Collector's Guide: American Art in New York City

  • May 11, 2010 13:28

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Debra Force Fine Art, Inc., presents Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) The Twist, 1964, signed Benton and dated 64, lower right, polymer tempera on canvas mounted on panel, 20 x 28 inches.

American paintings, works on paper, and sculpture take center stage in Manhattan from May 17 to 26 in a series of major auctions and special events at leading art galleries.

The dizzying array of art-centric festivities involves cocktail receptions, special exhibitions, three auctions, two dozen gallery open houses, and a pair of important fundraisers. 

Thousands of works of art will be available for sale. View our Itinerary below to help plan logistics. Plus, a Slideshow offers a sneak peek of what's ahead.

Even though these sales are focused on 18th- to mid-20th century art, the week starts off with a notable modern and contemporary art event downtown. The Pace Gallery is hosting a May 17th cocktail party benefit for the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts. Thirteen superstar artists from Chuck Close to Frank Stella are listed on the invitation as hosts. Ticket sales will go towards preserving the Rose's premier post-war art collection which is under threat of being sold off by Brandeis University.

From colonial portraiture to early modernist watercolors, a wide selection of American art, estimated between $10,000 and $5 million, is available at Sotheby's on May 19 and Christie's on May 20.

Weak sales in recession-plagued 2009, resulting in only about 60% of lots sold at both firms' May American art sales, should yield to more buyer confidence as major works return to market.

Alessandro Guaccimanni, Italian-American (1864-1927), Madison Square, 1893. Oil on canvas, 20 x 14 inches. Courtesy of Thomas Colville Fine Art.

This week, market momentum was certainly evident in sales results from the post-war and contemporary art auctions. Christie's hammered down $231.9 million for 79 lots, with only 6% going unsold. The strength of the Michael Crichton collection was a definitive boost, including Jasper Johns' seminal 'Flag' which triggered a winning bid of $28.64 million from Richard Rossello of Avery Galleries. Sotheby's scored on Wednesday with a 1986 "Self Portrait" by Andy Warhol, which sold for $32.6 million.

Next week, Sotheby's will offer several fine examples by Georgia O'Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and others, all estimated above $1 million. Also of note, a private collection is letting loose a signature Martin Johnson Heade painting of hummingbirds and orchids, circa 1890-1904, with a $800,000-$1.2 million estimate.

Christie's is headlining major paintings by Maxfield Parrish, including his iconic "Daybreak," sold in 2006 for $7,632,000, and now estimated at $4 to $7 million, as well as the Bernard Goldberg collection.

On May 26, Bonhams will offer a petite and appealing 1891 Childe Hassam "Lady with a Parasol in a Park" (estimate: $400,000 - 600,000) as well as a 1973 watercolor of pumpkins by Andrew Wyeth (estimate: $250,000-$350,000). Hudson River School artists and American impressionists are well-represented with many works estimated in the palatable $5,000 to $50,000 range.

Timed to coincide with the first round of auction sales is "Just Off Madison," an open house at private art dealers on the Upper East Side. This evening event (May 19, 4 to 8 pm), featuring a dozen top dealers in American art, promises to yield up gems by the likes of Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Hart Benton (see Slideshow).

"New Old New York: In and Out of Town" is a special exhibition hosted by Alexander Gallery, in conjunction with Thomas Colville Fine Art, which also includes a benefit auction on May 18th for Frederic Church's historic home, Olana. Donated works by such artists as A.T. Bricher, Sanford Gifford, and Guy Wiggins can be previewed on May 18 at Alexander Gallery.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) Squash Blossom. Oil on board, 18 x 13½ in. Painted in 1925. Lot 18 in Christie's May 20 sale.

The 2010 exhibitors in The American Art Fair (TAAF) will open their galleries with exhibitions on May 19th, from 2 until 8 pm, for a Springtime Gallery Walk.

Several other American art destinations on the Upper East Side, such as Gavin Spanierman, will be showcasing inventory and new acquistions.

