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Gustav Klimt

Left: Gustav Klimt in his studio garden. Circa 1912-14. Photograph.

Right: Poster for the First Secession Exhibition. 1898. Private collection.

EXHIBITIONS (*INDICATES SOLO EXHIBITION)

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 11, 2017 - October 13, 2017


The Woman Question

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka

March 14, 2017 - June 30, 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


Alternate Histories

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

January 15, 2015 - April 11, 2015


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 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


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 13, 2010 - October 1, 2010


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008


Transforming Reality

Pattern and Design in Modern and Self-Taught Art

January 15, 2008 - March 8, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007


Who Paid the Piper?

The Art of Patronage in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

March 8, 2007 - May 26, 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


* Coming of Age

Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth

November 15, 2005 - January 7, 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


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2003 - September 12, 2003


In Search of the "Total Artwork"

Viennese Art and Design 1897–1932

April 8, 2003 - June 14, 2003


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoscha

From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

November 23, 2001 - January 5, 2002


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

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001


From Façade to Psyche

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

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000


Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Taboo

Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998


Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997


The Viennese Line

Art and Design Circa 1900

November 18, 1996 - January 4, 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


Recent Acquisitions

June 20, 1995 - September 8, 1995


On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995


55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994


Symbolism and the Austrian Avant Garde

Klimt, Schiele and their Contemporaries

November 16, 1993 - January 8, 1994


Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 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


Viennese Graphic Design

From Secession to Expressionism

November 19, 1991 - January 11, 1992


Recent Acquisitions

Themes and Variations

May 14, 1991 - August 16, 1991


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, drawings and prints

January 22, 1991 - March 2, 1991


Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990


The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990


The Galerie St. Etienne

A History in Documents and Pictures

June 20, 1989 - September 8, 1989


* Gustav Klimt

Paintings and Drawings

April 11, 1989 - June 10, 1989


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

June 14, 1988 - September 16, 1988


From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

April 12, 1988 - May 27, 1988


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987


Oskar Kokoschka and His Time

November 25, 1986 - January 31, 1987


Viennese Design and Wiener Werkstätte

September 23, 1986 - November 8, 1986


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, Drawings and Prints

May 27, 1986 - September 13, 1986


The Art of Giving

December 3, 1985 - January 18, 1986


Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985


European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985


Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna

November 13, 1984 - January 5, 1985


* Gustav Klimt

Drawings and Selected Paintings

September 20, 1983 - November 5, 1983


Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983


Aspects of Modernism

June 1, 1982 - September 3, 1982


The Human Perspective

Recent Acquisitions

March 16, 1982 - May 15, 1982


Austria's Expressionism

April 21, 1981 - May 30, 1981


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele

November 12, 1980 - December 27, 1980


* Gustav Klimt

March 20, 1970


Austrian Art of the 20th Century

March 21, 1969


* Gustav Klimt

February 4, 1967


The Wiener Werkstätte

November 16, 1966


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964


Austrian Expressionists

January 6, 1964


Group Show

October 15, 1962


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin

March 14, 1961


Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection

May 2, 1960


European and American Expressionists

September 22, 1959


* Gustav Klimt

April 1, 1959


Austrian Art of the 19th Century

From Wadlmüller to Klimt

April 1, 1950


Small, Good Art Works from the 19th and 20th Centuries

January 27, 1949


Franz Barwig the Elder, Franz Barwig the Younger and Gustav Klimt

March 12, 1948


Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

September 15, 1945


Saved from Europe

Masterpieces of European Art

July 1, 1940


Group Exhibition

May 1, 1939


Austrian Art

February 1, 1939


Important Paintings

November 29, 1937


Anton Faistauer, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

June 1, 1933


Gustav Klimt and Bruno Lauterbach

March 29, 1928


* Gustav Klimt

May 20, 1926


RECENT ACQUISITIONS (AND SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT ART MARKET)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001

