Scottsdale’s art scene encompasses the ancient to the avant-garde, from Native American to local and international contemporary art.
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Scottsdale, Ariz., and nearby Phoenix are home to major artists, renowned galleries, acclaimed museums, and architectural wonders, all of which combine to make it a first-rate art destination. The city’s creative history began with American Indian artists in the 20th century. Native art pioneer and fabric designer Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), innovative jeweler Charles Loloma (Hopi), and trailblazing painter, printmaker, and sculptor Fritz Scholder (Luiseno), among others, shaped the city’s art scene and helped make it a leader in the highly competitive Native American market. Scottsdale has also long been an important center for Western-themed art, while more recently a skyrocketing interest in contemporary art has taken hold.
Main Street is the center of the Scottsdale art world, as well as the principal thoroughfare of Old Town, the city’s historic district. Since 1976 Main Street and adjacent Marshall Way have hosted “America’s original Art Walk,” coordinated gallery open houses each Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m.
Collectors of Western and wildlife art seek out dealers with longstanding and prominent reputations, including Trailside Galleries, which has another location in Jackson, Wyo., and is celebrating 51 years in business. This month the Scottsdale gallery will feature three shows: “Coastal Connections” (February 2–15), seascapes and marine paintings by plein air artists including Matt Smith, Kathleen Dunphy, and Xiaogang Zhou; “Essence of the Human Form” (February 16–28), a four-person show of figurative work by gallery artists Michael Malm, Albin Veselka, and William Whitaker and guest artist Christina Cooper; and “Equine Elegance” (February 12–22).
Co-owner Roxanne Hofmann says, “Trailside Galleries has always specialized in offering the very best in American representational art, and clearly the market continues to be strong in this area. This is evidenced most recently by our sold-out show for Z. S. Liang,” a Chinese-born painter of historical Western subjects. Trailside is also a partner in the Jackson Hole Art Auction, dedicated to the Western and wildlife genres and held once a year in September. Last year it topped $11 million; this year the sale will take place on September 19.
The Legacy Gallery, on Main Street, specializes in contemporary representational painting and sculpture including the Western, wildlife, sporting, and landscape genres, as well as 19th and early 20th-century works by masters such as Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, and the Taos School painters. With three galleries (in Scottsdale, Jackson Hole, and a recent launch in Bozeman, Mont.), owner Brad Richardson has been satisfying collectors for 27 years. At the Scottsdale gallery this month, two shows will be on view: a two-artist exhibition of Kathy Anderson, who specializes in flower paintings, and landscapist Mark Boedges (through February 8) and “Urban Landscapes,” a group show of 13 artists including Ken Auster, Kim English, Hsin-Yao Tseng, and John Michael Carter.
Richardson is also the co-owner of Scottsdale Art Auction, which takes place each April (on the 11th of the month this year) and brings over 500 attendees to the large space above his gallery, where 12 phone lines and internet bidding bring excitement and record sales. “This year,” says Richardson, “we’ll have a handful of W.R. Leighs and Charlie Russells, Nicolai Fechin, and N.C. Wyeth. American art is part of what we do, but for the most part we’re known as more of a Western-oriented auction. We’ll have more than 350 lots.” Last year Scottsdale Art Auction sold a Remington for $920,000.
Now one of the largest galleries in Scottsdale, Bonner David Galleries provides a wide and fine selection of both traditional and contemporary art in a warm and welcoming space. Co-owner Christi Bonner Manuelito says, “Within our traditional offerings, I select artists that are timeless and classic.” Indeed, landscape painter Romona Youngquist, among the gallery’s most popular artists (and featured in February), creates beautifully rendered, richly colored rural scenes with immediate appeal. “Collectors simply fall in love with her work, which often reminds them of events or environs of their childhood,” says Manuelito. Painter Michael Carson’s enigmatic portraits have made him another gallery best-seller with savvy figurative-art collectors.
In the heart of the gallery district the newly opened Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West gives Western art lovers and history buffs a wonderful way to understand the vast and complex American West. Visitors enter the museum alongside a Maynard Dixon mural before journeying through an exhibition about Lewis and Clark by painter Charles Fritz. Throughout the museum, prints, paintings and sculpture by prominent artists including Remington, Russell, and Georgia O’Keeffe tell the mythic story of the West. Curator Tricia Loescher says, “With exhibitions constantly changing, visitors always find something new and exciting to see and experience.” Western artifacts round out the presentation, and compelling photographs by Edward S. Curtis vividly document a vanished era.
