Throughout a week of gallery exhibitions on the Upper East Side, drawings by Old Masters receive fresh audiences—and new owners.
Founded by Italian art specialist Margot Gordon, Master Drawings New York originated 11 years ago as a stateside iteration of an annual summer showing in London.
Gordon partnered with art dealer Crispian Riley-Smith, who started the London series, to bring a similar show to New York.
Master Drawings opens with a preview on Jan. 22, followed by a week of open galleries from Jan. 23-30, with most exhibits located off a 20-block stretch of Madison Avenue. Participants include local Upper East Side galleries such as Kraushaar Galleries on E. 71st Street, and many visiting galleries and private dealers from New York and abroad, which borrow gallery spaces for their shows.
“Drawings are so interesting because they are in many cases the first thoughts of the artist, the first intense initial thoughts and you see the artist’s way of thinking,” said Gordon, who will share a gallery space with Riley-Smith for her exhibition of figurative work. “They’re very intimate to look at and they’re intimate in the sense that they’re close to the artist.”
Pieces on view date from the early 16th century to the late 20th century, and contemporary art is well-represented, with many dealers covering multiple periods. Mireille Mosler, whose gallery on E. 67th Street usually opens by appointment only, exhibits five centuries of work from the Netherlands, including Jacob Marrel’s 1638 work “Study of the Gery Tulip.”
“A lot of Old Master dealers have also ventured further into the earlier and later 20th century,” said Gordon. “It’s a little more difficult to find Old Master material.”
Pia Gallo, who operates on E. 86th Street near Madison Avenue and was a private dealer for 25 years before opening her own space, marks her fifth year exhibiting with Master Drawings, but was introduced to the weeklong shows as an attendee.
“Usually the exhibitions, they’re not too large or extensive, so one can actually manage and go from one gallery to the next without getting too exhausted, she said. “It’s very easy to get a really good dose of what’s available in drawings from Old Masters through contemporary.”
Gallo also exhibits each year at the International Fine Print Dealers Association Print Fair at Park Avenue Armory, a five-day event that drew 89 exhibitors to its most recent incarnation in November. Both shows introduce her to collectors who aren’t part of her regular clientele of private collectors and museum curators, including those with the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Master Drawings, which coincides with Sotheby’s annual auctions of Old Master works and the Winter Antiques Show at Park Avenue Armory, retains a relative intimacy, where exhibitors have time with buyers, and collectors have a full week to absorb the array of work from several centuries and 29 different exhibitors, without paying an entry fee.
“It’s really top-notch,” said Gallo, who will show 20th-century American watercolors and pastels from private collections. “And gives one a taste of what’s out there on the market.”
Allan Stone Projects joined as an exhibitor this year. Started by art dealer Allan Stone in 1960, the Chelsea-based gallery, which shows at Jonathan Boos on Madison Avenue, joined in part because Stone’s history with artists like Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky and Wayne Thiebaud, all on view in the gallery’s exhibition, led to a strong holding of works on paper, and the audience seemed ideal for such pieces, said Bo Joseph, the gallery’s director.
Prices vary drastically throughout the exhibitions, as does the notoriety of the artists represented. At Allan Stone Projects’ show, three gouache works by Harry Bowden, a friend of de Kooning, will likely be new to most collectors, Joseph said, and are priced around $2,000 each. In the same exhibition, a pastel still life from the 1970s by Thiebaud could sell for more than $500,000.
While drawings can be less costly than paintings by the same artist, some collectors seek them out for their “high degree of mastery and depth,” Joseph said.
“Some of the works on paper collectors I know have this almost fighting the good fight type of attitude in their ambitions as collectors,” he said.