The International Fine Art Fair, May 10-15, 2002, at the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021
The latest measure of the art market? Well, with the mercurial Dow finally soaring and the art auctions continuing to reap sticker-shock prices, Brian and Anna Haughton's ninth annual International Fine Art Fair could just be the next ranking indicator of the market's pulse. A stunning $500,000,000 worth of paintings, drawings and sculpture spanning the Renaissance right up to the hip 1960s are on view. That net worth figure for the fair's contents has more than tripled in a scant five years, demonstrating the astonishing robustness of values in these recessionary times.
Plus, there are more $1-million-and-up price tags than ever at the fair, which marks the Haughton's return to the armory after a hectic hiatus when the National Guard took over the turreted premises following the 9/11 tragedy. Dealers and collectors alike enthusiastically applauded the return to the familiar, storied location.
Among the 61 dealers from here and abroad are 13 newcomers, including the Old Masters powerhouse Bernheimer-Colnaghi of London and Munich; sculpture specialist Robert Bowman and Old Masters dealers Elwes and Hanham, both of London; the veritable French & Co., James Francis Trezza as well as 19th-century paintings dealer Questroyal Fine Art, all of New York; the Greenwich Gallery of Connecticut and Galerie D'Art Saint-Honore from Paris with Old Masters; and Renaissance dealer Moretti of Florence.
Rejoining the fair after a brief respite are Salis & Vertes of Salzburg, Galerie Antoine Laurentin and G. Sarti, both of Paris as well as Maison d'Art of Monaco, the gallery established by the late Piero Corsini.
Old Masters appear more prevalent than ever at this fair, which is considered by some to be the U.S. version of Maastricht. Here are just a few of highlights. First stop should be Bob R. Haboldt & Co. to view a scrumptious still life by the Master of the Hartford Still-Life. Dating from 1590, the previously unpublished picture filled with vine leaves, figs, grapes, succulent peaches and plums on a Turkish carpet draped table is $2.8 million. It has a Carvaggioesque kind of feel in terms of the palette.
For those with a taste for the wild, there is Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp's Two Jaguars for $650,000. Their leopard-like spots are certain to attract a fashionista or two. Haboldt sold a number of Old Masters at Maastricht, indicating the bullish nature of this market.
Salomon Lilian is touting an imposing Anthony van Dyck portrait of St. Philip. Part of an uncompleted series illustrating Christ and the 12 Apostles, the 1615 picture is priced at $1.2 million. For those who missed the Gerrit Dou exhibition at the National Gallery of Art last year in Washington, D.C., this New York dealer has the ultimate treasure: the Dutch artist's Portrait of a Young Woman, priced at $700,000. Delicately painted, the diminutive bust-length portrait is in profile and had been on loan to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum for more than 50 years. She's the quintessential 17th-century woman, swathed in furs and draped in pearls.
Moving further along in art history's time chart, two high points can be glimpsed at Galerie Schmit. There is Gustave Courbet's La Pauvresse du Village, which is signed and dated 1866. Exhibited at the Courbet exhibition of 1866, the painting, a rather grim snowscape, remained in private collections all these years. Today, the picture bears a $7.5 million price tag. There's also an 1863 Degas, Le départ pour la Chasse, filled with pink-coated riders. It's also priced at $7.5 million.
Talk about fresh to the market, the Paris Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière is featuring one of Modigliani's flat-planed portraits of a woman, La Fantesca, from 1915. It had always been locked away in a private collection and now boasts a $4.3 million price tag.
Bernard Boutet de Monvel has been enjoying a splash of renewed popularity with his society portraits suddenly coveted, but David and Constance Yates have a spectacular seascape by the artist from 1906. The Post-Impressionist view of the Quai de Meurs with the reflections in the water painted in a bold stippled technique is particularly striking. The picture, priced at a modest $50,000, sold on opening night. This New York couple also has an Albert Carriere-Belleuse terracotta rendition of summer with her hair aflock with corn tassels. The 1865 bust is finely hand finished and costs $60,000; it's on reserve.
Frank Benson is best known for sporting views, men fishing and camping and the like, but Beadleston Gallery has brought to the fair a spectacular example of a Benson still life. Benson painted a gold screen in the background as a foil for the table laden with fruit-filled compotes and tureens and the entire picture glows. The 1936 work is priced at $1.5 million.
Works on paper are more abundant than ever and Tiepolo seems to be the prized artist of the moment. Katrin Bellinger has five examples on view, including a humorous sketch of three Punchinello horsemen, which sold to a European collector. Works on paper by Il Guercino are also in profusion and can be found with Thomas Williams, Flavia Ormond and Nissman, Abromson.
But for those who taste runs towards more impressionistic renditions, a star-studded work by Turner can be spotted with the London dealer Day & Farber. Titled A Storm Approaching Genoa from 1828, the tiny watercolor in evanescent blues and grays demonstrates why the artist called such works his "first impressions." It's a relatively modest $200,000 for such fine artistry.
In terms of shopping, millionaires and billionaires make this fair a regular stop. The only slightly jarring note is a plethora of rather weak paintings with some of the new dealers. But still, this fair should be a must see for all fine art enthusiasts.
BROOK S. MASON writes on the fine and decorative arts.