All the work you have been forging through finds clarity, all cylinders are firing together. I think Joy is having one of those moments - and it's good.
Finally, even though I respectfully wasn't taken by the work by Michel Francois at Bortolami Gallery. I've got to give them credit for the most Heineken I've ever seen dispersed at an opening reception. Maybe I took part in a performance piece....
More images on my Flickr site.