ARTISTS

Arntz, Gerd

Beckmann, Max

Coe, Sue

Darger, Henry

Feininger, Lyonel

Fischer, Johann

Garber, Johann

Gerstl, Richard

Grosz, George

Grundig, Hans

Grundig, Lea

Hoffmann, Josef

Kammerer, Marcel

Kernbeis, Franz

Klimt, Gustav

Kollwitz, Käthe

Kubin, Alfred

Leonov, Pavel

Lohse-Wächtler, Elfriede

Moses, Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma")

Nedjar, Michel

Nikifor

Rädler, Josef Karl

Reisenbauer, Heinrich

Romanenkov, Vasilij

Schiele, Egon

Stark, Karl

Traylor, Bill

Walla, August

 

ESSAY

As regular readers of these essays know, summer is the time when, in tandem with our annual Recent Acquisitions exhibition, we issue our “state of the market” report. Over the past year, a number of marketplace changes that were incipient twelve months ago have begun to crystallize. With the indictment (not coincidentally, one must assume, a week before the big May sales) of the former chairmen of Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the other shoe has dropped in the U.S. Government’s investigation of collusion between the two auction houses. However, these pending criminal cases may well have less impact in the long run than the related civil suits, which have already saddled Sotheby’s and Christie’s with a cumulative debt of over $500 million in penalties owed to their clients. Phillips Auctioneers, historically a poor third to its two competitors, did not hesitate to take advantage of their financial woes by using hefty guarantees to snag a number of choice lots for its recent spring sales.

 

Dealers know that major works of art are sold all year long, but the semi-annual New York auctions, for better or worse, often function as barometers of overall market conditions. In view of the flagging American economy and turbulent stock market, a sense of uncertainty has pervaded the art world for the last several months, since everyone has been wondering whether we are on the brink of a full-blown recession. A parallel question is whether investors fleeing the stock market will not flock to art, as happened after the 1987 crash. It is, however, difficult to draw any sweeping inferences from the latest round of auctions, because they were influenced as much by the aberrant fiscal positions of Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s as they were by external market factors. What these auctions portend, rather, is the undermining of salesroom tactics that worked well enough in the bullish ‘90s, but are less well suited to a period of stagnation.

 

The high prices achieved at almost all the May auctions, particularly for contemporary art (a comparatively speculative field that is generally considered very vulnerable to economic downturns), indicate that there are still plenty of collectors willing and able to spend large sums of money. The relatively high percentage of “bought-in” (i.e., unsold) lots in the big-ticket Impressionist and Modern sales is thus less an indication of market softening than the result of exorbitant estimates and greedy reserves (the minimum prices set by sellers). Auctions are most impressive in a rising market, since reserves that in retrospect appear modest can allow lots to reach their proper levels. Success, in art as in the business world, is often judged by comparing outcome with expectations, and this is as true when works fail to meet their reserves as when they exceed them. With three auction houses competing voraciously for consignments, and Phillips pumping huge quantities of cash into the bargain, estimates and reserves for many of the top Impressionist and Modern works this spring approached even or surpassed retail levels. In playing this game, it is easy to overshoot the mark; if the reserve is set too high, there is nowhere to go but down.

 

The substantial buy-in rate at the recent sales exposes the fatal flaw in the auction houses’ long-cherished goal of becoming full-fledged retail players. The retail market, traditionally the purview of dealers, operates on the premise that at any particular historical moment, every work of art has its correct price, and that, given enough time, this price will be achieved. If a dealer initially miscalculates in setting the price, adjustments up or down can easily be made. Lack of time pressure works in the interest of both buyer and seller, helping each to get a fair deal. The “now-or-never” aspect of auctions, on the other hand, occasionally prompts collectors to pay foolishly high prices. Auctions also entail a far greater risk for the seller than is found in a true retail environment Since the fate of every lot ultimately comes down to the will or whim of just a handful of collectors, a fluke or circumstance that prevents one or more of these collectors from participating can easily depress the result. The only protection a consignor has against getting burned in this fashion is to set a substantial reserve. But the higher the reserve, the greater the chance that there will not be sufficient bidders to meet it. Bought-in works are sometimes sold after an auction, but at least as often they linger on the market, tainted by their public shaming.

