Report from Opening Night at the National Academy Art Fair

Tom Coleville and Steve Martin

NEW YORK CITY. With only 11 well-established dealers showing at The American Art Fair and a who’s who of American art collectors sipping champagne at the gala opening, it was clearly an insider event.

The offerings were spectacular, with many new-to-the-market paintings gracing the dealers’ walls. That, I suppose, is the endowment of the recession. Even Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington-the one from the Armand Hammer Collection that has been seen in dozens of galleries around the world-was there to be sold.

Arriving so early that the lights had not yet been turned on gave me ample time with the paintings and sculptures. As dealers made their way in, their optimism was infectious. TAAF had a rocky start on its inaugural run three years ago. The market had just imploded and the future was uncertain. This year, more than one dealer told me they had seen an up tick in sales. The show, which coincides with Christie’s and Sotheby’s American Art auctions, could well be the barometer for the coming year.

Party guests seemed to share the same good mood, exuding a camaraderie generally not seen at such shows. Celebrity collectors in their comfort zone included Mr. and Mrs. Steve Martin and photographer Bruce Weber. Carmine Branagan, the National Academy’s new director, was on hand to shake hands and make new friends.

Carmine Branagan and Alexander Acevedo

By the time I made my way down the spiral staircase, past the chamber music quartet and Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sinuous bronze of Diana, there had been five curator sightings. That’s important because so many of works at TAAF could easily fill the gaps in museum collections.

* The exhibitors in The American Art Fair:

Adelson Galleries, Alexander Gallery, Avery Galleries, Thomas Coleville Fine Art, Debra Force Fine Art, Godel & Co., Hirschl & Adler, Questroyal Fine Art, Hammer Galleries, Menconi & Schoelkopf Fine Art and Gerald Peters Galleries.

Photos provided by Regina Kolbe

Two dealers and George Washington

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