What I Buy and Why: Art-Fair Impresario Sanford Smith on His Prized John Wayne Sculpture and Preference for Online Auctions

The collector has a soft spot for American Modernist watercolors and bronze sculptures.

Image courtesy Sanford Smith

Long before the existence of Frieze, Art Basel, or any mega fair, Sanford Smith was bringing niche art and design fairs to various corners of Manhattan, starting with the the first All American Antiques Show at the Pier in 1980..

His second fair, Modernism, was trailblazing. At that time, no other fair had presented design material from 1860 to 1960 as a collecting category. The Works on Paper fair followed Modernism to present a wide variety of watercolors, photographs, prints, drawings, and pastels. Smith followed that up with the first-ever presentation of the Outsider Art Fair at the Puck Building.

His most recent venture, Salon Art + Design premiered in November 2012 and celebrated its 10th year at the Park Avenue Armory last year. The next edition takes place this November.

We caught up with Smith to find out about his own collecting habits and passions.

What was your most recent purchase?

It was a Vienna bronze painted standing American Indian for $2,700.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

A painted Vienna mechanical bronzes of two erotic figures by Karl Kauba.

A watercolor by Charles Ephraim Burchfield. Image courtesy Sanford Smith.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

A Charles Burchfield watercolor of trees and houses, titled Two Houses (1918).

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Online at auctions.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

No, but I do regret selling a large painting by Fritz Scholder.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

Over the sofa, it’s a 30-foot-wide deconstructed dining table as a reconstructed Last Supper by Michael Zelehoski. In the bathroom, an April Gornik watercolor that was done for the cover of one of our art show catalogues.

A watercolor by John Marin hangs above a pair of andirons sculptures on the fireplace. Image courtesy Sanford Smith.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

Harry Jackson’s Marshall bronze sculpture of John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn from the movie True Grit.

Harry Jackson, The Flag Bearer (1983). Image courtesy Sanford Smith.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

Harry Jackson’s painted Stampede bronze sculpture.

Ernest Berke, Apache Raiders. Image courtesy Sanford Smith.

Ernest Berke, Apache Raiders. Image courtesy Sanford Smith.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

American sculptor Frederic Remington’s Coming Through the Rye. I collect mostly sculptures of all types, plus some paintings.


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