Art fairs

Clients look to spend, some over $1 million dollars: The Art Show 1994, New York

Serious collectors, serious prices, but mostly for the modern

New York

The Art Show which displays the holdings of over sixty members of the prestigious Art Dealers Association of America and provides a convenient annual testing of art market conditions, is now in its sixth year and is an established landmark on the New York art world calender.

The show did well in its first years, slipped badly in the early 1990s but began to recover in 1993. This year, during the fair’s 24-28 February run at the Park Avenue Armory, the recession seemed only a dim memory. The quality of offerings was particularly high and show director O. Kelley Anderson reports that fifty-eight out of sixty-one participating dealers did business.

Although bad weather probably kept some viewers away (attendance slipped about 19% from last year to 12,215), dealers say that determined collectors from all over America and a number of European countries—unlike last year’s more local audience—were ready to buy.

“These are serious collectors”, says Donald Morris, a dealer with premises in Detroit and New York, of this year’s Art Show visitor type, “not people looking to be entertained for an afternoon”. Mr Morris sold eleven works of art, including five pieces of African art, and “The Beard”, a drawing by Jean Dubuffet. “I could have sold it five times”, he reports.

Two works by Dubuffet including “Cow with Beautiful Teats” (one of only sixteen cow pictures by the artist) were sold by New York/California dealer Stephen Hahn, who had filled his impressive booth solely with Dubuffet’s work. Both sales are reported to be over $1 million.

William Beadleston Inc, the New York private dealer, showed only the works of Alexander Calder, and did equally well, selling at least three, including “Little Black Flower”, a 1944 mobile, at “around $200,000”. Some works were so sought after that Beadleston was asked by a disappointed latecomer to offer the buyer a profit on another Calder sold the first evening. Among the many works on paper sold was New York dealer Jason McCoy’s “The Kiss”, a Brancusi drawing of 1935 at “between $50-100,000”. Leonard Hutton Gallery’s five sales included two gouaches by Giacomo Balla in the same price range, and “Helene”, a watercolour by Alexej Jawlensky, at closer to $100,000”.

“Harlequinade”, a painting of 1912 by Albert Bloch, was sold for “over $200,000” by Lafayette Park Gallery, newcomers to the show, who expressed some surprise at the positive response to “a booth so focused on German Expressionism”, but at this Art Show, nineteenth- and twentieth-century works in every category seemed to find buyers. Richard Gray sold two works by a young artist called David Klaman (under $50,000 each) to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York dealer James Goodman sold a major Tom Wesselmann painting (price not disclosed), and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco photography dealers, sold “more than we can count”, from rare vintage works to contemporary photographs, “at all price levels up to about $70,000”.

Old Masters, however, did not sell. All of last year’s exhibitors in that category, including Guy Sainty, Richard Feigen, Rosenberg & Stiebel and Otto Naumann Ltd were absent, and Agnew’s showed only modern British art. None of these dealers had ever done much business at the Show which is, in fact, largely, geared to the twentieth century.

“The mechanism by which people become members of the Art Dealers Association of America tends to exclude Old Master dealers”, says Guy Sainty. Many of course, are not American at all. “You need a strong concentration of work in any area to attract people”, says Richard Feigen, who has advocated alternating Art Shows of contemporary and “classic” art with non-ADAA “guest” exhibitors participating. Mr Feigen recently resigned from the Art Dealers Association of America for “unrelated” reasons).

He points out that the Art Show will now lose its New York “premium” art fair monopoly with the advent of the International Fine Art Fair.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as '$1 million-dollar clients go shopping'