Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Annex Galleries

When I was in New York a number of years ago I went to visit a photography gallery where the proprietor, who I knew, asked if I had ever heard of Gustave Baumann.  I said I certainly had.

He told me a client had left a collection of photographs with him to sell.  Along with the photographs was this Baumann woodcut that he asked if I could I handle for him.  I said, of course I could though I did not know that much about Baumann but had seen a number of his great colored woodcuts and was a big fan. The New Mexico Museum of Art has a great collection of his work and the curator, Merry Scully, told me to get in touch with the Annex Galleries.  I did but they were not interested in my print or maybe it was the price I was asking for it!  Here is an image of “Taos Placita”, 1947.

Anyway, this correspondence via email got me on their mailing list and pretty much every day from then on I got an email with their “Print of the Day”.  It was an education in itself.  There were 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st century prints not just European and American but also Mexican, Asian, African and Pacific Rim.  The prices ran roughly from $50 to $50,000 with the great majority in the hundreds of dollars.

I found, not surprisingly, that what I liked did not necessarily correspond to the price.  I felt that this website was the answer to all those people who had come to my gallery saying, “I can’t afford to collect” and indirectly to their other question, “what should I collect?”  For instance if you are looking for a strong and not very expensive print here is a block print called “Worker with Drill” of about 1935  by Russian artist Albert Abramovitz (1879 – 1963) for $600.

The gallery is in Santa Rosa, California and that put the news coverage of the terrible fires last fall on a more personal level for me.  I emailed them at the time as I was concerned with their plight.  When, shortly after, we saw their stand at the New York Print Fair I asked about a fabulous Baumann print they had up on the wall and the price and I was told “It’s $35,000 but it was just sold” – Bummer! – The lady with whom I was speaking was Gala Chamberlain, she is partnered with her husband, Daniel Lienau, founder of the Annex Galleries.  Here is an image of “Silver Sky” the woodcut I saw which is finished with hand applied aluminum leaf.

Turns out that Gala and Daniel worked closely with Baumann’s daughter who also lived in Santa Rosa and died in 2011.  They are sole representatives of the estate and Gala is the executor; I did not quite understand the transaction.  It was explained to me that Gala would buy it from the gallery and give the woodcut back to the estate for resale and then the proceeds could be used for Baumann projects around the country.   Gala has just completed the Catalogue Raisonné on Gustave Baumann’s prints, which is scheduled to be published by Rizzoli in 2019.

It all began when Daniel was at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and he came across the Roten Gallery, which brought prints to college campuses giving the students a chance to buy with a year to pay for them.  He acquired a monumental woodcut by Leonard Baskin, “Hydrogen Man” for $100 and two Franz Marc’s for $20 each and paid them off over the following year.  The rest is history but Daniel started in business as a framer in Berkeley and then San Francisco where he first framed single prints and then editions of prints.  He ended up trading frames for cash and prints.  He now has over 6,000 prints on his website for every taste and pocket book.

Back in the 1970’s prints were not considered a high art like paintings and sculpture so selling was difficult.  Since Daniel saw the burgeoning interest in the collecting of photography which, of course, is just a category of prints, he reached out to a New York dealer by the name of Lee Witkin, who was a pioneer in the photography  market.   Daniel did a show in New York with Lee in the early 1980’s.  My wife and I were then regular visitors to the gallery where we bought much of our photography collection. Why were we acquainted with the name and images of Gustave Baumann before we came out to the Southwest?  It must have been Daniel Lieneau’s exhibition at Lee Witkin’s gallery.  My father always said that we live in a Global Village and it took just 37 years for these links to come together in our lives!

I asked Daniel how it is possible to do a global business from a small town in Northern California and the response was interesting.  He said that they do 18 to 20 art fairs a year. Having never done more than a couple annually I can tell you that even that was exhausting!  Nonetheless, Daniel told me that today he does most of his business on line.  I found this rather mind-boggling but with his method of being in continuous touch with potential clients by offering them something new to consider every day,---why not?

If you want to start on the same journey into the print world that I did just email the Annex Galleries ( to get on their mailing list for “The Print of the Day”.

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