Sitting at my desk in our gallery in Hudson, NY on a sunny Friday, another in a string of lovely late Spring days ticks away outside. Recently, the numbers 42, 30, and 1 come to mind as they represent respectively, the number of years since our firm was founded by my parents (1973), since I joined the gallery (1985), and since the opening of our first retail gallery here in historic Hudson a year ago. Reflecting on the passage of time for me can either result in feelings of “Boy, that seems so long ago” or “Wow, that went by in the blink of an eye.” Today’s reflections provide a bit of both.
The number 42 – I’m not sure if my parents would have envisioned where we are today when they founded their private art dealing business in 1973. So much has changed in the art world since that time, and we have had to change in response to that progress and upheaval. If one small aspect of our business could perhaps reflect how much things have changed, it might be in how art is reproduced and seen when it isn’t being viewed first-hand at a museum, home or gallery. In 1973 the world of art reproductions meant slides, transparencies, light tables, 35mm film, land cameras, and finally the incredible new technology of the Polaroid. One item we have had in our business since year one is our Polaroid Land Camera, which is a bonafied museum piece these days. This relic was one of our most important tools back in the day. The photo below shows the deluxe leather trim model, with its original leather case. The lens of that camera has “seen” hundreds upon hundreds of artworks by both major and lesser-known artists. They don’t even make the film anymore. We’ve saved our last unopened packet, for nostalgia sake.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Manlius, NY as the base of our operations. We’ve been open by appointment for 42 years in this sleepy upstate New York town, and the major works of art which have come and gone through our doors reads like a “Who’s Who of American Art”: Winslow Homer, Frederick Church, Sanford Gifford, Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington, Childe Hassam, Theodore Robinson, Albert Bierstadt, Charlie Russell, William Merritt Chase, James McNeil Whistler, Pierre August Renoir, Henry Moore, Giorgio de Chirico, Charles Burchfield, and the list goes on and on. It is a privilege to be the custodian, for however long or short of a time, of a work of fine art. We “meet” a work, and by proxy, meet the struggles and passions of the artist. Whether an artist is major, or lesser known, we’ve always employed one overriding criterion in determining if we get involved with an artwork – it must speak to us. This simple “rule” has served us well, as we’ve found that the art which resonates with us will eventually resonate with someone else and find its way onto the walls of homes and museums throughout the country.
The learning never ends, and the feeling every day of waking up to possibly “meet” a new masterwork makes dealing art one of the best jobs in the world.
The number 30 – in terms of years, is somewhat more personal. I graduated in 1985 from college, and as I look back on my education as an art dealer, I realize apprenticeship is a better word. The learning never ends, the looking never ends, and the excitement over “meeting” new artworks never ends. I feel thankful to be in such an interesting field and completely unqualified to do anything else. So I’ll think of these first 30 years as a precursor to the next 30 years. I’d be remiss not to mention my main mentor, who I address with the same word I have since I can remember, Dad. He’s been a constant presence and inspiration since day one of my career, and I consider myself lucky and thankful to continue to have such a wealth of experience available to me to this day.
The number 1 – not too long ago, we had never imagined opening a “bricks and mortar” gallery. We exhibited in art fairs fairly regularly, and they got us out to meet new collectors, museum curators, and fellow dealers. A few years ago, on the recommendation of a friend, we decided to consider opening a retail operation. Hudson, NY was our target city, and it wasn’t a random choice. It’s been on the radar screen, especially in the last 4-5 years, as a dynamic, creative, and fun place to shop, dine, visit, and live. The next thing we knew were turning the key of an old hardware store, and rolling up our shirtsleeves.
One year ago we stood outside our brand new gallery, and hung our shingle. This new venture has allowed us to brand our enterprise in Hudson with a logo, website, and robust exhibition schedule. For years we’ve maintained a large inventory, and with our new space spanning nearly 2.800 square feet over two floors, we were suddenly greeted with the opportunity and the challenge of a LOT of empty walls. Let the fun begin!
A year later, as I sit and reflect, I’m pleased with the numbers 42, 30, and 1. They represent a lot of hard work, a few hard knocks, a lot of exciting moments, and an undiminished interest in art. That “product” which springs from our human need to understand, explore, and express our inner world, and the world around us. I’m looking forward to the next 30 years.