FRANK BERNARDUCCI OPENS A GALLERY IN CHELSEA
Frank Bernarducci began his career as an art dealer, following in his father's footsteps. Frank Bernarducci Sr., a painter and student of the Hans Hofmann School of Art, was a founding member of the Phoenix Gallery, which was established in 1958 at the height of the abstract expressionist movement. In 1984, Frank Jr. opened the Frank Bernarducci Gallery across the street from Andy Warhol’s Union Square factory, exhibiting such artists as David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong, Daze, Rick Prol, Futura, Ronnie Cutrone, Rammelzee, and Keith Haring. He exhibited work not only in the gallery setting, but at nightclubs as well, including Steve Rubell’s and Ian Schrager’s Palladium.
As his program evolved, Bernarducci began to exhibit more contemporary realism. He mounted solo shows by Stephen Hannock and Robert Terry, as well as survey exhibitions that included work by prominent realists such as Martha Diamond, Jane Freilicher, and Craig Mcpherson. In the late 1980s, Bernarducci moved the operation to Broadway and Prince Street in Soho, where he continued showing primarily emerging artists. Throughout the 1990s Bernarducci worked as director of two important realist galleries – Tastischeff and Co. and Fischbach Gallery, both on 57th street. There he represented the paintings of Jane Wilson, Leigh Behnke, Lois Dodd and many others. In 2000 Bernarducci opened Bernarducci Meisel Gallery with Louis Meisel, where they worked to establish and elevate the careers of numerous photorealist artists, placing these works in important public and private collections.
Bernarducci Gallery is Frank Bernarducci’s new project, located in Chelsea. I visited its first stage, Bernarducci Gallery Chelsea, a temporary space on 20th St., where I spoke with Bernarducci about his career and plans.
Leaving 57th Street
DM: What are your reasons for moving from the 57th Street space to Chelsea?
FB: First of all, there is the ever-changing real estate market in New York. Did you notice next to my gallery on 57th St. there’s a giant vacant lot, where there used to be four buildings, including Rizzoli? Across the street are four buildings that are now empty. One of them was full of galleries. Those are being demolished. Those galleries were forced to vacate. The Crown Building, on the corner, was sold. The galleries were evicted, and they’re becoming condominiums rather than offices. Now, 724 5th Avenue was also a gallery building. It kind of still is, but Tibor [de Nagy Gallery] moved out of there. His rent just got too unmanageable. Also, they’re directly facing the Trump Tower, so you have a constant security issue. Their people cannot enter the building very easily. So people are fleeing out of there, the galleries are leaving. Pace is building their new Kunsthall on 25th Street. That won’t be done for a while, but they will soon be gone [from 57th St.]. That leaves Marian Goodman, Marlborough, Mary Boone, I don’t know what her plans are. It’s very few galleries left, and I don’t want to be the last man standing. So here I am. That’s one thing.
The second thing is I have an opportunity to be in a very high-profile ground floor space for a lot less money than I was paying on 57th St. I don’t want to reveal what that is yet, because I don’t have the signed lease, so let’s just say that it’ll be really good for the gallery and the artists to be in this location. Moving on. As far as 57th St., the rents just got too high. They don’t call it Billionaire’s Row for nothing.
Our last show opened last night [September 7th, 2017] and at the end of the month we will be closing our doors. Lou [Meisel] will remain in Soho, primarily with artists he has been representing for many years, the classic photorealists. I will be showing something called Precisionism.
FB: Precisionism is a lot of younger painters who are doing things which are, I think, new and different. A majority of the Bernarducci Meisel artists, about 80% of them, will be showing with me down here, plus some new surprises. I’m pretty psyched, I have to say.
DM: Tell me a bit about the unifying artistic elements in Precisionist work, and what’s exciting for you about that.
FB: I would say there are primarily two influences: pop art, and photorealism. So there’s a really tight technique, but it’s not just really technical. I like there to be some kind of bold look to the work.
DM: A sense of graphic design at a distance?
FB: Yes, fairly graphic. Not too postery. I feel like there’s a certain idealization of what’s being depicted. “Yes, this is a wolf,” or “yes, that’s a burger,” but it’s brought to a kind of iconic status. That’s what I’m hoping for. Even this, to me, is a very meditative picture. It’s an ocean view by Antonio Cazorla. He’s from Spain and lives in the south of Spain. It’s a highly detailed painting of the ocean. Rather undisturbed. It’s not a Homer, it’s not a Turner, there are no crashing waves on the rocks. It’s not still either, there’s a little bit of turbulence, but there’s something very meditative about it. Going out to the horizon, and there’s nothing out there. It’s almost an abstraction. I just feel like it’s a really profound painting.
DM: Is this centered and spiritual quality key to your definition of the kind of work that you’re showing?
FB: Yes, very much so. Ester [Curini], for example, did a whole series on wolves that are endangered. She’s not a portrait painter of animals. She has really deep concern for these endangered wolves and wanted to do her part to somehow make a statement that they’re in trouble, their habitat is being destroyed, they have nowhere to run, to live. What’s going on in the world is doubly upsetting to her – hurricanes, fire –and it keeps her up at night. So that’s what motivates her.
The Temporary Chelsea Space
DM: Is this a formal group show, or have you just installed some work that you had on hand?
FB: I had a whole inventory, hundreds of paintings, and this is what I chose. We do a little bit of resale. It’s not really what I do, it’s not my focus, but we do some. If clients have pictures they are interested in selling, we’ll take them on consignment, but it’s not our focus. It’s really my artists who are working and painting. The paintings I hung were good examples of the direction that we’re going.
DM: I really like the Lee Price painting.
FB: She is a phenomenal artist and I think her new new work, which is wallpaper… she’s out of the tub, her clothes are on, they’re designed by her, and the wallpaper, I’m pretty sure, is antique wallpaper, and the clothing and the wallpaper are as one. And again, she’s often eating in the picture. You can see them on Instagram [@leepricestudio]. They’re just incredible pictures, and I’m looking forward to doing a show down the road.
The Vision Going Forward
FB: I’m in this for the artists. I believe in what they’re doing. The type of personality… This guy [Park Hyung Jin] lives in Korea, he has virtually no money. He teaches, I think, one day a week. I don’t know how he pays his bills. And yet he’s able to focus and do this. He makes these exquisite paintings. They’re not for everyone, but I feel like they deserve more exposure. And it wasn’t happening on 57th St. So here we are.
DM: So by relocating, it’s not just a question of relative real estate values, but also moving your vision into closer proximity to the art scene in general?
FB: Yes. I want to be more visible. We’re going to be doing PULSE [Contemporary Art Fair] this year for the first time, which is a different kind of fair than we’ve been doing. Art Miami, I felt, is becoming too large. I wanted to be with some younger dealers, different kinds of dealers, so that’s it.
DM: Congratulations on the space. This is a solo project, right?
FB: Yes. I’m calling it Bernarducci Gallery Chelsea. I have some younger artists I want to show who are making work that makes me a little uncomfortable actually. And I’d like to do some more things with the Academy [New York Academy of Art]. So I’m going both ways. I want to show what I’ve been showing, and I want to show more traditional academic work, and I also want to show more experimental work. I don’t know exactly where I’m going to land with all of this, but that’s what I’m doing. That’s my plan.