Sunday, January 29, 2012

That was the week that was

Needless, to say, it is January and that means winter.  We have, however, had about one tenth the snow as at this time last year.  Still we do feel the cold.  Attending an early morning meeting of the board of the Private Art Dealers Association I decided to walk the ¾ of a mile.  Arriving in what felt like a frozen state, I asked,  “why are the Old Master events usually at the times of year when it is cold and or inclement out and the modern and contemporary ones when it is mild?” A colleague replied, “Because they have more money than we do.”  A most interesting response, and not altogether incorrect.

Still the show must go on and even the first day of our Master Drawings New York exhibition while the snow and sleet came down we had a foreign curator visiting first thing, and the Ceramics fair and Sotheby’s that we visited that morning were jammed. At the end of the day we went to The Winter Antiques show which included dealers in many fields including American art of all periods, folk art, jewelry, Art Nouveau, English furniture, books, autographs etc.  The following evening we went to a reception at Christies and viewed their offerings and from there to the anniversary party of friends from Santa Fe.

 Every evening of the week there were opening receptions at galleries, not just of the dealers participating in the drawings extravaganza.  One night we went from the opening of a paintings dealer to the opening of a works of art dealer where we saw incredible early Northern European Sculpture in stone, ivory and wood, Wow! what masterpieces!  From there to another old master gallery and, to top off the evening, an exciting party given by a prominent old master dealer at his home where he has the most phenomenal private collection of paintings spanning the centuries, giving nourishment to the soul and eye. As in years past he and his wife invited the entire established, non-contemporary art world for a Chinese buffet.  There we could mingle with old friends from so many different corners of the art world, dealers, collectors and museums’ curators and directors, not just from across the U.S. but many from Europe as well, and also art critics and university professors

The following evening we went to a wine, pizza and magic evening at another wonderful old master dealer.  As the invitation said, “Prepare to be delighted dazzled by praise-worthy magician Mark Mitton.  

Sure enough he was amazing, making the cards move from the deck without touching it and making the guests jewelry disappear; yes he did find the pieces again… in another guests pocket!  A former U.S. Ambassador and Secretary of the Navy was so taken that he whipped out his sketchpad.

We had clients every day a few bought and others made notes or asked for jpegs and data sheets.  So on every level the week was exciting, gratifying and exhausting!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Master Drawings New York continues

The opening was Friday and we had a busy weekend but the show goes on through Saturday.  Believe it or not, some drawings were not yet scooped up!!!

Last week I mentioned re-discoveries.  Every year at the Salon du Dessin in Paris there is a room devoted to works on paper still looking for an artist’s name.  These are often of the highest quality but have just escaped the individual who has the answer to the mystery.  Personally , I love this room because you can learn so much and possibly buy something of an extraordinary nature.

Here are a few of our mystery guests.  Please feel free to make your suggestions.

As you may have seen on our invitation we also have a selection of terracotta and plaster sculptures from France and Italy of the late 18th and 19th century.  These are a perfect introduction to this wonderful affordable field.

The collector, now living in New York, bought these in Paris in his youth and he now wants to pass on the enjoyment that he had in finding them. Many came from the Marché au Puces, the flea market in Paris.   In the old days major collectors would show up there at 5 or 6 in the morning, one of the most illustrious being the former director of the Louvre, Pierre Rosenberg.  Our collector, however, also bought pieces from Paris dealersone of whom later supplied many pieces to the J. Paul Getty sculpture collection.

Two of the most recognizable pieces are those by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887).  Of the two the better known sculpture is that of the baccante.

The most famous sculptor of the 19th century, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), worked as an assistant in the studio of Carriere-Belleuse and owed a lot to the sculptor. The influence can clearly be seen in Rodin’s Baccante of 1874 now in the Metropolitan Museum.   The Carrier-Belleuse Baccante is the most expensive piece in this collection at $12,000.  The least expensive of the group is 10% of that! 

