Howard Scott, founder/director of Howard Scott Gallery, New York, takes questions from Dallas-based patron and collector Howard Hallam, vice chair of Ben E. Keith Co., a Fair sponsor.
You’ve shown at the Dallas Art Fair every year since its launch in 2009. How did you originally come to exhibit at the Fair? Why are you returning in 2014? The idea sounded good. I like Dallas, and I had several collectors and friends in the city. I am returning because I like the intimacy of the Fair, and it’s very well run. They treat us very well.
Do you participate in other fairs? And if so, what stands out about the Dallas Art Fair? Yes, I have participated in other fairs. I like the warm reception of the people in Dallas ... They seem happy you are there.
Preview some of the artists in your booth for 2014. Will you be bringing any of Milwaukee painter Fred Stonehouse’s wondrous image + text canvases, for example? I will be bringing several repeat artists. Fred Stonehouse is very popular and will return. Also Rebecca Salter, Sati Zech and Rolf Behm, to mention a few.
Take us back to the beginning. The East Village, 1985. What was the scene like, and how did you persevere? Challenges? And what in your personal background made you want to be a gallerist? The East Village of 1985 was a very exciting time in the evolution of the contemporary art scene. We were very young, energetic, the spaces were small. And we introduced art to a demographic who never thought art was an option for them. At that time, you had to put on a suit and tie and go up to 57th Street and be snobbed. I started collecting early and friends thought I had a good eye and started asking me to help them develop a collection. In 1985, I was approached to become a partner in a recently opened gallery. I bought him [his business partner] out in 1989 and changed the name of the gallery from M-13 to Howard Scott Gallery.
When was the move to SoHo and 72 Greene Street? Why? And when did you relocate to your current space in Chelsea? The gallery moved to SoHo in 1987; it was clear that SoHo was going to be the center for contemporary art. The spaces were larger, and the location was much more accessible. I found a great loft space at 72 Greene Street. We were there for 14 years. I moved to Chelsea in 2000; rents in SoHo were on the rise, being forced out by upscale clothing stores. Most of us reluctantly moved to Chelsea. It’s becoming déjà vu all over again.
Meeting Peggy Guggenheim was a pivotal experience. Can you share details? I met Peggy Guggenheim in 1978 in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She was friends with my great friend and mentor Robert Brady while he was a student in Venice. She came to Cuernavaca every Easter to spend time with Brady and another good friend designer Ken Scott. She was friendly and open. I learned a lot by listening to her and visiting her in Venice.
What was the great painter Rufino Tamayo like? How did you come to meet him? I met Tamayo only once. He did not say much; his wife Olga did most of the talking. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.
What has been your biggest break in the art world? You’ve spoken about an important mentor. How did painter/collector Robert Brady impact you and what was he like? I met Robert Brady in New York in the late ’60s through mutual friends. Robert was an Irish[man] from Fort Dodge, Iowa, one of the last students at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. He was very influenced by Dr. Barnes and his experience there. Although he studied painting, he was more of a collector. He had great eyes and style, and he knew many influential people. This friendship had a great impact on me.
In 1970, he invited me to visit him in Cuernavaca, a beautiful colonial town half an hour south of Mexico City. I spent six months there, touring all of Mexico. It was the most interesting period of my young life. Bob died in 1986, and the house is now a foundation open to visitors three days a week. The collection consists of Mexican and American masters: Frida Kahlo, Tamayo, Marsden Hartley, Prendergast and Tamara de Lempicka, to name a few. I now have an apartment in Mexico City.
Define the Howard Scott aesthetic. It’s often characterized as reductive, with an interest in painting, but then you have some surprises in your stable. How would you define your sensibility? The gallery leans toward reductive abstraction but not exclusively. For instance, the wonderful Wisconsin artist Fred Stonehouse is a gallery favorite.
In the era before globalism, your program was diverse. Where do you find this new talent? And what keeps the gallery fresh for you after nearly 30 years? It takes me a long time to find an artist, and more and more I am drawn to a European sensibility. It’s a truly international group: Germany, England, Holland and Mexico. In New York, there are many artists that go from gallery to gallery. I try to avoid that. I like introducing new artists to my American collectors.
For more information about the 2014 Dallas Art Fair (April 11 – 13; Preview Gala, April 10), visit dallasartfair.com.