Meredith Ward, modernist art gallery owner and expert, speaks about this rich period of American art

by leslierankowfinearts

I have had the great pleasure of knowing Meredith Ward, of Meredith Ward Fine Art, 44 East 74th Street, New York, as a colleague since she was the director of the impeccable Richard York Gallery. When Richard died prematurely, Meredith opened her own gallery. In the last few years, it has been a delight to enjoy a growing friendship with Meredith of shared interests and perceptions. It’s a treat for me to have Meredith, a great expert in American Modernism,  speak with us. Meredith is wonderful to work with since her approach with clients is to share her love and knowledge of this period in a low-keyed and straightforward way and thus engage their interest and commitment to the work.

MEREDITH, THANK YOU FOR SPEAKING WITH ME.

YOU OPENED YOUR OWN GALLERY, IN A BEAUTIFUL TOWNHOUSE, IN 2004. IT MUST HAVE BEEN A DIFFICULT DECISION, EXCITING AND YET CHALLENGING, TO SEGUE FROM BEING THE DIRECTOR AT RICHARD YORK TO HAVING YOUR NAME ON THE DOOR. PLEASE TELL US WHAT MOTIVATED YOU?

I had the benefit of having a wonderful mentor in Richard York. Not only did he have a terrific eye, but he was incredibly generous with his knowledge. So when I started out on my own, I had more than twenty years of gallery experience and I felt I was ready to make the leap. It was really exciting to make my own decisions about the art I wanted to handle and the direction I wanted my business to go.

HOW DID YOU FIRST MAKE A COMMITMENT TO 19th CENTURY AND EARLY 20th CENTURY ART? WHAT DREW YOU IN?

American art was one of my first loves. I had studied it as an undergraduate and was fascinated not only by its beauty but also by the ways in which it shed light on the history of our country. At the time I came into the business in the early 1980s, the field was just beginning to become popular with collectors, so there was a lot of room for growth and for new discoveries.

HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AMERICAN MODERNISM AND CONTEMPORARY ART?

It’s important to remember that American modernists were the contemporary artists of their time and had all of the same challenges that contemporary artists have today in terms of producing innovative work and finding a market for it. Looking back, we can see how their art fits within a historical context and it makes sense to us. When we look at contemporary art, we don’t have a historical context with which to judge it. So it becomes all the more important to be able to identify artists of artistic and aesthetic value who will stand the test of time.

In the next blog, Meredith speaks about the richness of the works of the American Abstract artists. It is easy to see, in her comments on both modern and contemporary work, why she has gained so much respect and admiration in this highly competitive field.  I look forward to exploring more about this period and the specific nuances of representing artists’ estates with this friend and expert.  I welcome any question and comments you have in response to this interview.

Until next week, thanks!