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The American Art Fair 2013

Lita Solis-Cohen | December 2nd, 2013

Gerald Peters Gallery, New York City, asked $600,000 for The Old Checkered House by Grandma Moses, 35½" x 44¾", painted in 1944.

Ralston Crawford, The Sails, oil on canvas, 26" x 40", $375,000 from Menconi & Schoelkopf Fine Art, New York City.

This William Hunt Diederich (1884-1953) fire screen was $115,000 from Conner • Rosenkranz LLC, New York City. It had traveled to São Paolo, Brazil with the family who owned it.

Adelson Galleries, New York City, offered a collection of Thomas Wilmer Dewing pastels from 1905 through 1926, all in gold-leaf frames, most of them original. The collection was put together over a 35-year period. The price is $2.5 million for the collection. Warren Adelson said he will open a gallery in April at the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street in New York City.

Gerald Peters Gallery, New York City, offered birds by Paul Manship at $200,000 each. Left to right: Crowned Crane, bronze on a quartz base, 12¼" high; Adjutant Stork, bronze with a gold patina, 14½" high; and Owl, gilt bronze on lapis lazuli base, 9½" high.

Lieutenant General Henry Richmond Gale, 1785, the only known painting by Charles Stuart (circa 1787-1813), the son of Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas, 29 1/5" x 24½", $135,000 from Alexander Gallery, New York City.

New York City

For the sixth year, the American Art Fair celebrated American paintings week in New York City with an invitation-only cocktail party on Sunday, December 1, 2013, to kick off its four-day run, December 2-5. This time the cocktail crowd was larger than ever—an estimated 600, up from 400 or so in previous years. The 17 participating dealers filled three floors of the Bohemian National Hall with the best American 19th- and 20th-century art they could muster.

Collectors are always anxious to see what the dealers have discovered before deciding to bid at the auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Bonhams later in the week. There were portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and abstract works and plenty of sculptures to tempt them, but this year there was no illustration art, the big moneymaker at the auctions. Works by living painters were banned.

“All the serious collectors of American art came through the show, and a lot of curators engaged in serious conversation,” said Portland, Maine, dealer Tom Veilleux, exhibiting here for the first time. “I made one sale during the show and have interest in other works. It may turn out to be my best show ever, and it may not; it takes time.”

About half the dealers made sales during the show; others are depending on follow-up sales. Avery Galleries sold an Edward Redfield snow scene, Bucks County Winter Farm, for $450,000; a Peto still life; and a Ralston Crawford oil of a barn, Orange No. 2. Thomas Colville sold a Potthast, Colin Campbell Cooper’s Brooklyn Bridge, an Everett Shinn pastel, and William Lamb Picknell’s oil of Annisquam, Mass., as well as Victor, a sculpture by Jacob Epstein of a black boy. Debra Force sold a Benton Still Life, an oil painting by Karl Buehr, a midwestern Impressionist, and an Alfred Jacob Miller watercolor, and she sent a watercolor of an African American woman by Alfred Kappes (1850-1894) to a museum for consideration. Quest- royal Fine Art sold several paintings, and Menconi & Schoelkopf Fine Art sold a Milton Avery watercolor, Bouquet by the Sea.

When Thomas Colville and Alexander Acevedo launched the show at the National Academy of Design in 2008, they wanted collectors to see what the trade had to offer during the week of American paintings auctions in New York City. Gallery visiting, once such an important part of a collector’s life, was no longer the Saturday ritual it once was, and they thought a show that offered one-stop shopping, much like an auction preview, was the way of the future. Most important, they wanted to show that not all the high-quality works were sold under the hammer and that behind every great collection is a great dealer.

As with the auction previews, there is no admission to this show, nor is there a charge for the special lectures. Mark Simpson, an independent scholar, spoke on Columbus, Ohio, collector “Ferdinand Howald as a Collector of 20th-Century American Works,” and Eleanor Jones Harvey, curator of American paintings at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., talked about her recent exhibition, The Civil War and American Art: History behind the Scenes.

The show does not make money, nor does it raise money for any charity. The rent that the dealers pay for their stands goes to advertising, management expenses, the Bohemian National Hall, and the preview party. With this show, along with “Just off Madison,” the open houses held by private dealers in American art on the Wednesday evening of American paintings week, and with e-mail blasts to collectors, American painting dealers are doing all they can to reach out to a graying group of collectors, hoping to find some new people who will come to realize that this is probably an undervalued corner of the marketplace—or at least where one can find good value.

The show is where people can learn about what is going on in the trade. For example, New York City dealer Warren Adelson is no longer at Christie’s; in April he is opening a new gallery in the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and his son and daughter have opened a gallery in Boston.

There was talk that the auction houses are thinking about moving up the dates of American paintings week because Art Basel in Miami Beach takes so many collectors south during the first week of December. “If the auction houses make the move to mid-November, the American Art Fair will move too,” said Tom Colville. “We always want to start off American paintings week. We are just waiting to see what the auction houses do.”

The pictures and captions show only a fraction of what was there at the fair. For more information, contact fair coordinator Samantha Rothenberg at (212) 987-5306; Web site (

Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

Tom Veilleux Gallery, Portland, Maine, asked $950,000 for this 1912 Elie Nadelman Ideal wooden head with curly hair, 12½" high without the base.

Meredith Ward Fine Art, New York City, asked $185,000 for this circa 1940 untitled work by Charles Biederman, 46 1/8" x 28½" x 6¾", of painted wood and metal.

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