The idea of a “recent acquisitions” exhibition is, in a sense, anomalous in a gallery setting. Such shows, when presented by a museum, allude to the underlying presence of a permanent collection, whereas a gallery’s acquisitions are, almost by definition, temporary. Yet a dealer’s long-term commitment to certain areas of specialization is not altogether unlike that of a museum. In the current presentation, old favorites have been combined with new surprises to give an inside glimpse of the Galerie St. Etienne’s recent collecting patterns. In a very real sense, every dealer is also a collector, and the public comes to rely on a dealer’s taste and discrimination in forming a gallery’s collection. The gallery is the first stop for artworks on their way to a private home or, eventually, museum, and the ever-changing collection which we are constantly creating is a reflection of the particular sensibilities and expertise for which our gallery is known.
It has been five years since our last “recent acquisitions” exhibition, and the current presentation attests to the evolution of our collection in the intervening period. The last show, subtitled “The Human Perspective,” alluded to this gallery’s abiding concern with human values, as exemplified by both the Expressionists and the folk painters in whom we specialize. These values have, if anything, only grown more important to us with the passage of time, and we feel that the present show is an especially appropriate way to reaffirm our beliefs. While many observers may claim to see no connection between such artists as Egon Schiele and Grandma Moses, to us these two have always symbolized the essence of the Galerie St. Etienne, for both remained true to their particular experiences of time and place, and both incorporated strong personal values in their work. We are pleased to note that these past five years have allowed us to somewhat expand the range of artists whom we show: adding, in the field of folk art, representation of the estate of John Kane to that of Grandma Moses, and augmenting our usual roundup of Austrian artists, such as Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele and Kubin, with work by their German colleagues. We are particularly proud, in this regard, of the two recent Paula Modersohn-Becker shows, the first at this gallery since the artist had her American debut here in 1958. We are also glad to say that, as in the past, the gallery has continued to curate exhibitions for major museums in the United States, Europe, Japan and (if all goes as planned) the Soviet Union, working with such prestigious institutions as the International Exhibitions Foundation and the American Express Foundation. Our scholarly activities have progressed as well, with major books on Arnold Schoenberg and on the Wiener Werkstätte recently published, and the first comprehensive Schiele catalogue raisonné due shortly.
The current show is thus in many ways a stock-taking for us: a review of past activities and a bridge to the future. It is for this reason that we chose to present this exhibition at a moment when the gallery is embarking on some of the largest changed in its near-fifty-year history. We have occupied our present quarters on West 57th Street for twenty-seven years, and while we are proud of the stability implied by this fact, we have become less than delighted with our increasingly outmoded facilities. In May, we will begin a substantial program of renovation and expansion, adding considerably to our behind-the-scenes office space, while at the same time updating and upgrading exhibition facilities. We have long specialized in museum-scope loan exhibitions; now, for the first time, we will also have museum-level lighting and climate control. Undoubtedly some will greet this news with a hearty “it’s about time,” while others, grown fond of the Galerie St. Etienne’s idiosyncrasies, will mourn the transformation of our traditional appearance. In consolation to the latter group, we can say that every effort will be made to retain the old feeling of intimacy in the newly designed space, which will, if anything, enhance the viewer’s rapport with the art.
During the period of renovation, the gallery will remain open according to a modified schedule. The current exhibition will be on view during regular gallery hours until May 16. Thereafter, visitors are strongly advised to telephone in advance for an appointment. Construction should be finished by the fall, at which time the gallery will resume normal operation. The works in the current exhibition, which will be accessible throughout the entire summer, have been specially chosen to represent a cross-section of the gallery’s various areas of endeavor. As a follow-up to our previous exhibition, Folk Art of This Century, we have included a few special pictures by John Kane, Horace Pippin, and Grandma Moses—all of whose work is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Last year’s Vienna 1900 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art has also greatly increased the demand for works by turn-of-the-century Austrian artists, and we feel fortunate to have acquired a number of exceptional pieces by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. Alfred Kubin—who made a particularly strong showing when the Vienna exhibition was presented in Paris—still remains too little known in the United States, and in our ongoing attempt to remedy this situation, we have included a number of characteristic works by him. Among the German, our strongest commitment remains to artists such as Lovis Corinth, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Käthe Kollwitz, who hovered around the edges of Expressionism rather than flinging themselves full-force into the movement. Somewhat subtler than their more overtly expressionistic compatriots, these artists complement the sensibilities of the Austrians and serve to round out the exhibition.