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Feb. 23, 2006 

The Art Dealers Association of America opened the 18th edition of its annual Art Show, Feb. 23-27, 2006, at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue with a gala benefit for Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side. Seventy members of the ADAA have filled four aisles of narrow, open booths with their wares. Despite its bazaar-like atmosphere, the fair rewards return visits and careful looking -- plenty of treasures are to be found in every booth.

At L&M Arts, a very nicely articulated Anthropometry by Yves Klein, complete with flowing locks articulated by the blue spray, for $1,250,000. At James Goodman Gallery, an enameled polished bronze of Twin Blue Venuses (2002) by Jim Dine, updated versions of the massive sculptures next to the Hilton on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. At Knoedler & Co., an almost abstract Milton Avery painting of calligraphic Dancing Trees (1956) for $700,000. At Linda Hyman Fine Arts, an dense web of plastic jewels, beads, glass, shells, glitter, pearls and two artificial eyes inset into a bed of ochre modeling paste slathered onto a shingle mounted on a sheet of toned plywood by Alfonso Ossorio, yours for $45,000. †

Many of the dealers have made large curatorial statements. Richard L. Feigen & Co. has filled its booth with a mural-sized painting by James Rosenquist called The Holy Roman Empire through Checkpoint Charlie (1994), a panorama of German history incorporating a fragmented equestrian statue of Frederick the Great, a watching Communist "red" eye and a classical sculpture as invocation of the 1,000-year Reich, among other elements. The painting also incorporates a real wooden ladder. The price: $2.5 million.

On the front wall of the booth is a Pablo Picasso Femme Asise from 1909 that was last exhibited at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris in 1975-76.

PaceWildenstein has given over its booth to a group of 13 paintings by Alex Katz, both large and small, that were all made over the last year or two as part of developing a large 12 x 12 foot painting of three people walking down a country road. "I thought it was an interesting subject for a picture," the artist said with a sly smile. He was at the gala with his wife, Ada , a frequent model for his paintings. The works range from $24,000 to $150,000 in price.

Richard Grey Gallery has devoted its booth to portraits and self-portraits. Of particular note is a combo of four works, centering on a 2002 painting of David Hockney by Lucian Freud but also including works by Elizabeth Peyton, Luc Tuymans and Andy Warhol. According to the gallery, all are on loan and not for sale.

Dealer George Adams, who recently relocated his gallery from midtown Manhattan to West 26th Street in Chelsea, has given his booth over to works by Robert Arneson (1930-92). On the floor is an oversized glazed ceramic sculpture of Philip Gustonís shoes, hitting Arnesonís signature note of comic pathos.

But the centerpiece of the booth is the artistís large painting of three generals at a news conference, their chests bedecked with ribbons and medals and their heads transformed into grimacing, Picassoid masks. The 75 x 90 inch Joint (Study for Sarcophagus) (1984) is a study for a work made for a Japanese antiwar memorial -- and is more than apropos for the present moment. These days the art world could certainly use Arneson, or someone like him.

The installation at Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs is devoted to 19th-century "Photographers Who Began as Painters," including Roger Fenton, Gustave Le Gray, Edgar Degas and William Henry Fox Talbot, who, as Kraus so aptly puts it, invented photography out of frustration at his inability to draw -- making Talbot a predecessor of many a Conceptual and Postmodernist artist, to be sure.

On the outside wall of Krausí booth is a large gum on platinum print of Edward Steichenís The Little Round Mirror (1902), a tonalist study of a nude woman gazing into a small glass mounted rather high on the wall, a tall aster plant barely visible to her left. The photograph is one of four known prints (others are at the Metropolitan Museum and the Royal Photographic Society in Bradford), and is priced at $850,000 -- which seems reasonable after the recent auction price of $2.9 million for a mere Steichen landscape.

By the way, Kraus is moving from his quarters in the Mark Hotel on Madison Avenue to a new ground-floor gallery space at 962 Park Avenue at 82nd Street, in a space formerly occupied by Michael Ward Antiquities.

One of the few Old Master specialists remaining at the Art Show -- most are saving their wares for TEFAF Maastricht, Mar. 10-19, 2006 -- is David Tunick, Inc., whose booth is dense with etchings, drawings and prints by Albrecht DŁrer, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Rembrandt and Jean-Antoine Watteau as well as 20th-century artists like Jasper Johns, Pablo Picasso and Robert Rauschenberg.

Despite the attractions of the historical material, the prominent red dot marked Rauschenbergís Breakthrough I, a complicated 19-color lithograph published by ULAE in an edition of 55 in 1964.

The Art Show has been a slightly more contemporary fair for several years, with the inclusion of Chelsea galleries like CRG, Paul Kasmin, Lehmann Maupin, Luhring Augustine, P.P.O.W., David Zwirner and several others.

One over-the-top contemporary moment is provided by artist Andrea Fraser, who fills a corner of the booth of Friedrich Petzel Gallery with a substantial pile of Mardi Gras costumes, a reminder that the artist, who specializes in "institutional critique," had once danced the samba as a performance piece. Poignantly titled Monument to Discarded Fantasies, the work is $40,000.

Chelsea dealer Tanya Bonakdar devoted her booth to paintings and sculpture by Thomas Schiebitz, the Berlin-based artist who represented Germany at the 2005 Venice Biennale (and who has had several exhibitions at Bonakdar). His abstractions, which have generic titles like The Plan or The Type, combine dark ruled lines and bright colors in works that approach the threshold of reference. The price range for his works is $15,000-$45,000.

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