George Grosz

Berlin Street. Circa 1926. Watercolor and ink on paper. Private collection.


You Say You Want a Revolution

American Artists and the Communist Party

October 18, 2016 - March 4, 2017

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014

Modern Furies

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I

January 21, 2014 - April 12, 2014

Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013

Face Time

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture

April 9, 2013 - June 28, 2013

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012

The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 5, 2011 - September 30, 2011

Decadence & Decay

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz

April 12, 2011 - June 24, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 13, 2010 - October 1, 2010

From Brücke To Bauhaus

The Meanings of Modernity in Germany, 1905-1933

March 31, 2009 - June 26, 2009

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008

Hope or Menace?

Communism in Germany Between the World Wars

March 25, 2008 - June 13, 2008

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007

More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006

Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005

Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005

Sue Coe: Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round and Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 8, 2004 - October 16, 2004

Body and Soul

Expressionism and the Human Figure

October 7, 2003 - January 3, 2004

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002

Workers of the World

Modern Images of Labor

April 2, 2002 - June 15, 2002

Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001

Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001

The Tragedy of War

November 16, 2000 - January 6, 2001

The Expressionist City

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000

Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000

From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000

The Modern Child

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)

September 14, 1999 - November 6, 1999

Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999

George Grosz - Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

Art & Gender in Weimar Germany

September 23, 1998 - November 11, 1998

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998

The New Objectivity

Realism in Weimar-Era Germany

September 16, 1997 - November 8, 1997

Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997

Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996

The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996

From Left to Right

Social Realism in Germany and Russia, Circa 1919-1933

September 19, 1995 - November 4, 1995

On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995

Art and Politics in Weimar Germany

September 14, 1993 - November 6, 1993

Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993

The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993

Naive Visions/Art Nouveau and Expressionism/Sue Coe: The Road to the White House

May 19, 1992 - September 4, 1992

Scandal, Outrage, Censorship

Controversy in Modern Art

January 21, 1992 - March 7, 1992

The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991

Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990

The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990

Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986

Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985

Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985


June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000


Beckmann, Max

Boix-Vives, Anselme

Darger, Henry

Dix, Otto

Evans, Minnie

Fejes, Emerijk

Felixmüller, Conrad

Gill, Madge

Grosz, George

Heckel, Erich

Hirshfield, Morris

Höch, Hannah

Kane, John

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig

Kokoschka, Oskar

Kollwitz, Käthe

Leonov, Pavel

Lohse-Wächtler, Elfriede

Mammen, Jeanne

Marc, Franz

Modersohn-Becker, Paula

Moses, Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma")

Mueller, Otto

Nedjar, Michel

Nolde, Emil

Pechstein, Hermann Max

Rohlfs, Christian

Romanenkov, Vasilij

Rowe, Nellie Mae

Ruley, Ellis

Schiele, Egon

Sekulic, Sava

Sommer, Alice

Tappert, Georg

Traylor, Bill

Wilson, Scottie

Wittlich, Josef

Zille, Heinrich

Zinelli, Carlo



It is time, once again, for the Galerie St. Etienne’s summer survey of Recent Acquisitions, and along with it, for our annual “state of the market” report. There is no doubt that the key art-world event of the past season was the announcement that the two major auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, may have colluded in a price-fixing scheme. Sotheby’s is facing indictment on anti-trust charges, and while Christie’s seems to have dodged this fate by turning state’s evidence, both houses have also been confronted by a related barrage of potentially draining civil lawsuits. As of this writing, no criminal charges have been handed down, and it is still possible that the entire episode will fizzle out. On the other hand, there are those who are predicting nothing less than the financial hobbling of the mighty auction empires and a major transformation in the nature of the art market. It is probably safe to say that the eventual outcome will lie somewhere between these two extremes. More to the point, however, the art market has already changed, and in this regard, the auction-house upheaval may be seen more as effect than cause.


It is surprising how many art-world insiders, though hardly fans of the auction houses, fail to see any great harm in the alleged collusion. Why shouldn’t Sotheby’s and Christie’s charge identical commissions (as do most European auctioneers), and what difference does it make if those commissions were in fact discussed between the houses in advance or were merely the result of copy-cat maneuvering? On the other hand, one dealer commented shortly after the scandal broke that the legal thrust was comparable to prosecuting Al Capone on tax evasion charges: the auctioneers’ true crimes were greater but largely unprovable. Indeed, almost everyone with extensive auction-house experience has had his or her share of disappointments: of estimates proffered to entice a consignment and then lowered before the sale; of reserves not met or not honored; of undisclosed condition problems and even of outright forgeries. Mostly these problems arise not as a result of deliberate misrepresentation, but as the natural outcome of the volume of business handled by the large houses; it is simply not possible for their “experts” to be truly expert in everything. More disturbing is the fact that auction theatrics belie the commonly held belief that the hammer price represents a genuine "fair market value” as between willing buyer and willing seller. Auctioneers routinely pluck fictive bids from the air until the undisclosed reserve price is met. And auctioneers, ostensibly neutral intermediaries between buyer and seller, increasingly have a financial stake in the property they sell.


The current legal woes of Sotheby's and Christie's reflect a number of systemic problems resulting from the houses' shift in focus from wholesale to retail over the course of the past twenty-odd years. So long as auctioneers sold primarily to the art trade, a caveat-emptor approach seemed justifiable, since the buyers frequently were more knowledgeable than the sellers and served as vetting agents for the general public. And dealers historically served a second key function in the marketplace, by holding inventory for which there was no immediate buyer. For despite the massive efforts made by the auction houses to expand the retail art market beyond the inherently limited class of committed collectors, even today 20% to 30% of all lots fail to sell, and many more sell poorly. The press is happy to support the auction houses by publicizing record prices, but these represent a minute fraction of all sales results. A gambler's ethos drives many sellers to auctions, which are fueled by heady dreams of striking it rich. But as in Vegas, there will always be more losers than winners at this game. On any given day, there is far more art available for sale than there are ready buyers. The dealer's mark-up is essentially an earned reward for investing time, energy and capital in this art until it can be sold, as well as for his or her carefully cultivated expertise.