 

Even in the best of times, auctions foster feast-or-famine situations. Big winners (sellers who reap windfalls and buyers who get bargains) will by definition always be matched by losers (buyers who overpay and sellers who net less than wholesale). Qualities peculiar to the boom of the late 1990s added elements to this equation that exacerbated the dichotomy between high- and low-end. During this period, many segments of the American economy experienced a parallel bifurcation: the gap in income between top achievers (executives, investors, entertainers, athletes, etc.) and the average worker grew enormously, and prices of luxury goods rose accordingly. In areas most affected by the boom, such as Manhattan or Silicon Valley, basic middle-class necessities like housing became affordable only to the wealthy. Naturally, the pooling of extreme wealth was reflected in the art market as well. Prices for what were perceived as top-quality works rose disproportionately to everything else. “Selective” became the euphemistic adjective of choice for a market that made less and less sense.

 

The mantra of “selectivity” was the art-world’s response to the excesses of the late 1980s. However, that decade’s boom was actually a lot more rational, at least at first, than most people today acknowledge. Art (like real estate) tends to respond comparatively slowly to economic fluctuations, and thus art prices were slow to catch up with the horrendous inflation of the 1970s. In the early 1980s, collectors were in effect paying pre-inflation prices with post-inflation dollars. This was one period—probably unique in our lifetimes—when buying art from a pure investment standpoint truly paid off. Appropriately, the proverbial rising tide lifted all ships, and there was a general across-the-board increase in art values during the ‘80s. However, prices eventually spiraled out of control, and in the ‘90s it became evident that too many collectors had spent ludicrous amounts for second-rate works. Henceforth, it was decreed, “quality” would rule.

 

While this sounds good in theory, the unnerving truth is that in reality, “quality” is an extremely elusive concept. Particularly at a time when academics were eschewing the whole notion of quality on account of its elitist connotations, collectors in the 1990s had very few objective benchmarks to go by. Beyond the often self-serving hype of dealers and auctioneers, there was a tautological tendency to equate quality with price: a painting that fetched a record sum had to be great, or it would not have achieved such a result. No less excessive than those of the late 1980s, the highest art prices of our latest boom period tended to be much narrower in focus: they were “selective.” The problem we face today is that this increasingly top-heavy pricing structure is beginning to cripple the entire art market. It becomes impossible to extrapolate downward from the top. If a “great” painting by artist X sell for $1,000,000, that does not necessarily mean that a painting half as good will bring $500,000. The secondary work may well bring no more than $200,000. And if its owner insists on getting $500,000 or perhaps even $1,000,000 (because, after all, just about every seller thinks his or her collection is as good or better than anyone else’s), the picture will not sell at all. If, on the other hand, potential sellers are given realistic evaluations, they may simply decline to sell. The recent boom was special in that it did not invariably draw more works to market, and sporadic shortages of material have further skewed relative values.

 

It has become surprisingly difficult to define the market for works of secondary importance (which after all comprise the vast majority of all art). Like the denizens of Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon, where every child is above-average, collectors and dealers eschew anything deemed less than extraordinary. There is, additionally, a certain economic logic to this philosophy. Despite its veneer of wealth and glamour, the art business does not generate particularly generous profit margins. It is well known that it takes as much effort to sell a $100,000 work as a $1,000,000 one, but the commission on the latter is far greater. Partly in response to the recession of the early ‘90s, many art-world professionals tried to boost the bottom line by concentrating their energies on very expensive items. Sotheby’s thought (incorrectly) that is could reduce overhead by channeling lesser consignments to the Internet, and Phillips, even now, is trying to position itself as an exclusive high0end art boutique. However, these strategies are reaching their natural limits. The top of the market is thin, ad the vast middle perilously under-served. What many auctioneers and some dealers fail to comprehend is that the peak of the market collapses, the top will eventually go with it.

