Delaware County is such a lovely place I don’t think I’ll tell you where it is. Not that we’re talking Shangri-La or anything. The north end of Appalachia would be more like it, what with the single-wides and the tag sales of old Tupperware. The best place to eat is likely to be the local luncheonette, which closes before dinnertime. But the place has got a few dairy farms left, and plenty of green meadows under turquoise skies. And briefly, during this late segment of August 2008, it has a satellite branch of Leo Koenig, Inc.
Though everyone knows Leo from his gallery on West 23rd Street down here in New York City, I first ran into him upstate two years ago, at the Delaware County Fair in Walton, N.Y. We were just hanging around the 4-H tent, gawking at the prize-winning roosters and rabbits -- you could buy yourself the cutest little bunny for $15 -- and there he was with his gal, Meghan DellaCrosse, herself a county native. Small world! But hell, that’s nothing, I ran into the New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl in the parking lot of the Great American supermarket in Delhi the first weekend I went up there, several years earlier.
Anyway, it turned out that Leo had bought a nice Victorian house on Main Street in Andes, a little town founded in 1819 up in country so hilly that they thought it should be named after some famous mountains. Out back is an impressive hand-hewn wood-beam barn dating to 1845 or so. "It can be a gallery," the irrepressible art dealer proclaimed. "It’s perfect for Julian Schnabel sculptures!"
Well, I don’t know about the Schnabels, but last Saturday, as part of the official Andes Community Celebration Day on Aug. 9, 2008, Leo Koenig, Inc., did open a group show in the barn called "Between Us. . ." that included paintings and sculptures by many artists from the gallery stable. The building has been wonderfully refurbished with planks and beams of blonde hemlock wood -- "light and strong," Koenig said -- with not one but two stories of sturdy lofts, reached by wooden stairs.
I have to say, a lot of avant-garde art doesn’t do that well against raw timber, though a few of the artists definitely get the upstate sensibility. Greg Bogin’s 1970s-style supergraphic, an oversized 3D construction of pink carpet and chrome sitting in the middle of the straw, has a definite flea-market feel, though the way things go up here in these shops, you rather expect it to be tagged "1930s." And the ensemble of gold-encrusted creatures by Aidas Bareikis definitely gets that crusty-thing-out-in-the-shed esthetic down pat.
Also good are the black-wash images of wolves by Anke Weyer, which look like they could be illustrations clipped from the original magazine serialization of The Call of the Wild. Most appropriate of all are Tony Matelli’s polychromed bronze weeds, installed inside the barn at floor level. Their trompe-l’oeil is so convincing that Leo had to post signs reading, "Don’t pick the weeds."
Sales aren’t entirely out of the question, I suppose. The pictures of wolves are $2,000 each, and Bareikis’ piece is $20,000. "I sold a larger group to an Austrian collector for $70,000 the other day," Koenig said. "I don’t know what I was thinking." For more info, see www.leokoenig.com.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.