Depending on the circumstances of a particular sale, auction results can range from below wholesale to above retail. Some believe that the Internet will bring greater transparency to the art market by placing buyers and sellers in direct contact and by making auction records more widely accessible. So far, although many dealers (including Galerie St. Etienne, have found the Internet to be useful for disseminating information, e-commerce per se has not proven terribly effective for selling higher-priced artworks. The unsold rate at Internet auctions is even greater than for bricks-and-mortar sales, and misrepresentation and forgeries (witting or not) are rampant. A recent article in The New York Times drew parallels between the dot-com stock mania and the quest for underpriced flea-market treasures, as popularized by the television program Antiques Road Show. The myth of the valuable yard-sale find is one that dealers have long had to contend with; the issue now is that, instead of wasting a few dollars on worthless trash, speculators sometimes spend thousands (or, as in one well-publicized case, many tens of thousands) on the Internet auction site eBay. Truly impressive flea-market finds are exceedingly rare. (Since its founding in 1939, the Galerie St. Etienne has encountered only one such instance: a Schiele drawing discovered at a Southern California yard sale.) But if the value of a given item is what the market will bear, who is to say what anything is worth?


Good art dealers have traditionally operated on the premise that at any single point in time, every object does have its correct price. In order to come up with this price, dealers weigh a number of factors: not just auction results, but knowledge of private sales, constant feedback from collectors, as well as the quality, condition and art-historical importance of the object in question. Yet auction mania (not just for art, but for consumer goods and products like airline tickets) has convinced some that nothing should have a fixed price. According to the current wisdom, the market is smarter than the experts. Collectors today play both ends against the middle, pointing to the lowest auction results when buying and the highest ones when selling. Unfortunately, many times when the seller hits the jackpot, the buyer has overpaid, and when the buyer gets a bargain, the seller has been cheated. Buyers and sellers go it alone in the art market at their peril.


Arcane though it may seem to the uninitiated, the art market has on a certain level always been transparent. As one of the last unregulated markets, it exemplifies laissez-faire capitalism at its purest: prices are determined by balancing supply with demand, and inequities eventually sort themselves out among knowledgeable players. The problem, however, is that art is no longer the sole province of the knowledgeable few. Today art serves many audiences beyond the dedicated connoisseurs who remain at the core of the market. Art may be an investment to some, a consumer product to others; for many, it is the ultimate luxury good in our new, top-heavy economy. That economy has brought widening income disparities between the upper and lower echelons of society, and a parallel gap can be seen in the art market. The much vaunted "flight to quality" is actually nothing but the result of a handful of billionaires fighting over items they have been led to believe are superior, often at the expense of equally good but less spectacular art works. Understandably, dealers and auctioneers follow these big spenders like dogs chasing a juicy bone. But this leaves the vast majority of lesser collectors and art works under-represented and under-served.


Sotheby's and others are betting on a business paradigm the splits the market between bricks-and-mortar auctions and the Internet, with higher-priced lots consigned to the sales rooms and less expensive art selling on-line. Nevertheless, there seems to be a fundamental contradiction between the corporate structures of the big auction houses and the anti-hierarchical, free-flowing nature of the Internet. Furthermore, corporate hierarchies are not all that well-suited to selling art. Large corporations tend to rely on standardization and bureaucracy, whereas the uniqueness of art objects resists commodification and demands personal attention. In the past two decades, Sotheby's and Christie's, simply by virtue of their enormous capitalization, have managed to take over a significant percentage of the global art market. However, whether this hegemony was achieved by sheer might or by illegal practices (or some combination of the two), it may well turn out that the auction houses have reached their natural limits. In the Internet era, centralized power is trumped by honest information, expertise and personal service. And good dealers have the advantage in the latter areas. The paradigm seems to be shifting, the pendulum swinging back to the fundamentals that have always been at the heart of the art market.


As always, the Galerie St. Etienne’s Recent Acquisitions exhibition features both newly acquired works and highlights of the past season. Works by self-taught artists make a particularly strong showing here this summer. The gallery has been fortunate in acquiring several major Grandma Moses paintings, as well as a selection of “new” works by Henry Darger, Minnie Evans, John Kane, Nellie Mae Rowe, Ellis Ruley and Bill Traylor. We are also advancing our foray into European Art Brut (the subject of our January/February exhibition). In addition to such well-known European “outsiders” as Anselme Boix-Vives, Michel Nedjar, Sava Sekulic, Scottie Wilson and Carlo Zinelli, we are pleased to present more work by Vasilij Romanenkov, who proved to be our most popular discovery of the year. We are also introducing the work of another self-taught Russian artist, Pavel Leonov.


Expressionism, of course, remains a mainstay of our summer presentation. With major works by the Austrian and German Expressionists increasingly hard to come by, we are pleased to have acquired a broad array of pieces by such artists as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Erich Heckel, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Mueller and Egon Schiele. We are also continuing our involvement with women Expressionists, who have long been under-appreciated and therefore are still surprisingly accessible. These include Lea Grundig, Hannah Höch, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, Jeanne Mammen, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Alice Sommer and, naturally, Käthe Kollwitz. Although our interests have expanded organically over the years, the Galerie St. Etienne continues to cultivate the two areas--Expressionism and self-taught art--that have been our passion for more than six decades. The resulting depth of expertise is, we believe, as important in the new art market as it was in the old.