Introducing gallery director Katherine Baumgartner of Godel & Co., a bastion of American art
IN 1979, HOWARD GODEL TOOK A LEAP OF FAITH AND OPENED HIS GALLERY, GODEL & CO., DEDICATED TO 19th AND 20th CENTURY AMERICAN ART. MR. GODEL WAS ALREADY VIEWED AS A NATIONAL AUTHORITY ON TOY TRAINS, HAVING TRANSFORMED HIS FIRST CHILDHOOD COLLECTOR’S ENTHUSIASM INTO AN AREA OF EXPERTISE. AT TWENTY-FIVE, HOWARD WAS INTRODUCED TO THE WORLD OF HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL ARTISTS AND DISCOVERED HIS LIFE-LONG PASSION WITH AMERICAN ART.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH, HOWARD GODEL BEGAN BUYING AND SELLING WORKS, BUILDING A NETWORK OF CLIENTS, MUSEUM CURATORS AND DEALERS. THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, HE REINVESTED IN THE GALLERY, PURCHASING WORKS OF INCREASINGLY GREATER QUALITY AND NOW OWNS ONE OF THE MOST EXTENSIVE INVENTORIES OF RECOGNIZED AND REVERED AMERICAN PAINTERS.
I RECENTLY VISITED THE GALLERY IN ITS ELEGANT NEW LOCATION AT 506 EAST 74th STREET, OFF YORK AVENUE TWO BLOCKS FROM SOTHEBY’S. A BEAUTIFULLY CONCEIVED AND EXTENSIVE SPACE, THE GALLERY IS DESIGNED TO PRESENT EXHIBITIONS OF 19TH AND 20TH CENTURY ART, PROVIDE ON-SITE STORAGE FOR ITS VAST INVENTORY, OFFER FRAMING SERVICES WITH BOTH REPRODUCTION AND ORIGINAL PERIOD FRAMES AND, THE MOST CRUCIAL ELEMENT OF ALL, A DIALOGUE WITH A DEDICATED AND ENTHUSIASTIC TEAM OF EXPERTS.
THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO INTRODUCE KATHERINE W. BAUMGARTNER, DIRECTOR OF GODEL & COMPANY. HER QUIET ELEGANCE AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE AMERICAN ART MARKET, HER EXEMPLARY RESEARCH SKILLS AND SALES EXPERIENCE, CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY TO THE GALLERY’S CHARACTER AND SUCCESS.
KATHERINE, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN THE LRFA BLOG.
WHAT PROMPTED YOUR INITIAL INTEREST IN THE ARTS? I KNOW THAT YOUR FATHER HAS AN ACADEMIC BACKGROUND AS A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR. DID HIS SCHOLARSHIP INSPIRE YOURS?
Both of my parents were academics. My father is a retired Professor of Classical Studies, and my mother was the head librarian, at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. One of my father’s favorite, and most popular courses, was on the art and archaeology of ancient Greece, so maybe I caught the art bug from him. After graduating from Dickinson College with a major in art history, I spent two summers on a dig in southern France. I then earned a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Virginia. My focus in graduate school was on ancient and medieval art, but during my last semester at U.Va., in the spring of 1983, I took a seminar on American still-life painting. This was shortly after the publication of William Gerdts’s seminal study on the subject, Painters of the Humble Truth, which we used as the main text for the course.
That’s really when I fell for American art. Not only did the course teach me how complex and compelling still-life paintings can be, it also revealed how much work there was to do on sorting out America’s contribution to the genre. Most of my professional career has been devoted to nineteenth and early twentieth-century American art.
WHEN DID YOU COME TO NEW YORK AND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE? WHEN DID YOU BEGIN TO WORK IN THE ART WORLD AND WAS IT INITIALLY IN THE FIELD OF AMERICAN ART OR ANOTHER AREA?
I moved to New York in August of 1983, right after I married my college sweetheart, and fellow art history major, Eric Baumgartner. He was already settled in Manhattan, and worked in an art gallery. Frankly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do! I had earned lots of credits toward my Ph.D., but going back to school just wasn’t an option. The pressure was on for me to find a job. I admit I was pretty intimidated by New York, having grown up on Sweet Briar’s beautiful rural campus. Even the college towns I lived in (Carlisle, PA, and Charlottesville, VA) were low-key compared to New York. I really got lucky though. I spent very little time searching the classified ads for something I was qualified for, because my husband heard through the art world grapevine that Sandra Werther, a private dealer in European and American art, needed an assistant. I worked for Sandra for two years, then moved on to D. Wigmore Fine Art, where I stayed for fifteen years. Wigmore’s focus was historical American art, and she specialized in Regionalism and Social Realism of the 1930s and 1940s.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG, KATHERINE BAUMGARTNER INFORMS US OF HER PROFESSIOANAL HISTORY SINCE JOINING GODEL AND COMPANY FINE ART. KATHERINE IS EXTREMELY KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT AMERICAN ART AS WELL THE GALLERY WORLD, ART MARKET AND THE ART OF COLLECTING.
THE LRFA BLOG ENCOURAGES YOU TO POSE ANY QUESTIONS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE IN THE AREA OF COLLECTING AND AMERICAN ART TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HER EXPERTISE!