Professor Wendy Bellion recently organized a two-day intensive field study in New York City on "The Commerce of American Art" for a half-dozen graduate students studying American art history. Designed around the annual "Americana week" of auctions and exhibitions, the program introduced students to central aspects of the American fine arts trade. Thanks to the generous support of the Department of Art History, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Sewell C. Biggs Chair in American Art History, the field study also connected participants with University of Delaware alumni and their professional networks in the field.
The group spent two mornings with Ph.D. candidate Cara Zimmerman, Vice President and Specialist in Folk and Outsider Art at Christie's, learning how she built the auction house's secondary market for Outsider and Vernacular Art. They then toured the American sculpture collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with UD alumna Thayer Tolles (M.A. 1990), the museum's Marica F. Vilcek Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, who shared how she's helped build that collection since becoming its curator in the early 1990s. That evening they visited another UD alumna, Carol A. Nigro (M.A. 1997, Ph.D. 2009), at the gallery she runs with her partner, Charles Isaacs Photographs, where Carol recounted her own path to the private market for photography and shared historical photographs from their collection.
On their second day, the group attended Christie’s Outsider Art auction and visited the showroom of Godel & Co., where the gallery's director Katherine Baumgartner and UD alumna Anna O. Marley (Ph.D. 2009), who is the curator of historical American art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, discussed how dealers and curators work together on museum acquisitions and exhibitions. That afternoon the group attended The Winter Show, an annual art and design fair held at the Park Avenue Armory, and met with Eric Baumgartner, Director of American Paintings and Sculpture at Hirschl & Adler Galleries, who shared his experience in the world of commercial galleries and toured the group through the gallery's booth of paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts. This inaugural field study maximized the University's strong alumni and professional connections, and helped develop networks for graduate students for their research and careers in the field.