By Elinor Garely, PhD
Currently Edelman’s upper east side arts center is dedicated to presenting the work of emerging, mid-career and established artists. The gallery also focuses on the secondary market and sells works that run the spectrum from Impressionism through Modern, Post-war and Contemporary Art.
Who s Edelman Arts
Edelman Arts was founded in New York in 2001 by Asher Edelman who has a reputation as a successful Wall Street insider. Leaving Wall Street for Switzerland in the late 1980s he founded a contemporary art museum in Pully, near Lausanne. The FAE Musée d’Art Contemporain launched the first European retrospective exhibitions of Robert Mapplethorpe, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, and Peter Halley.
Is It Art or Something Else
I entered the street level gallery. Quickly scanning the walls – I was greeted by a plethora of sexual organs prominently displayed (with, of course, appropriate art notes tacked alongside). Given my locale, only the most banal viewer would raise the question: Is this painting of two women licking a penis art or something else. Clearly it was an important work of art!
Expertly curated by Dara Schaefer who is an architect, curator and art consultant, she works primarily with contemporary and emerging artists and advises private, non-profits and corporate collectors in the selection and investment in fine art for collections and auctions. She is the founder of Wonderground Studios.
There is never a doubt about whether it is art or something else when I look at a painting or a photograph of a pear – if the work is hanging in an art gallery or on the wall of a museum, experts have made the determination that it is art; it never dawns on me to consider it more than a piece of fruit. However, when I see a photograph or a painting of a penis or a breast or pubic hair, I am forced to consider both the content and the context of the material and seek for meaning beyond the visual experience.
Nude or Naked
A new view of what is art and what is not peaked as a curiosity and cocktail party conversation in the 1960s. The issues of gender, race, sex, sexual preference and sexuality were openly discussed and challenged in the US courts – while politicians, journalists, educators and art collectors/investors tried to determine whether this new crop of artists and their sexually explicit subject matter was ready for their galleries and museums or headed to the trash bin for recycling. Fortunately the legal system and the bankers, as well as the collectors recognized that the artists were once again freeing us from our own self-imposed cells – and giving us license to do what we had been doing all along; now, however, we could do it and talk about it as well as put it on our living room walls.
The artists selected by Schaefer to take us along the cultural, racial and gender highway include: Tommy Lanigan Schmidt, Marilyn Minter, Carolee Schneemann, Betty Tompkins, Cary Liebowitz, Rob Pruitt and Jack Early. Some of the early works shocked the art world (and the lawyers and the courts as well as the media) enough to cause personal destruction to the lives and careers of these artists. Fortunately for us they were adventurous enough to strip away the clothes and the walls and the barriers that prevailed and permit (even encourage/seduce) the viewer to explore why or why not a painting or an installation or a sculpture is art – or something else.
Carolee Schneemann is a multidisciplinary artist who has changed the way we see the nexus between the body, sexuality and gender. Her noted work, Interior Scroll, focuses on a naked model who reads a feminist scroll that she extracts from her vagina. The precursor for The Vagina Monologues, the work blends writing, and reading, and sex with body parts and shatters any preconceived notions of what exactly are the functions of the nooks and crannies of our bodies. At 74, the artist is considered a pioneer of feminist performance art.
Betty Tompkins has explored the uses of body parts for almost 40 years. Her photorealism depicts realistic and detailed images of penetration, masturbation and female genitalia. She tries to avoid visual cliches and in doing so has felt the financial and personal sting of being censored, declared pornographic and denied entry to Paris is 1973. She was also denied entry to Tokyo in 2005. Tompkins declared in an interview with the Brooklyn Museum, “Sometimes celebrated, sometimes hated, I neither know nor try to influence how my paintings and drawings will be received.” In 2003, the Centre Pompidou acquired Fuck Painting #1. The power and artistic merit of her work had finally found the right century and the right decade in the century for her talents to be recognized.
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt defines his turf by using kindergarten craft materials and immediately codifying them for adults only. There is nothing childlike about his work and he brings us into his NY Hell’s Kitchen 1970s scene without hesitation. Bold and brash within his genre, he was outwardly gay before it was fashionable (i.e., Stonewall), made installations before they had a defined characterization and maintains a relationship with the Catholic faith – irrespective of its prevailing attitude to art and sexual preference.
Support for the Artists
Jonathan Jones of the Guardian (April 24, 2104) finds that sex should never be whitewashed from the art world. He goes on to say that “the making of art happens not in a temple, but in the mess of real flesh-and-blood lives and loves.”
It’s a risky business, admitting to enjoying this sexually explicit show; however, It is definitely worth visiting (and perhaps coming back a second time). It may also be a good idea to bring a checkbook. The price of the works on exhibit have been escalating in value – and the fashion forward millennials, with increasingly important purchasing power and a heightened sense of what to buy now – are likely to raise the price on these works.
Aftershock: The Impact of Radical Art. Edelman Arts. www.edelmanarts.com 136 East 74th Street, NYC 10021
About Elinor Garely, PhD
Dr. Elinor Garely is the Editor in Chief of TourismExecutives.com and a Reporter with eTurboNews.com. She has extensive national and international experience as the former Marketing Manager with Playboy Clubs and Hotels and the Copacabana and its group of restaurants and clubs. Elinor was General Manager of New Development Rus Hotels (Russia), a Training Consultant with Hilton Hotels, Shanghai, PRC and Ramada Hotels in Kuantan, Malaysia. In addition to writing travel articles she is a member of the faculty of the City University of NY and Coordinator of Hotel, Travel and Tourism Management Studies at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She earned her doctorate in International Business from the University of Sarasota, Florida and her MBA (with Honors) in Marketing and International Business from New York University, Stern School of Business.