As you all know, I am helping publicize a show that is presently on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Many of you purchased the catalogue and some have been fortunate enough to see the exhibit … one I hope to view before it closes! I have yet to hear a negative comment about the catalogue and most people wish that the show was a traveling one … alas; it only has one venue – Oklahoma City!
One friend, collector and loaner to the exhibit suggested that I comment on the idea of loaning works to museum shows, and since I was looking for a topic for this month … why not?
In today’s economic climate it is extremely difficult for museums to raise enough money to put on any exhibition … let alone one in which they need to pull works from across the country (or in many cases from across the globe). Even rarer are those exhibits which address an area of art history that has, for a long time, been swept under the rug by many ‘scholars’ – the European academic artists of the late 19th century.
Times are changing; today many noted scholars are beginning to understand the important role these European artists played in the education of the artists who came to study with them.
During the 19th century, many great European academic works were acquired by wealthy private collectors – a large percentage of them being from America. While a large number of the works were destined for major museum collections, the majority found their way back on the market during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s – a time when they were out of favor and could be purchased for a fraction of their original selling price. These works were then bought by dealers who would resell them to decorate people’s homes – rather than the way they were originally purchased, by collectors looking to build historically important collections.
Many of these works of art have not been seen in public for almost a century and even today, some are bought and sold somewhat privately through galleries like ours – making it to the market for a very short time. Important works are now bringing substantial prices and there is a growing trend among people to once again build important collections of 19th century academic art – still one of the more affordable periods in art history.
With this change in thinking by scholars and a renewed interest in individuals to create important collections, it is our job - the trade, scholars and collectors alike - to help further and support the cause – it is a win-win situation for all!
For collectors there are many benefits to be derived from this type of support. To begin with, there are few things in the art world more pleasurable than receiving a call from a dealer or a museum, asking if you would be willing to loan a particular work in your collection to a show they are preparing. Now, you want to make sure the show is in good taste and that your work will be properly represented, both in the text and during the exhibition, but if the museum is accredited, then this is something you will rarely have to worry about. Once you have established what the show is about and that it is the ‘right’ place for your work there will be some other questions that come to mind; the first of which is usually – won’t the visibility hurt the works value? The answer is quite the contrary … the more a work of art is talked about in important critical surveys of the period, the more celebrated it becomes, the more desirable it becomes and the more valuable it is! Remember, you are not placing a work up for sale at an auction – where a failure to sell could have a negative impact on its value – you are showing it in an educational and scholarly format.
I know, the second question is usually – what about that blank space on the wall? Believe me, it will only hurt for a few days -- once you receive a copy of the accompanying catalogue, you will be glad that you let it go. Even more enjoyable is the feeling you will derive if you have the opportunity to see the actual exhibition in person … seeing your painting hanging on the walls of a major museum – even if it is only for a short time – is a wonderful experience!
The third question is always – what about the costs and the work's safety? These are extremely important concerns, but ones that any museum should be able to allay very quickly. Museums typically transport works that are being loaned to them through firms who have impeccable reputations in the industry. These ‘fine art shippers’ specialize in the transportation of valuable and at times fragile works of art – they are careful and efficient. The borrower should also take care of all shipping and insurance costs. Museums will always send loan agreements which state the time period of the loan, the insurance value of the pieces and how the works are going to be transported -- they will always pick up the costs for shipping and insurance, and while it is in their possession, will take care of it as if it were part of their permanent collection.
For scholars, access to newly discovered works is extremely important. Individuals researching and writing about a period of art are often left with only those works that are currently in public collections … and many times those are not the most important or unique examples. The need for ‘fresh’ material is of the utmost importance if they are going to arrive at a complete understanding of the period, let alone a specific artist’s work and their true importance during the period. Remember that you, unknowingly, may be holding (or hanging) a pivotal work from the period.
Through access to previously unknown material, scholars have the ability to create more important and thought-provoking shows for the general public. Think about the number of times you have traveled to see a show at a museum on a specific artist, or period, and found that many of the same paintings appear time after time. Wouldn’t you find it more interesting to arrive at an exhibit and find that many of the works gathered were new to you and the scholars?
For dealers this is a double edged sword. While we all want to see our favorite artists receive the critical acclaim we believe they deserve, this acclaim in turn tends to drive prices up and makes the acquisition of those works even more difficult. However, this is one of the most important goals in our business and we all strive to make it happen. Naturally it is also nice for us to see works we have handled in the past being requested for major museum exhibitions.
As I have stated in the past, you need to view yourself as the current custodian of the works you own and it is your job to see that they not only remain in the best condition possible, but that others (from time to time) have the opportunity to enjoy them as well. In helping further the cause, you will reap the biggest rewards – both emotionally and monetarily.
We are quickly approaching the completion of the first phase of our research for the catalogue raisonné. This month we have spent many hours working on the text and have polished up the details of his life through 1890 (okay, there are still a few small holes, but we working hard to plug them up!) … we expect that the text will be finished by the early part of 2004 and, shortly thereafter, will be ready for publication.
Many of you have informed us of works you own, and we thank you for that. Some have even been kind enough to supply us with photographs that we can use for the book, however others have not. If you have a painting by Dupré that you want us to consider for inclusion in the book, please contact us as soon as possible … this will be your last chance to have the work included in this important scholarly publication.
In order to have your work considered for inclusion, we need the following: professional photographs of the work (preferably 4 x 5 inch color transparencies – one of the front and one of the back) and a completed ‘input sheet’ (please contact us so one can be sent to you).
When published, this will be the definitive book on the life and works of Julien Dupré … please do not miss this opportunity to have your work included in this important scholarly research project.
Fine Art Dealers Association’s:
LA Art Show
This year, the Fine Art Dealers Association’s Los Angeles Art Show will take place from October 9 – October 12 at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica. As current President of the Association it is my pleasure to invite all of our readers to the event. This year the show will feature more than 50 dealers from across the country featuring some of the finest Historical and Contemporary works of art currently available.
Among the artists whose works will be featured in our booth are Daniel Ridgway Knight, Louis Aston Knight, Julien Dupré, Édouard Cortes, Eugene Galien Laloue, Victor Gilbert, Antoine Blanchard, Victor Marais-Milton, Henry John Yeend King and Sally Swatland.
I hope that many of you will have the opportunity to visit us.
Howard L. Rehs
© Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City- October 2003
Next Month: As you can see, I have run out of space, so I will update you on recently sold works and new additions to our web site – both in our inventory and virtual exhibition areas - in our next newsletter!
I will also give you some tips on how to make your works known to the right people so they can be considered for inclusion in scholarly exhibitions.