The first exhibition to examine the critical role of art dealer Samuel Kootz (1898-1982) in the establishment of modern American art as an international force debuted Aug. 25 at The Fralin Museum of Art
at the University of Virginia, Dealers Choice: The Samuel Kootz Gallery 1945-1966 provides a new perspective on a seminal moment in American art and features the work of Abstract Expressionists including Robert Motherwell, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb and William Baziotes.
Through archival research and consideration of works originally handled by the Kootz gallery, Dealers Choice highlights Kootzs efforts to promote a group of American artists who created a radically new visual language that transformed established ideas about art. It was through dealers such as Kootz that New York Citys status was elevated in the art world.
Until now, Kootz has been underrepresented in postwar period scholarship, although he represented much of the major talent in 20th-century art. A law graduate of the University of Virginia, Kootz used his legal training and a keen sense for marketing and advertising to ensure his gallery was critical to the promotion of avant-garde art in America. This combination of skills created a global impact on the art world, one that is still felt today, said Matthew McLendon, director and chief curator of The Fralin. New York City is still an epicenter for modern American art and the artist, dealer, collector relationship.
The exhibition looks at American art through an unusual lens of both gallerist and agent, said Rebecca Schoenthal, curator of exhibitions at The Fralin. Much of the show focuses on the formative years of the Kootz gallery, during which Picasso and Motherwell served as cornerstones, representing the old and new guard.
Presenting more than 50 works of art, Dealers Choice includes highlights such as Adolph Gottliebs celebrated paintings The Frozen Sounds, Number 1 (1951, The Whitney Museum of American Art) and Frozen Sounds II (1952, The Albright-Knox Art Gallery) that mark the transition from his use of Surrealist pictographs to Abstract Expressionist bursts; Hans Hofmanns The Vanquished (1959, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) which illustrates the artists famed push-pull aesthetic, critical to his teachings and work; William Baziotess Figures in Smoke #2 (1947) a recent Fralin acquisition and an important watercolor from a seminal year in Baziotess career; and Robert Motherwells The Red Skirt (1947, Whitney Museum of American Art) a painting that reflects the artists interest in primordial themes, and the first of the large-scale compositions he began in 1947.
Admission to The Fralin and to the exhibition is free.
A version of this exhibition will travel to the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York in January 2018.