Noteworthy dealer exhibitions across town include a dose of Americana in "SEEING STARS: Politics and Patriotism," presented by Jeff R. Bridgman at the Union League Club; "Forest, Field & Stream: American Sporting Paintings" at Godel & Co. which includes works by Frank W. Benson, Ogden Pleissner, A. L. Ripley, and A. F. Tait; and World War II-era Surrealist paintings by Hugh Mesibov at Susan Teller Gallery.

Museum listings for the week are captured by the New York Times.


Monday, May 17

The Rose Preservation Fund Spring Benefit, 7-9 PM, at The Pace Gallery, 545 West 22nd Street. Chuck Close, Jim Dine, Tara Donovan, Claes Oldenberg, James Rosenquist, Joel Shapiro, James Siena, Kiki Smith, Frank Stella, Fred Tomaselli, Richard Tuttle, Meryl Rose, Jonathan O. Lee and The Pace Gallery are hosting a spring benefit for the preservation of the Rose Art Museum's collection. Cocktails, Hors d'oeuvres, and Cake! Tickets are available online for $250.

Tuesday, May 18

Frederic Church’s Olana Annual Auction, 7-9 PM, at the Alexander Gallery, 942 Madison Avenue. Alexander Gallery and Thomas Colville Fine Art are hosting a private preview dinner and auction to celebrate the opening of their joint exhibition "New Old New York: In & Out of Town" with proceeds to benefit The Olana Partnership's work to preserve, restore and advance Olana. The picturesque Persian-style family home of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), Olana State Historic Site, a National Historic Landmark, is open to the public throughout the year. 

The silent/live auction includes donations of 19th-century to contemporary art which can be previewed at Alexander Gallery on May 18th (see our Slideshow for highlights).

Guests planning to attend the reception at Christie’s from 6-8PM, prior to the Olana Auction, will have a shuttle waiting just outside the door, departing at 8:05 pm to whisk them to the festivities at the Alexander Gallery.  Reservations for the shuttle are requested.

RSVP for the preview dinner provided by Daniel Boulud’s Feast & Fêtes with wine and Champagne from The Bubble Lounge.  There is a suggested tax deductible donation of $100 per person.  For reservations or information, please call Melanie Hasbrook at 518-828-1872 x 103 or email

Wednesday, May 19

American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture, 10 AM, Sotheby's, 1334 York Avenue at 72nd St. (Previews begin May 15).

Springtime Gallery Walk, 2-8 PM, various locations representing the 2010 exhibitors in The American Art Fair (TAAF), including Adelson Galleries, Alexander Gallery, Thomas Colville Fine Art, Avery Galleries, Debra Force Fine Art, Gerald Peters Gallery, Godel & Co., Hammer Galleries, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Menconi & Schoelkopf Fine Art, and Questroyal Fine Art. 

Just Off Madison, 4-8 PM, participating galleries are located along East 69th through 79th Streets between Fifth and Madison Avenues. An informal gallery walk with doors open at Avery Galleries, Betty Krulik Fine Art, Conner Rosenkranz, Debra Force Fine Art, Franklin Riehlman Fine Art, Hawthorne Fine Art, Jonathan Boos, Kraushaar Galleries, Lois Wagner Fine Arts, Martha Parrish & James Reinish, Menconi & Schoelkopf Fine Art, and Meredith Ward Fine Art. Click to view a map of this event.

New Old New York: In and Out of Town, May 19-June 19, 942 Madison Ave, at Alexander Gallery, in conjunction with Thomas Colville Fine Art, includes early historic portraits of the figures who shaped the city and developed the land; idyllic mid-19th century views of New York City, the Hudson River and upstate New York; and late 19th and early 20th century Impressionist and early Modernist city views.

Thursday, May 20

Important Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture, 10 AM, at Christie's, Rockefeller Plaza. (Previews begin May 15).

Wednesday, May 26

American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture, 4 PM, Bonhams, 580 Madison Ave. (Previews begin May 15.)

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