 

Just as the Internet stock bubble had to burst, the art market is now due for a correction. Corrections are not always pleasant, but they are necessary. We all hope for the clichéd “soft landing”—and if we are lucky, we will get one. Regardless, however, of what the next few years bring, it is to be hoped that the art market will be a healthier, more solid environment after this period of adjustment than it was before. In the meantime, the good news is that there is still plenty of art to be had, for collectors in just about every income bracket. But collecting cannot be done by proxy, or according to prescribed rules. It is, rather, a process of discovery and learning that is unique to each individual who undertakes it. And while money may be a factor, the primary rewards of collecting are intellectually stimulation and pure visual enjoyment.

 

Although Galerie St. Etienne is well known for its scholarly expertise, one of the less obvious benefits of our art-historical approach is the sense of market perspective it provides. “Masterpieces,” after all, do not exist in a vacuum. Every object is part of a wider network, with ties not only to the artist’s entire oeuvre, but to works by other artists and to various ancillary social and political events. The value of a work in the marketplace and the stature of a work in art history may not entirely mirror one another, but monetary and art-historical worth are each part of a complex web of interrelated circumstances. By presenting art in its broader context, the Galerie St. Etienne tries to provide collectors with the information necessary to make their own decisions, rather that just telling people what to buy.

 

The current “Recent Acquisitions” exhibition not only highlights newly acquired inventory, but also recaps events of the preceding art seasons. In keeping with our contextual orientation, the past year’s exhibition program pulled together a rich array of material from various countries and periods. We started the season in September by examining the image of the city in German Expressionism, and followed up with a show tracing the theme of “war” from Callot and Goya to the contemporary artist Sue Coe. In January, our presentation of Austrian Art Brut introduced two extremely exciting artist, Emanuel Navratil and Josef Karl Rädler, to the United States and elicited rave reviews. Most recently, another complex theme show addressed the topic of content in art, focusing on early twentieth-century works with a political, commercial or utilitarian agenda.

 

Our summer exhibition draws upon all of the above subjects, and more. We are pleased to have gotten a new selection of work by Rädler, and again to be presenting the woodcuts of Gerd Arntz, which proved extremely popular in our last exhibition. We also just recently received an excellent group of drawings by Gustav Klimt (including a rare portrait in blue) and (rarer still) an oil painting by the Austrian Expressionist Richard Gerstl, who left fewer than 100 works following his suicide at the age of 25. Egon Schiele is represented by a group of first-rate graphics, including his most sought-after lithograph, Girl of 1918. Additional works by Max Beckmann, Sue Coe, Lovis Corinth, Lyonel Feininger, George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz and Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler round out our presentation. In the area of folk or “Outsider” art, the current show includes gallery regulars such as Henry Darger, Grandma Moses (presently the subject of a blockbuster American museum tour), Michel Nedjar (recently accorded a retrospective at the Halle Saint Pierre in Paris), Bill Traylor and the artists of Gugging, as well as popular newcomers Pavel Leonov and Vasilij Romanenkov.

 

We are also pleased to announce, with this exhibition, the launching of the Galerie St. Etienne’s website, www.gseart.com. Although investors may still be suffering from Internet hangovers, we believe that the Internet is perfect for our gallery’s knowledge-based approach. Not only will the new site contain detailed information about out exhibitions and images of available inventory, but—perhaps more important—it will allow us to provide a broader public with the services we have always offered on-premises. Students will be able to research our artists and related movements, curators will find information about booking exhibitions and loans, and collectors will be able to learn about authentication, fakes, appraisals and the market in general. A selection of past checklist essays will be indexed and posted on the site, as will historical information about the Galerie St. Etienne. We hope to be up and running very soon. Look for us!