Monday, May 30, 2011


Art is Having a Senior Moment
Stefanie Cohen New York Post
January 18, 2011

ANTIQUES are the newest thing in the art world. Not ancient objects. Ancient people.

Last week, 98-year-old abstract expressionist Abraham Yurberg opened his first show in more than four decades at a swank uptown gallery. At a plucky 90, Len Ferrari has a solo exhibition at the Midtown gallery Haunch of Venison opening later this month. New Yorker Carmen Herrera, now 95, sold her first painting at age 89; since then, collectors have pursued her. And 80-year-old Enrico Castellani just sold a piece for $1.2 million after decades of living in obscurity in an Italian town.

With the financial meltdown, buyers want art that’s proven – not up-andcoming, experts say. “Financially, people are looking to acquire works by artists with a longer history and a long impact within their work,” says Emilio Steinberger, director at the Haunch of Venison gallery. Here are some the hot new artists who have been around the block a few times . . .


The reclusive Yurberg has his first solo exhibition in 44 years; his work see “Fan Dance,” below) is currently being shown at the Ten43 Gallery on the Upper East Side. The show came about when his daughter showed her dad’s paintings to a gallery friend who recognized their importance.

Ten43 director Laurie Sanderson said she dropped the phone call she was having when that friend brought Yurberg’s work to the gallery. “I got chills. It was extraordinary,” she says. “It had soul. It wasn’t plastic like the work you see today.” Sanderson went to visit Yurberg in the Bronx home he’s lived in for 60 years, and said it was like stepping back in time.

“There were first-edition Chekhovs and Tennessee Williams,” she says.

Yurberg, who was part of the abstract expressionist movement in New York, witnessed the horrors of World War II while serving in the army in Africa.

When he came back, he continued painting, as before – but never tried to sell his work or have it exhibited. “I don’t want the glory. I’m not looking to be recognized,” he says. “I’m just a person who finds pleasure in painting and drawing. I never did it for fame.” Indeed, Yurberg did not attend the gallery opening last week, saying he wanted the work to speak for itself. “I’d like to know that people like my work, and that it’s just not only for me, but maybe someone else will get pleasure from it,”he says. He’s getting his wish; Sanderson says sales have been steady.

Carmen Herrera, 95 – DISCOVERD IN HER ’80S!

This artist sold her first painting when she was 89, after being “discovered” in New York by gallerist Frederico Sve. He found Herrera when another Latina artist dropped out of a 2004 show and Sve needed a replacement. When a friend brought her work by the gallery, he was floored. Herrera’s works (such as “Cobalt,” left) now sell for an average of $80,000 a piece, and are part of the permanent collections of MoMA, the Tate Modern in London, the Hirshhorn Gallery in Washington DC and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. All the pieces were sold in the past five years, since she met Sve. Herrera’s last New York show was in April, at Sve’s gallery, and another is slated there for next year. When asked how she feels about fame, Herrera scoffs. “I don’t like it. I am not a public person at all,” she says. “I want to . . . keep on doing these things for as long as I can move.”

Len Ferrari, 90 – THE TOAST OF THE TOWN!

A contemporary artist who works with ceramic, wood and wire sculptures (see “Sin Titulo,” below right), Ferrari came to the attention of New York art bigs after a Catholic priest tried to shut down his 2004 show in Buenos Aires.

The buzz culminated when he showed at the 2007 Venice Biennale, where he won the Golden Lion award, and then had a two-person show at MoMA. “Len had always been respected, but sometimes it takes several people to . . . to start this sort of momentum,” says Steinberger, whose gallery is hosting Ferrari’s first solo show in New York from Jan. 28 to March 5.

Enrico Castellani, 80 – SUDDEN RICHES!

While Italian artist Enrico Castellani had his first solo show in New York in 1966, the decades that followed had been, well, a bit sleepy. “He isolated himself in this small town in Italy, so no one was really paying attention to him,” says Steinberger, whose gallery hosted Castellani’s “comeback” show in 2009. “He never really cared about money.” Now, cash is the least of his concerns. His last piece sold for $1.2 million, after Steinberger began working with him in 2007. “Enrico is a very strong person – an artist to the core,” says Steinberger. Last year, Castellani won the prestigious Praemium Imperiale award for painting. Collectors of his work (such as “Silver Surface,” above) now include designer Miuccia Prada and the Fendi family, among others.

Originally published by STEFANIE COHEN. © 2011 The New York Post.
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Photo (CC) via Flickr user M-n-M

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