Reflecting on American Art Week

By: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director on December 12th, 2012

By Kathy Kelsey Foley, Director

Since 2008, the week after Thanksgiving has been dubbed “American Art Week” in New York City and eagerly anticipated by collectors, scholars, curators, and dealers who focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American artworks.
Woodson Art Museum curator of collections Jane Weinke and I have long hoped to be in NYC for all that comprises the week, including lectures, gallery openings, and auctions at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
The stars were aligned this year, and Jane and I headed east with a chock-full schedule that would have been the undoing of a less eager and less intrepid pair. We were determined to do it all!
Remarkably, we arrived as scheduled on Monday, November 27, with just enough time to check into our hotel before an evening lecture at Christie’s. Erica Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, presented a superb assessment of John Singer Sargent watercolors as a prelude to an exhibition that will debut at the Brooklyn Museum and then travel to Boston.
Following the lecture, the standing-room-only crowd adjourned to Christie’s exhibition galleries to preview the American art sale that would take place on Wednesday morning.
And so began our whirlwind week.
Tuesday’s schedule included the American Art Fair at the Bohemian National Hall, an opportunity to view an array of artworks offered by seventeen distinct dealers. The elegant setting was not only perfect for the featured artworks but also most conducive to engaging conversations with gallery staff. In the evening, we previewed the auction lots to be offered at Sotheby’s on Thursday.
Visits to a range of galleries – Conner Rosenkranz, Arader, MME Fine Art, Gavin Spanierman, Graham, Godel, Debra Force, and more – were sandwiched in between time at the New York Historical Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as attending the American art auctions at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
John Rogers: American Stories at the Historical Society and George Bellows at the Metropolitan were two of the superb exhibitions we enjoyed. We also spent considerable time in the recently re-installed American galleries at the Metropolitan where Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) is a show-stopper and Sargent’s Madame X (1883-84) is as intriguing and mysterious as ever.
No surprise, the week flew by. Before heading to LaGuardia on Saturday morning, we had just enough time for a visit to the Morgan Library & Museum, where we savored Pierpont Morgan’s 1906 library, which has been restored to its original grandeur. In addition to the impact of the lush interior, the volumes singled out for presentation in free-standing cases were remarkable and enhanced by superbly crafted label text.
On a high note we “sailed” back to Wisconsin via O’Hare but were delayed by fog that led to an extra night in Chicago. Although Jane and I were concurrently exhilarated and exhausted, we talked almost nonstop about all that we saw and did in New York. What a learning experience!
Neither of us would object to making American Art Week a fixture on our calendars.

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