ELLERY KURTZ ENJOYS AN OUTSTANDING REPUTATION IN THE FIELD OF AMERICAN ART. HIS EXPERIENCE INCLUDES DIRECTORSHIPS IN SEVERAL MAJOR AMERICAN GALLERIES AND HIS KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE WITH AMERICAN PAINTING, SCULPTURE AND WORKS ON PAPER STRETCHES ACROSS TWO CENTURIES. HE HAS HELPED TO ESTABLISH MANY IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTIONS AND PLACED MANY SIGNIFICANT WORKS IN MAJOR AMERICAN MUSEUMS AND INSTITUTIONS, INCLUDING THE WHITE HOuSE.
HIS KNOWLEDGE OF THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN PAINTING, ITS CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL HERITAGE, IS PROFOUND AND HIS APPRECIATION OF THESE WORKS IS DEEPLY EVIDENT. ELLERY IS A CERTIFIED APPRAISER AND MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN ART APPRAISAL ORGANIZATION AND AN EXPERT IN THIS FIELD.
THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO WELCOME ELLERY AND LOOKS FORWARD TO SHARING HIS ALMOST INFINITE KNOWLEDGE OF AMERICAN ART AND THE AMERICAN ART MARKET WITH US.
ELLERY, WE HAVE KNOWN EACH OTHER A LONG TIME BUT I AM UNAWARE OF YOUR EARLY EXPERIENCES WITH ART AND LOOK FORWARD TO LEARNING ABOUT THEM.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME INTERESTED? WERE YOUR PARENTS COLLECTORS OR DID YOU CREATE ART AND SEGUE INTO SELLING IT, AS MANY OF US HAVE?
My interest or rather my fascination with art started as a child. My mother, Sylvia, was an amateur painter who initially had a dream of being a fashion illustrator. Unfortunately, economics and WWII forced those ambitions to be put aside. But she continued to paint throughout her lifetime into her 90th year. As a little boy I would watch her work on a painting which was fascinating to me. She had this old wood paint box that her father had bought for her with saved pennies when she was a teenager. From that old wood box came pure magic, colors of every shade squeezed from magic tubes somehow leaped to from her wood palette to her canvas by means of a magic wand…her brush. She put drawing materials in my hands very early in life which cemented that fascination. I fell in love.
As I grew older, every now and then my parents would take me a museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Those visits completely mesmerized me. Standing in front of one masterpiece after another was pure joy.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ART?
When I was in my late teens I bought my own magic tools… paints, brushes and canvas and started painting, with no formal training or education. In 1969 I was a liberal arts student at Bronx Community College. Like most of my generation I had my own place and needed a job to pay for books and rent. After filling out an application at an employment agency I was sent for an interview at an art gallery. I had never even been in an art gallery until that moment.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE ART WORLD?
So here I was, in 1970 being interviewed by Margaret Wunderlich at Kennedy Galleries, Inc., for a position as an art handler, although back then the job was called “stock clerk.” It was amazing. Kennedy was one of the most important and famous galleries for American Art, but I had no idea what was about to unfold in front of me. Learning from the staff in every department I became completely immersed and soon after left school to pursue a career.
COMPELLED BY PASSION, ELLERY WAS GUIDED INTO A PROFESSION IN THE ART WORLD. THE PRESTIGE OF KENNEDY GALLERIES AS A REPOSITORY FOR THE FINEST OF AMERICAN ART WAS A VERY NICE FIRST STOP INDEED!
FOR OVER 125 YEARS, KENNEDY GALLERIES WAS THE FOREMOST AUTHORITY AND DEALER IN AMERICAN ART. FOUNDED IN 1874 BY H. WUNDERLICH, THIS GALLERY HELPED BUILD THE FINEST COLLECTIONS OF PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURE IN BOTH THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE.
IN 2005, KENNEDY GALLERIES’ THEN PRESIDENT MARTHA FLEISCHMAN CLOSED THE GALLERY BUT CONTINUED AS A PRIVATE DEALER.
Fleischman says she plans to open office space in midtown Manhattan some time in March and is looking forward to the opportunities and flexibility that running a private dealership afford. “We have a wonderful inventory, including modernist works and Hudson River School paintings,” she notes. “The gallery will still exist as an entity. The important thing is that even though it is going private, the gallery will continue to be a figure in the landscape of American art.”
PLEASE JOIN US NEXT WEEK TO LEARN MORE OF ELLERY KURTZ’S PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY IN THE AMERICAN ART LANDSCAPE.