Forget the Hamptons. Artists, Dealers, and Consultants Gather in New Rural Contemporary Art Center: Maine – artnet News | Candle Made Easy

The Art Detective is a weekly curtain-raising column by Katya Kazakina for Artnet News Pro Yes, really what’s going on in the art market.

One of the main tourist attractions of Thomaston, Maine, an orderly city with white church towers and colonial houses, is a store that sells handicrafts made by the state’s prison inmates. The store is full of stuffed animals, lobster-painted cornhole boards, and carved schooners.

Nothing on Main Street indicates the presence of a red hot New York contemporary art gallery. And yet, this is where the forward-thinking Karma opened its first outpost outside of the Big Apple last year.

The gallery is housed in a restored 1914 former Catholic church with high ceilings and beautiful stained glass details. Artist Ann Craven, known for her depictions of moonlit landscapes and birds (one of which rose to $680,400 at the Ammann Collection auction in May), purchased the building five years ago with the intention of turning it into her studio.

In the end, “it was too awesome,” said Brendan Dugan, owner of Karma, which represents Craven and her husband Peter Halley. “She was more comfortable painting in her barn” in the nearby town of Cushing.

The interior of the Gallery of Karma in Maine. Photo: Katya Kazakina

Karma took over the room instead. It is still owned by Craven, who collaborates with the gallery on annual exhibitions. This summer they directed “Sanctuary”, an exquisite exhibition of abstract sculpture by Thaddeus Mosley and intimate figurative painting by Frank Walter, two black artists born in 1926. (The Maine show has very New York prices: $30,000 to $100,000 for the paintings and about $200,000 for the sculptures.)

“The church was a community space,” Dugan said. “The show is a dialogue between these two artists and also continues this idea of ​​a community.”

The arts community in Maine is growing, with top-notch contemporary artists and art consultants moving there part-time or full-time. Some, like myself and my painter husband Greg Goldberg, linger after dropping off their kids for summer camp. We sought advice from fellow Maine artists and visitors, Gelah Penn and Stephen Maine, who recommended 250 Main, a boutique curatorial hotel in Rockland. Art consultant Todd Levin shared his routine from Portland to Rockland: a lobster roll at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, a berry pie at Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, and the Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston.

“Just as artists have wanted to go to Italy throughout history, so has Maine,” said Saara Pritchard, a partner at Art Intelligence Global Advisory, who was a driving force behind Maine artist Lynne Drexler. The seclusion. The beauty of nature. other artists. (And don’t forget the thriving food scene.)

These long-term attractions have been reinforced by the flexibility of remote work, the ability to sell art to international audiences from a remote location, and the growing cultural infrastructure in the state.

Robert Indiana's home in Vinalhaven, Star of Hope.  May 2018. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette, Portland Press Herald via Getty Images.

Robert Indiana’s home in Vinalhaven, Star of Hope. May 2018. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette, Portland Press Herald via Getty Images.

The resolution of a long legal battle over Robert Indiana’s estate recently paved the way for the establishment of a museum dedicated to the pop artist, who lived on the Maine island of Vinalhaven. In 2016, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) opened an extension designed by architect Toshiko Mori. The sleek building currently hosts a solo show, Hawkeye, by Reggie Burrows Hodges, whose paintings have sparked bidding wars at auction over the past year, and a group show by Maine artists including Craven, Katherine Bradford, and Inka Essenhigh.

Maine’s appeal dates back to the great American landscape painter Winslow Homer (1836-1910), who moved to Prouts Neck in 1883 and whose powerful depictions of the sea are now the subject of Crosscurrents, a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through July 31).

Exhibition of Reggie Burrows Hodges at the Maine Contemporary Art Center.  Photo: Katya Kazakina

Exhibition of Reggie Burrows Hodges at the Maine Contemporary Art Center. Photo: Katya Kazakina

Among those who followed Homer to Maine was realist painter and illustrator NC Wyeth, who spent 25 summers there and whose son Andrew and grandson Jamie carried on the family tradition. Colby College, whose art collection has been greatly expanded by donations from longtime Maine resident Alex Katz, was recently acquired two coastal islands where Andrew Wyeth painted some of his most famous works.

“There are a number of artists who came to Maine because of the light,” said Morgan Long, art consultant at Fine Art Group in London, who grew up in Camden.

The state has renowned artist colonies. One of them first arose on the remote island of Monhegan in the mid-19th century. There are at least 15 artist residencies in the state, including the influential Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, which has attracted generations of artists since its inception in 1946 to see the Farnsworth.

Painter Jamie Wyeth, son of painter Andrew Wyeth, is working on a painting.  (Photo by Kevin Fleming/Corbis via Getty Images)

Painter Jamie Wyeth, son of painter Andrew Wyeth, is working on a painting. (Photo by Kevin Fleming/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Maine has played this unique role in American art that isn’t as widely recognized as it should be,” said Suzette McAvoy, who curated the exhibition and is working on a survey of Maine artists to mark Farnsworth’s 75th anniversary to celebrate next year.

The museum is filled with many well-known names who have ties to the state: The modernist Marsden Hartley was born in Lewiston in 1877; sculptress Louise Nevelson arrived in Rockland from Tsarist Russia when she was five; Color field painter Kenneth Noland spent his last decade in Port Clyde.

Today the art scene is relaxed and collegial. It is not uncommon for people to drive two hours to an opening.

“A lot of artists come to Maine to fly under the radar and spend time in the studio,” said McAvoy, who oversaw the construction of CMCA’s new home. “There is work going on here. While the work isn’t directly influenced or inspired by Maine, there’s something about Maine that permeates the work.”

Perhaps no one took Maine’s beauty and isolation quite as far as artist Lynne Drexler, who settled on Monhegan Island in the 1980s and painted in virtual obscurity for the next 16 years until her death. Last spring, Farnsworth decided to deaccess two of her paintings to raise funds to increase the diversity of his holdings.

The museum received an unexpected windfall when the paintings fetched nearly $3 million, 18 times their combined high estimate.

Lynne Drexler, Herbert’s garden (1960). Photo: Christies.

Pritchard, an art consultant with an eye for rediscovering overlooked artists, has traveled twice from New York to Maine since October to study Drexler’s archives at the Monhegan Museum, view her paintings, and talk to people who knew her. I met two of them while boarding a choppy hour-long boat to Monhegan this week: Bill Boynton and Jackie Boegel, the couple behind the Lupine Gallery, which has been at the heart of the island’s art scene since 1985.

“She’s finally getting the recognition she deserves,” Boegel said of Drexler, who was a friend. “It moved to Rockland, Portland and beyond.”

While few day-trippers come to Monhegan for Drexler, the gallery has received many inquiries about her work since March, when the first Farnsworth painting sold at Christie’s for $1.2 million.

“She was productive,” Boegel said. “People loved her work and wanted to support her.”

Drexler often traded with her pictures. Now those who own them – or their children – are trying to figure out what to do in the face of the price hike.

“We say, ‘If you like them, keep them,'” Boynton said. “But make sure you have the insurance.”

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