When Stuart and I started Century Guild in 1999, the very first artwork that started us off was an original 19th century poster for an exhibition of paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
More posters by luminaries such as Alphonse Mucha and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec soon followed, as well as Art Nouveau porcelain from Sevres and 19th century Japonist ceramics from Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat and Clement Massier. We spent untold hours and gained countless frequent flyer miles in tracking down cabaret and theater artifacts from Berlin and Munich and opera artifacts from Italy. Most recently, lithographic works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele have been high points of our collection.
In the early days of our business, we brokered primarily for museum level collections. (There is nothing like the thrill of seeing a piece that used to be in your hands behind glass at a museum!) As time went on, we expanded our inventory to be able to assist new collectors in acquiring original period Art Nouveau and Symbolist artworks. Connecting others with the rich history of art is emotionally enriching, and we have made a whole world of new friends who share our passion.
We are proud that Century Guild has become the top gallery in the world in placing the rarest art regarding our areas of expertise.
We have always wanted to be connected to the 21st century as well as the 19th and early 20th.
I spent large amounts of money in buying various contemporary artists, taking them home, and sadly watching them crumble when in proximity to what history has shown to be the very best of earlier days. There is an attention to detail and craft in contemporary art that is sadly, for the most part lost, and it does not reveal itself when viewed in relation to other similar works. Event the top contemporary artists, in my opinion, work best in relation to each other than their earlier peers. Ruprecht Von Kaufmann’s gigantic oil painting “But What if He Comes?” survived. George Klauba’s tattoo art and “Ahab” survived. I have a sneaking suspicion that Chris Berens would survive.
But the first experience that made me consider representing contemporary art was with Gail Potocki.
I had a client from the Detroit Institute arrive in Chicago to view a distressingly-expensive-for-something-eminently-breakable, handmade piece of Art Nouveau porcelain. Mindblowing would not describe the quality. But the strangest thing happened: he could not stop asking questions about the painting hanging above the console, a painting from my personal collection by one Gail Potocki.
Fast forward past Juxtapoz magazine, MTV, a critically lauded show at the prestigious Billy Shire Fine Arts in L.A., and a stream of wonderful letters including:
“A really fantastic artist. It’s refreshing to see a modern painter that has a classic, romantic touch and the skills to add a fresh facet of expression to the new period of Realism.” -Robert Williams, the legendary and controversial god-among-painters.
“Brilliant occult portraits from the Symbolist underworld of the 21st Century. More than just paintings, Gail Potocki conducts seances on canvas.” -Grant Morrison (visionary author, psychic revolutionary, and one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top 100 Creative People in America).
Gail has a special show in the Netherlands this fall, and a new series on display alongside her friend David Anderle plus Elizabeth McGrath and Charlie Immer at Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City, LA, opening November 14th, 2009.
You can see artworks from Gail’s Opened Apples series- and the first three edition prints from the never-before-seen Freaks series!- next month in our booth at San Diego Comic Con.
The next artist on our (very small) roster is wholly impossible to appreciate online. This madman paints black lines with a single hair brush, and to appreciate the artwork requires proper lighting and a very large magnifying glass; it’s like something you would see in The Museum of Jurassic Technology:
I personally believe that he is the reincarnation of Richard Dadd. These are not book illustrations, these are individual pieces of art, each telling a long and wonderful tale. I’ve spent hours poring over a single inch, and still find new things every time I look. We are limited here to viewing these as best we can in the sad, sad jpeg form, but make a point to see his work in person. You will NOT regret it. (Next stop? Our booth in San Diego!)
Oh- and keep in mind that these are only about SEVEN INCHES tall!!! Quotes from duly impressed parties are below.
“Jeremy Bastian rocks some inky, inky id! How someone can channel such turgid spontaneity into the gossamer precision seen here is beyond rational explanation. Clearly he’s kidnapped his own inner child, plied her with enough Victorian sweets to keep her up for days, and then chained her to a drawing board in a tiny room.” -Jackson Publick, creator of Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros.
“Jeremy Bastian is a transplanted 19th century prodigy who has harnessed the mysteries of the microcosm; with the hands of a surgeon and the mind of a magician he conjures an entire universe in the space of a single drop of ink. Cursed Pirate Girl is our generation’s Alice in Wonderland.” -Gail Potocki (yes, that Gail Potocki.)
The third artist that we recommend with the same verve and passion as we do any of our 19th century Masters is a very welcome addition, indeed:
I have respected Dave McKean’s art ever since he came into my field of vision as a cover artist for Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman books. (Even today, the pair still work together; their most recent collaboration, The Graveyard Book, just won a Newberry Award.) Countless CD covers, ad campaigns, and short films later, I was always impressed with how Dave was able to infuse his commercial ventures with recognizable flair and a genuinely fine aesthetic. But nothing to my mind comes close to being career-defining as his current body of work, titled Nitrate, inspired by early cinema.
Our next major event, the Nitrate and Kinogeists exhibition at the historic Portage Theater in Chicago (it was used for the interior of the Biograph Theater in the new Johnny Depp and Christian Bale film Public Enemies), features five of these very large sculptural and painted artworks, with a sixth en route to our booth at San Diego Comic Con. Extremely limited edition facsimile prints of “Destiny”, “Melies”, and “Faust” will be available at both shows.
Dave McKean’s Nitrate series wraps up in early 2010 with a Nitrate and Kinogeists exhibition we are curating at Billy Shire Fine Arts, and a 2010 book documenting all the Nitrate works from Allen Spiegel Fine Arts.
If you want to be placed on the waiting list for original or edition works by any of our artists, as always, please send a note to me at THOMAS AT CENTURYGUILD DOT NET and we’ll do our best to accommodate you. (Not dot com! DOT NET! Got it?)
Thanks for reading. Love to you all.