More of a connoisseur’s piece is the Bozzetto for l’ Eléctricité, 1889  Louis-Erenest Barrias (1841–1905).  It was the model for a seven meter high sculpture that graced the entry of the Palais des Machines at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 (the same fair for which the Eiffel Tower was built!)  Unfortunately the bottom of the legs of the figure, upper left, have broken off.  My father always said, “the older the pieces are, the better the condition the clients want to the piece to be in.”  The plus side, however, means that the price of the work of art will be much lower and possibly affordable.  In this case $5,000.  That is why I called it more of a connoisseur’s piece.  You have to understand it, love it and know how good and interesting it is.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Master Drawings New York 2012

As we all know every year passes more quickly and here we are at the beginning of 2012 and its time again for Master Drawings New York (MDNY).  Crispian Riley-Smith, a London drawings dealer, first organized Master Drawings in London and then branched out to 
New York.  

This year 23 dealers, ranging from Old Masters to Contemporary, will present their works on paper for just over a week (January 21-28; opening January 20, 4-8pm). They will either be showing in their own galleries or ones borrowed for the occasion conveniently all on the East side between 64th Street and 81st and between Fifth and Park Avenues. The dealers are mostly from New York but there are participants from out of town including colleagues from London, Paris and Madrid.  

If you have not received a brochure you can click on this link or find a hard copy at any participating gallery as well as Christie's and Sotheby’s.

The timing of MDNY is no accident.  It is at the time of the old master paintings and drawings sales at the aforementioned auction houses and others in New York. The Winter Antiques Show, which also has a few drawings dealers is on as well.   The more the merrier, more “action” brings more visitors to the big apple.

If you have the slightest interest in works on paper Master Drawings New York is one of the few “musts” of the year to get a taste for what is available on the market today.  Naturally, in New York you will have the accent on East Coast dealers, in Maastricht more central European dealers, and at the Salons du Dessin predominantly French.

In a brief introduction to the MDNY brochure Linda Wolk-Simon, head of the department of drawings and prints at the Morgan Library comments on the thoughts of the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds and his reflections on the collecting of drawings. As Reynolds notes drawings often “appear careless, and unfinished” sketches but they give us insight into the mind of the artist and  “they give us the idea of the whole” with insight into the mind of the artist.

It is often possible to identify aspects of a drawing with a specific finished painting.  The detective work is finding which one.  A case in point is the sketch by Pierre Parrocel (1670-1739), our choice for illustrating in the MDNY brochure.  It shows the head of a child and a study of hands.

In the art world there is often an expert on a certain artist. Someone all refer to for his/her expertise.  That individual has usually spent years researching the artist and compiling his work and then, if you are lucky, publishing a Catagogue Raisoné, which in turn becomes the bible for that artist.  The expert on Pierre Parrocel found that our drawing is a preparatory sketch for The Nativity painted for the Convent of Chartreuse of Moulins, today in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Moulins.

We often read of a “new” or “re-discovery”, what this means is that some one has associated the work of art with a specific artist and found enough evidence of this that the attribution sticks.  Please come by and make your own discoveries.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

John E. Buchanan (1953-2011)

John Buchanan ran four institutions during his career: The Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences in Peoria, Illinois, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis Tennessee, The Portland Art Museum in Oregon and The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.  During his tenure at the Dixon and in Portland he affected our lives greatly and for the better.

At the end of the 1980’s my wife, Penelope Hunter-Stiebel was working at Rosenberg & Stiebel when she got a phone call from John, who was at the time Director of the Dixon.  She had been recommended to John by a curator at her former institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to curate an exhibition of Sèvres Porcelain.  She did not believe that a small institution such as the Dixon with no track record for this kind of exhibition could get the type of loans that one would need to do a serious show of the French Royal Porcelain Factory, so she said, “Sorry, I can’t help you.”  

John would not take “No” for an answer and said, “There must have been some exhibition you wanted to do when you were at the Met and couldn’t.  That is the exhibition we are doing in Memphis. What exhibition are we doing?”  Out of that encounter came “Louis XV & Madame de Pompadour:  A Love Affair with Style” at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens and also at Rosenberg & Stiebel in New York.  We got loans from major museums, such as The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Cleveland Museum of Art and The J. Paul Getty Museum to name a few.  

There were also a number of very illustrious private collectors who contributed.  By the way, in the context of this scholarly exhibition, John got those important Sèvres objects that he wanted in the first place.  When we got off the plane in Memphis to attend the opening there, on a hill just beyond the airport was a huge billboard announcing the exhibition.  At the opening there were well prepared impersonators of Louis XV and Mme de Pompadour who went on to visit various locations in town.  Thus, was the showmanship of John Buchanan.

