What I Buy and Why: Andrew Schoelkopf, New York Gallerist and American Art Specialist, Can’t Shake the ‘Collecting Gene’

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Andrew Schoelkopf has been immersed in American art from a young age; it was all around him growing up as the son of renowned dealer Robert Schoelkopf, an expert in the Hudson River School. Schoelkopf was all of nine years old when Walker Evans—a family friend—gave him and his brother Robert [now a quantum physicist at Yale] a cache of photographs, and he remembers being amused by the “trinkets” that assemblage artist Joseph Cornell would send to his father.

When Schoelkopf joined his father’s Madison Avenue gallery in 1989, he was already an authority on American art. But by the time he launched a gallery of his own in 2001, he was all but an oracle in the field—bolstered also by his time as director of the American painting department at Christie’s. Schoelkopf Gallery specializes in 19th- and 20th-century American art (particularly works created since 1875) and it promotes scholarship of American artists in collaboration with leading museums and artists’ estates.

The gallery is currently relocating from the Upper East Side to a larger space in Tribeca, designed by Markus Dochantschi from studioMDA. The inaugural exhibition (September 29–December 1) pays tribute to Arthur Dove, one of North America’s earliest abstract painters, with more than 70 of the artist’s works drawn from foundations and private collections across the continent.

Schoelkopf is a president emeritus of the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) and he also sits on the board of the ADAA Foundation, which distributed grants to museums, archives, and arts organizations to advance art historical research and exhibition development.

Through it all, Schoelkopf has acquired a significant collection of American art, including the contemporary variety. Here, he recounts how it all came together.

 

What was your first purchase?

The first works of art we “collected” were a small group of trinkets that the artist Joseph Cornell mailed to my father Robert Schoelkopf, who was an art dealer and was working with Joseph in the 1960s. They are amusing and very spontaneous works.

Walker Evans, <em>Sidewalk in Vicksburg, Miss. (Variant)</em> (1936). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

Walker Evans, (1936). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

The next work was a lovely photograph by Walker Evans, which was a gift from Walker to me when I was about nine years old and remains a treasured object. My brother and I own many works by Walker Evans because my father was a chief proponent of fine art photographs in general and Evans in particular.

Anish Kapoor and Rolph Scarlett in Andrew Schoelkopf's home. Courtesy of the collector.

Works by Anish Kapoor, left, and Rolph Scarlett in Schoelkopf’s home. Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

What was your most recent purchase?

My wife, Grace, and I bought a suite of works on paper by Anish Kapoor at Frieze London in late 2022. We adore Kapoor’s work in all media and think he is a genius.

Tell us about a favorite work in your collection.

My favorite artwork is a John Marin watercolor from 1939, which we acquired from our friend Lisa Marin, the artist’s granddaughter. A primary passion for us as collectors is works on paper—particularly those of the first half of the 20th century. I love the immediacy and elegance of this watercolor of Maine—the pigment is fresh and varied. During this period of his career, Marin was so accomplished as a watercolorist that it reads in a very jazzy and free way.

A work by John Marin, 1937. Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

John Marin, (1939). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

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

I love the American Precisionists, despite their rarity, and I would love to own an important work by Charles Sheeler. Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keeffe are other favorites. I am totally priced out of the market at this point—the Hartley I would want to live with is $20 million plus, and the O’Keeffe more. So, I missed checking that off the list. I am also a huge fan of John Frederick Kensett and love his late work from around 1870, and I love the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and on and on and on.

Arthur Dove, <em>March, April</em> (1929). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

Arthur Dove, (1929). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

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

There are many worth a fair amount, but I never think about what the works we collect or live with at home are worth. That is a slippery slope for a dealer and it is better to wall off the value from the enjoyment. That, of course, will probably serve our children well.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

If Grace and I buy something together, it is usually when we are on a busman’s holiday checking out an art fair. I am afflicted with the collecting gene, as my friend and retired partner Susan Menconi used to say—so I would buy 10 things a day if I had the resources.

Richard Estes, <em>EAT</em> (2022). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

Richard Estes, (2022). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

There are a few, but I still enjoy owning them.

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

Above our sofa in the family room is a gorgeous work on paper by Tara Donovan. I love her work across media, particularly the sculptural works. I hope to be able to live with one sometime as I enjoy and am attracted to her work every time I see it. We don’t hang important works In the bathrooms, but I love the Jeffrey Milstein photograph that hangs in our powder room.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

It’s hard to say what might make a work of art impractical, as we don’t own anything huge or otherwise cumbersome. We do own some 19th-century photographs that we keep in cases and don’t enjoy frequently because we are concerned about keeping them safe from sunlight. It is harder to store and enjoy those, of course, but it is still possible and practical, I suppose.

Marsden Hartley, <em>Autumn Cascade</em> (ca. 1910). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

Marsden Hartley, (ca. 1910). Courtesy of Andrew Schoelkopf.

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

Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and O’Keeffe, among a great many others.

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

by Charles Willson Peale. It is a masterpiece and really says a lot about the artists and art dealers of yesterday and today. I adore that picture and the whimsy of it, even though it was painted in 1822.

PS: I am obsessed by Walton Ford and would love to own a large watercolor!

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