Having built a devoted following of Western contemporary art collectors in Jackson Hole, Wyo., many of whom have second homes in Scottsdale, Altamira Gallery recently opened on Main Street. Owner Mark Tarrant says that the market in Scottsdale is strong and that he is also experiencing the benefits of a strong contemporary art market in general. In February, the gallery is showing David Michael Slonim, who says, “Although my work is inspired by the natural world, my paintings are about color; they are color poems.” Also on view in February will be the landscapes and animals of Theodore Waddell and works by Tom Gilleon, who fuses representational and abstract styles.
Nearby, Gallery Russia, founded in 1992 by Scott and Paul Eubanks, showcases primarily Soviet and contemporary Russian artists. Collectors will find selections in Realism, Impressionism and contemporary art. In February Latvian-born landscapist Larisa Aukon will have her first exhibition at the gallery, and in March the featured artist will be Marci Oleszkiewicz, who paints the human figure, especially dancers.
With origins representing contemporary American Indian artists, Blue Rain Gallery opened on Main Street five years ago, building on its longstanding success in Santa Fe. “We’ve broadened our offerings to an eclectic collection of contemporary art,” says Denise Phetteplace, director of business development. “The collection is all things we love including glass, sculpture and paintings with an insistence on excellent technique and craftsmanship.”
At Expressions Gallery, sculptor Dave McGary gained acclaim for his bronze depictions of Native peoples. Celebrating 16 years on Main Street and honoring the recent passing of the revered artist, with work in the permanent collections of the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Smithsonian and the Gene Autry Museum, the gallery continues to thrive with limited-edition sculptures collected worldwide.
Dealers Betty Wilde and Mark Meyer now have three successful Arizona locations, two in Scottsdale and one in Tucson. Collectors have relied on Wilde Meyer Galleries since the early ’80s for an eclectic and often whimsical collection of fine art and decorative objects set amid Asian antiques.
Many are surprised to learn that Scottsdale, known as “The West’s Most Western Town,” began as a contemporary art town. “In the 1960s, there was only one Western art gallery in Scottsdale,” says Agnese Udinotti, a successful contemporary artist, dealer and museum founder, who opened the first gallery on Marshall Way, and will showcase her own work and the internationally acclaimed sculptures of Stephen De Staebler in February and March. De Staebler’s elegant and commanding figurative works evoke a multitude of emotions, including vulnerability, courage, and spiritual transformation.
Gebert Contemporary features many abstract painters and has been displaying the work of Arizona artists since its 2001 opening. In March, don’t miss the impressive multimedia works of John Randall Nelson, who harnesses the power of icons and folk art to create simple, yet potent paintings. Nelson, who previously did illustrations for The New York Times and Rolling Stone, says, “In my work, carefully chosen iconic images and odd juxtapositions act as archetypes.”
World-renowned gallerist Riva Yares began her thriving business showcasing the work of artists including Morris Louis, Milton Avery, and Hans Hofmann in a small gallery on Main Street in 1964, before expanding to a museum-like space at her present location not far away, on Bishop Lane. Today, she still handles the work of A-list American artists including Joan Mitchell, Jules Olitski, Esteban Vicente, and Helen Frankenthaler.
Larsen Gallery, also on Bishop Lane, well-known for consigning art for sale on the secondary market, recently launched a highly successful annual art auction, with over 700 registered bidders spanning 33 countries, according to owner Polly Larsen. The gallery is also known for showcasing Arizona-based favorites Anne Coe and Merrill Mahaffey and specializes in the artwork of Fritz Scholder, with annual shows for 21 years. Scholder will be the focus of its exhibition program in February and March.
After decades of first-rate exhibitions in Scottsdale featuring world-class artists, Lisa Sette Gallery and Bentley Gallery relocated to downtown Phoenix, becoming the cornerstone of a dynamic downtown Phoenix contemporary art scene. Within an elegantly renovated Al Beadle building, Sette, a venerable fixture in Scottsdale who for 27 years has shown sophisticated art including the work of James Turrell, Enrique Chagoya, Angela Ellsworth, and Matthew Moore, continues to set a sky-high standard. Through February, she will be exhibiting the outstanding works of Mayme Kratz, Alan Bur Johnson, and Neha Vedpathak.