John and Lucy Buchanan
John moved on to become Director of the Portland Art Museum where he woke up a moribund institution as well as the potential donors to the arts in the community, helping not just his institution but also many others in town.  Aside from his ebullient personality, he brought important international exhibitions to Portland.   His wife, Lucy Buchanan, was Development Director and a major force in raising funds to do these shows. 

The next step was originating international projects. In 1997 he asked Penelope to curate an exhibition about the Stroganoff Family of Russia but she felt her responsibility, at that time, was to get our son into college.  But when she called John a year of so later to say hello he was still looking for someone to do that show, Hunter had by then been accepted at college so she accepted the job.   

The show opened in 2000 and there was national press, over 300,000 in attendance and the entire Portland community was engaged in Russian programming.  Demonstrating John’s political savvy he had the Director of the Hermitage, both State Senators as well as the Governor of Oregon and the Mayor of Portland on the rostrum for the opening. So began Penelope’s 10-year stint as curator at the Portland Art Museum.

John, Penelope, Lucy and their designer, our friend from Penelope’s Metropolitan years, Clifford LaFontaine made up the team that did shows with Russia, France, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy in Portland.  John was always enthusiastic and pushing for the best and most interesting show possible.  Bolstered by Lucy, John was always optimistic and positive without any show of doubt.  Though criticized by some for his too popular exhibitions that snobbish critics and art historians felt were not serious enough, he brought a new public into the Portland Art Museum that were hungry for his dishes.  

I stayed at the Heathman Hotel on one occasion, just a stone’s throw from the museum, and the elevator man, who had no idea that I had any relationship to the museum said to me in praise of the director.  “He allowed me to see a Van Gogh, I never thought I would be able to see one.”  This was in response to a picture on loan to the Museum.  For me that is what a museum’s job is to expose the public to what they do not know and hopefully make it interesting enough to bring the public in, and in the best of all possible worlds, come back. 

Lucy, Baroness Helene de Ludinghausen, and John
John and Landgraff von Hessen
John leading a donor group in Berlin
John inaugurating an exhibition
John with Guy Cugeval, Director of the Musee d'Orsay

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our Updated Look

It’s the time of New Year’s Resolutions and starting afresh and as you know we started that about 6 months ago when we moved into our new digs on 69th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues.

Stiebel Gallery on 69th street
As part of this transition we changed much of our image as far as logo and our outside face is concerned.  So naturally our website had to change as well.  It now has a cleaner more contemporary look indicating that the old can adapt to the new, and more important that they can live well together. 

On the new is designed by our Gallery Director, Vince Hickman.  On the Home Page you will see a few images of our new premises.  You will also find the categories for our inventory as well as “Missives from the Art World” (Blog) button.  When you choose an inventory category and click on an image it will be formatted perfectly for printing and if you click on “More Information” you will have a data sheet formatted for printing on our stationery so that you will have our contact information easily accessible.  The images themselves, of course, can be enlarged as before with a simple click.  We have also managed to make all the material clearly available on all computers, tablets and smart phones.

Over 20 years ago we celebrated Rosenberg & Stiebel’s (predecessor to Stiebel, Ltd.) 50 years in the United States and in commemoration of that event we did and exhibition and made a film (Affairs of Art) tracing the history of the family firm from it’s founding around 1870.  I watched it a short while ago and realized that it is still pertinent today.  Now, we have made the entire film available on our website.  It is posted on YouTube as well as on our Home Page so you can watch Parts One and Two at your leisure.   If you like instant gratification here they are as well.

The entire film is only 24 minutes and includes curators, directors and collectors.  Unfortunately, a number of them are no longer with us, but the attitudes toward collecting and the relationships formed in the art world have not.   The film is also available on disc if you contact us. 

A couple of years ago Vince said to me, “People love your stories, you should tell them.”  Thus started “Missives from the Art World”.  They have continued because I hear encouraging words from many of you and I have learned what you like.  Since images seem to be much appreciated we have put more in recently, though I do not feel that they are an absolute necessity unless they enhance the story.  The images in the blog are quite small but with a simple click they too can also be enlarged. It is possible to scroll through past Missives or do a search in the upper left hand corner where you see the magnifying glass.  On the right side of the screen you will see a list of dates when the blog was published in case you can remember that and not the title.

Please feel free to make comments, criticisms or suggestions by emailing me directly at: