By Nicosia Smith
Believe it or not.
It is not only for business meetings, silverware or designer clothing that the crème de la crème goes to Madison Avenue.
Beyond the retail blitz and high-end café establishments, tucked away in town houses are Madison’s galleries. Some permanent and others a passing exhibit, for a day or two.
Sometimes, you are alerted to them in a New York Times cluster advertisement. Or it may simply be a sign on the sidewalk.
Like the sign outside the 1016 Madison Avenue town house last month; boldly announcing an African and Oceanic art exhibit.
As you peered through the glass doors at 1016 Madison Avenue, a curious look of – ‘I want to get in,’ led to a ‘buzzzzz’ – and an unlocked door.
True to the poster on the sidewalk – amid tall potted green plants and under just bright enough lights, walking into the foyer you come face to face with: carved masks, headrests, figures, pottery, weapons, seats and textiles. Ancient art from New Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Congo and Guinea-Bissau lining the walls, sitting on metal stands or were encased in glass showcases. The detailed and intricate works mesmerized and spiked the curiosity.
The art work grabs you in. While the welcoming faces and eager eyes of the organizers and exhibitors, bid you to go further in and up, that is, to the second floor. And we did just that, the executives and passersby alike.
In this multifaceted art environment, one still felt connected to the single theme, which lend itself to an easy flow.
Stretched out in his chair and at times hunched over a computer is co- organizer Amyas Naegele, of Amyas Naegele Fine Art Bases Ltd. An art restorer and private collector, he is among the over ten exhibitors at this Madison town house.
Naegele reference the scene to a coming together of, “What we call like-minded dealers…whose work, whose collections complement each other.” We wanted to be able to exhibit art from the Americas, Africa and Oceana – non-European ethnic art, Naegele said. Currently there are no members exhibiting pre-Columbian art or ancient American art. “Maybe someone will come along showing pre-Columbian art in the future,” he says.
These dealers last year became MATA, Madison Ancient and Tribal Art, but they have not developed to the point where there is a solid membership. MATA’s dealers include private collectors buying over several months, or others with weekly clientage looking for and trading art or have fulltime jobs.
In the upper and lower floors of the town house, these exhibitors were verbal encyclopedias, telling the background stories behind the pieces.
Holding up a wooden miniature doll towards the light, with an examiners’ eye, one exhibitor exclaimed, “Isn’t she beautiful,” as if confirming a known fact.
Looking at the miniature wooden fertility doll with piercings on her chest, face and back that resembled a cross, which I was told was not and protruding naked breast, you may not know what to think. Solution, ask. And since the exhibitors were so familiar with their pieces background information was plentiful. The one on one conversation with the exhibitors added an extra meaningfulness to the art displayed.
“This is our third session here. And this is the first time we have done a show in the autumn but we will see how it goes.”
So next May, at 1016 Madison Avenue, take a journey through ancient Africa with MATA.