Late last month, Schoelkopf Gallery joined the host of art galleries moving to Tribeca. They opened their new 4,800-square-foot space at 390 Broadway, designed by Markus Dochantschi from studioMDA, with “Arthur Dove: Yes, I Could Paint a Cyclone” —ending a twenty-one-year run on the Upper East Side. Observer recently caught up with founder Andrew Schoelkopf—formerly of Christie’s and one-time president of the Art Dealers Association of America—to learn more about what’s next for the gallery.
What inspired the move to Tribeca?
Opportunity and need. We saw a great opportunity to continue building the business and our community in Tribeca and we needed a great deal more space. We had a wonderful tenure of twenty-one years on the Upper East Side but had outgrown it and were ready for a change. Frankly, the gallery’s program had also outgrown the physical structure uptown. The pandemic fundamentally changed the way we use our physical space and engage our audience. We needed a space that would allow us to knit together frequent physical experiences in the gallery with our magazine and lots of other scholarship and communication. The purpose-built space in Tribeca gives us the flexibility to present as many as five intimate experiences each month so we can present the dynamic nature of our program and inventory.
How does the gallery scene in Tribeca strike you as different from the one you left on the Upper East Side? How is it different from Chelsea?
It is totally different and suits the gallery. The audience is much younger. The energy is amazing. Tribeca is more of a neighborhood, too. We welcomed more than 1,000 visitors to the gallery during the first week of our inaugural exhibition, and that brings a lot of energy to our work. We looked in Chelsea and considered moving there, but we love the fresh energy and neighborhood feel in Tribeca.
Your gallery’s program aims to communicate “the entire sweep of the modernist movement in America through its presentation of innovative and important works in both abstract and realist modes.” Why do you feel American modernism is so important to art history and the culture at large?
There were many similar changes and challenges in the early- to mid-20th Century as there are today, and the art of that moment seems entirely relevant to a larger audience. Revisiting our art and culture from 50 to 150 years ago can be exhilarating and surprising, particularly as our impression of that invites so many new voices and interpretations. That obviously helps us look at the art of that era in a new and fresh way. American Modernism is also a hidden gem to a growing international audience, so it is also a great joy to be educating many around the world about the import of art and artists here, particularly in the first half of the 20th Century.
You publish a magazine about art from this period called Now Modern. What made you want to get into publishing?
I never imagined we would be in the publishing business, but the magazine has become the most important and exciting thing we have ever done. We work with hundreds of scholars and writers every year and our community has been demanding fresh stories and information, so it was a very natural thing to start publishing the magazine to share more of that. The growth in our community because of the magazine has been astonishing. 30 percent of our sales the last five years are to new clients who have never purchased from the gallery previously. Now Modern is fundamental to that growth because it serves as an invitation to ask questions and learn more. It engages new readers and is approachable and interesting. The gallery’s partner, Alana Ricca, is responsible for the publication of the magazine and she has breathed new life into the magazine and business.
You were formerly the director of American painting at Christie’s. What’s the biggest difference between selling that kind of material at a gallery versus at auction?
I loved the time I spent at Christie’s and the several different roles I filled during those nine years. It was exciting and I learned a great deal. What we do at Schoelkopf Gallery today is so totally different from what we did at Christie’s in the 1990s. I really love the relationship and community building that we do at Schoelkopf Gallery. We have a broad and international following now and can nurture collections of significant impact over time. The transactional nature of the auction business and their private sales approach doesn’t work for me personally, and I really love the relationships and impact we have now at the gallery.
Your gallery represents the estates of John Marin and Manierre Dawson. What are some of the difficulties of working with estates over living artists? How do you manage to keep your shows fresh?
The move to Tribeca is one of about a half dozen significant announcements Schoelkopf Gallery will make in the fall of 2023. We will announce some very significant representations of artists, estates and foundations starting next month. Every estate or foundation is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in managing an artist or estate. The challenges vary and we must always take a different approach. The John Marin Estate concluded in 2022 with the passing of Norma Marin, and it has been an honor to help the family transition that estate to the John Marin Foundation. Marin is one of the greatest American artists of the 20th or 21st Centuries. Toward the end of his life in 1950, John Marin was thought by many to be the most important living artist in the United States and was celebrated at the Venice Biennale. Manierre Dawson, on the other hand, was a significant modernist artist about whom very little was known. With all the artists, estates and foundations we represent, we are guided by a sense of wonder and discovery that engages a new audience, and that is so much fun.
Now that you’ve closed the book on the UES, what was your favorite show you did in that space and why?
In 2019-2020, we presented “Marin and the Critics” which was the first of a series of exhibitions built on the contemporary critical response to the leading American Modernist artists. That show was connected to the Art Dealers Association of America Art Show and included nearly 100 works and was a near sellout. The series of exhibitions is our effort to root today’s readers in the contemporary response to an artist’s emergence earlier in the century and that approach is really engaging. We think of our engagement format as a “studio visit with the benefit of hindsight” to encourage our research and programming team to help the reader or viewer sit at the center of the contemporary response to modernism. Obviously, the response to Marin, O’Keeffe, Dove, Hartley and others was nothing like what we think of today. They were disruptors and innovators, and they struggled and fought like hell to make a name for themselves and a market for their art. This is largely forgotten today.