Byron Dobell, one of the most respected and accomplished editors in New York magazine publishing history, is also a painter, and his seventh solo show, “Recent Works,” is currently on view at Chelsea’s First Street Gallery (526 West 26th Street). Mr. Dobell, who’s 80 (but doesn’t look a day over 65!), worked as an editor at many important magazines in the city, including Time, Esquire, New York and American Heritage, and edited writers like Tom Wolfe and David Halberstam before they were household names. But 17 years ago, Mr. Dobell left the media world to pursue a lifelong passion: portraiture painting. Over the years he’s painted many friends and colleagues, including New York magazine founder Clay Felker; Tim Forbes, chief operating officer of Forbes, Dominique Browning, editor in chief of late House & Garden, and feminist icon Betty Friedan (the Friedan piece now hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery).
Within an hour of the Recent Works’ opening earlier this week, red dot stickers appeared next to almost every one of the 33 landscapes and “life studies” on display. “They’re really like measles, all over the place,” Mr. Dobell said of the dots, in an interview after the opening. “I sold 24 pictures out of 33. It was a success! And I still have three weeks to go. It’s almost a sell-out and it’s quite astonishing to me.”
It’s also “quite astonishing” to Mr. Dobell that he has been able to have two very successful careers in fields usually plagued with false starts, failure or financial ruin. “[It] is not only astonishing to my friends, but totally astonishing to me. I can’t believe that I sold that many paintings. It’s like giving birth to 20 or 30 children. How did I do it?”
You can ask him yourself at this Saturday’s artist reception from 3 to 6 p.m. The hours of the First Street Gallery are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Check back at the Culture Czar on Monday for a feature on Mr. Dobell’s artwork and career.