Following a series of notable shows bringing top collectors to their splendid and supersized exhibition space to see the works of Richard Serra, Jun Kaneko, Dominique Blain, Jill Moser, and Jim Waid, Bentley Gallery this month showcases the bold sculpture of Santa Fe’s Jeremy Thomas, who creates large, organic-looking abstract steel sculptures, often coated in vivid color. Owner Bentley Calverley says, “With more than 20,000 square feet of space, my quip to artists is that if they can ship it, we can show it. We’ve had 16-foot Jim Dine sculptures which were never shown in the U.S. because no gallery could exhibit them, a 26-foot Schnabel painting, and major Jun Kaneko pieces which would not have been possible in Scottsdale.”
The Phoenix Art Museum holds the designation of the largest art museum in the southwestern U.S., where festivals, performances, art films and a rich educational program supplement prominent exhibitions, including the much-anticipated Pop art show: Andy Warhol: Portraits, March 4–June 21.
The internationally-acclaimed Heard Museum in Phoenix boasts a world-class collection of American Indian art and artifacts housed in a 1920s Spanish Colonial mansion. Visitors come from across the globe to attend art exhibitions, fairs and ceremonial events including the annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest, February 7–8, and Indian Fair and Market, March 7–8. Heard Museum North, a Scottsdale satellite site, offers spacious exhibition galleries and a sculpture garden.
Native American Art has always been a major draw in Scottsdale, and several galleries and traditional Indian trading posts in Scottsdale showcase the work of contemporary Native artists as well as classic artworks and artifacts. Faust Gallery, opened in 1996 by Bill Faust, nephew of the late legendary art dealer Lovena Ohl, features works by American Indian masters and emerging artists, primarily in jewelry, as well as pottery, textiles, kachinas, paintings and sculpture. The widely respected dealer John Hill of
John C. Hill Antique Indian Art displays Native treasures in a building designed by acclaimed Phoenix architect Ralph Haver. Hill‘s infatuation with Indian art began, he says, “when I secured my first job on a Navajo reservation.”
King Galleries of Scottsdale, owned by Charles King, a scholar of Native pottery, shows the work of the foremost Pueblo potters, including black-and-white designs of Acoma and black-on-black decorated pots from Santa Clara. At River Trading Post, visitors find both historic and contemporary American Indian art including Navajo weavings, pottery, Hopi kachinas and Plains beadwork. In addition to featuring American Indian art with a specialty in rugs, Knox Artifacts and David Stock Native Art offer collectors of ancient art a wide selection of Pre-Columbian, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman objects. Alston and Deborah Neal of Old Territorial Shop recently celebrated 45 years selling Indian arts. The gallery is the oldest Indian shop on Main Street.
Now in its 25th year, Celebration of Fine Art, a popular event, will have its immense white tent in north Scottsdale through March 29, creating over 100 temporary professional art studios for painters, sculptors, furniture-makers, jewelers and more. Show attendees can chat with artists, watch artists create and then, buy their work. Owner and producer Susan Potje says, “We are thrilled to be celebrating 25 years of art in the making. The quality of the art and the experience of the patron gets better each year. Many extraordinary collections are being built from art by Celebration of Fine Art artists.”
Several reputable companies offer tours of architecturally significant public and private buildings to learn how Arizona’s landscape and light are interwoven with art and design. America’s most famous architect of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright, traveled to Arizona from Wisconsin in the 1930s. Captivated by the area, he built his masterpiece, Taliesin West, at the foothills of Scottsdale’s majestic McDowell Mountains. The site draws over 125,000 visitors each year for tours of Wright’s own living quarters, theaters, studio and gardens. His desert structures echo the lines of the land and natural light serves as a key component of design. “A desert building should be nobly simple in outline as the region itself is sculptured,” Wright said.
Taliesin West and nearby Cosanti, designed by Paolo Soleri, became pilgrimage sites and attracted pioneering architects, including Will Bruder, who would live in a Soleri earth house for years and ultimately secure more than 700 commissions for residences, museums and educational centers such as the award-winning Burton Barr Phoenix Central Library. Bruder designed the minimalist and iconic Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the only museum in Arizona dedicated to modern art, design and architecture. The sculpture court features a James Turrell Skyspace, Knight Rise, with an aperture open to the sky, optimally viewed at sunrise and sunset. The Arizona-based artist is known worldwide for his Roden Crater Project, the transformation of a vast extinct northern Arizona volcano into a celestial observatory. When complete and open to the public, Roden Crater will likely be the world’s largest artwork, drawing visitors from all over the world with unique perceptual experiences.
By Amy Abrams
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