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13th ARC Salon | David Molesky

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13th ARC Salon

by David Molesky


Before it opened to the public, I was invited to view the 13th Art Renewal Center (ARC) Salon competition exhibited at the historic Salmagundi Club on a mansion-lined block of 5th Avenue. Pushing through the double doors, I passed the stairs that lead up to the club library and down to the dining room salon and pool hall, and walked straight back into the newly retrofitted gallery space. I was greeted by Kara Lysandra Ross, Co-Chair and Chief Operating Officer of the ARC. In between giving directions to her crew as they hurried to finish the install before the opening, Kara found time to chat with me about the exhibition, its history, and the process.

The ARC was founded in 1999 by Kara’s father Fred Ross, an historian of 19th Century Art, especially William Bouguereau, for whom he co-authored the catalogue raisonné. Ross, who originally made his fortune in food production, recognized that many painters working today were following in the footsteps of Bouguereau and other masters from the 19th century.


This contemporary art that employs classical motifs and traditional technique as a medium of storytelling was in need of a home, especially since most museums and universities persist as strongholds of Greenbergian modernism. Fred Ross recognized our era’s Renaissance-like resurgence and created the ARC to act as a Medici-like support system.

The ARC has become its own acronym—a self-floating 501C non-profit educational foundation and safe haven for contemporary representational painting and sculpture. Acceptance to ARC Salon is managed by a jury panel, all experts in historical scholarship and contemporary practitioners of skilled representational painting and sculpture.

The International ARC Salon Competition began in 2004 and has become possibly the most prestigious competition of its kind in the Americas. It offers over $100,000 in cash awards, as well as international recognition through partnerships with prestigious magazines and galleries, museum exhibitions, and a strong online presence. The competition has been a major catalyst for recognition of many of the biggest names in representational painting.


The 13th ARC Salon is the third competition that is accompanied by an exhibition of select finalists. The exhibition component of ARC was started by Kara, who has been involved with the foundation since she was 10 years old and is the Chief Organizer of the exhibition. In addition to designing the layout of the ARC Salon exhibition and the accompanying catalog containing just over a thousand finalists, she also runs the DaVinci Initiative, an organization that helps introduce 19th-century atelier training into high schools. She is also a scholar working in this field and recently completed a catalogue raisonné on the work of William Bouguereau, The Essential Works of William Bouguereau.

The 15-member jury panel for the 13th ARC Salon was divided so that the nine different entry categories were each judged by four different jurors. This year, the ARC selected 89 works from around 3800 entries from 69 countries. Amazing talent from remote parts of the world, names we’ve never seen before, come out of the woodwork to take part in this opportunity.

The exhibition at Salmagundi was spread out through the main gallery and parlor. I noticed several works by members of PoetsArtists, including Brianna Lee’s drawing of a young woman in profile and Teresa Elliott’s painting of a woman caked in mud. Most of the work seemed smooth and refined—a product of methodical approaches without much in the way of expressive gestural paint, but there were some exceptions, including TJ Cunningham’s Bartlett Falls (that Kara has threatened to purchase) and The William Bouguereau Award-winning painting Woman in the Forest by Katsu Nakajima, which had an incredible textural build up of paint in the background foliage.


One work that I was surprised to see in the exhibition was Gerald Brom’s super creepy painting The Night Mare, which took first prize in the Imaginative Realism category.¹ I associate the ARC Salon with works in family with the sweet sentimentality of Bouguereau and the like. Brom’s work is something I would more likely expect to see at Comic Con or one of the Dark Art Gallery venues. I was happy to see the diversity.

Gerald Brom | The Night Mare


Here are the first place award winners for the rest of the categories:

Figurative: Lauren Tilden | Jairus’ Daughter

Portraiture: Jie Cai | Flower Language

Landscape: Joseph McGurl | Light, Sea, Earth and Sky

Animals: Julie Bell | Speak Softly

Sculpture: Benjamin Victor | The Angel

Drawing: Yoann Lossel | The Rise

Still Life: Alejandro Rosemberg | Samara Series – Vanitas II

The Da Vinci Initiative Award for the Young Aspiring Artist: Iris Liu (17 y/o) | Her Familiars


Other notable occurrences at the 13th ARC was that the Best in Show winner, In Bvlag by Ming Yu of China, was missing and in its place was a placard explaining that the painting had been stolen. I was concerned when I saw this and thought for a second that the painting might have been lifted from the club, but apparently, Ming’s ex-wife ran off with the work and several other of his best pieces. Definitely a first for the ARC and for me to see as well. That hiccup aside, the show was full of exciting positivity. As part of the ARC purchase awards, the ARC bought several works totaling $118,000, including a beautiful color pencil piece by Tanja Gant. In addition to the works acquired by ARC, three works sold from the exhibition before it opened and Kara purchased Adrienne Stein’s May, which features a beautiful minty palette with juicy brushstrokes describing the background foliage. There were many red dots on the wall. ARC takes 40% commission on sales and all of the proceeds go back into putting on the exhibition and helping it travel.


Ming Yu | In Bvlag

Adrienne Stein | May

Tanja Gant | 1992


The exhibition at the Salmagundi Club at 47 5th Avenue came down October 2nd. All 89 pieces (or 88 with one missing) will travel and be re-installed in two more destinations. But before the exhibition’s next stop, seven works will travel to San Diego and will be displayed on October 12th with fashion design inspired by the paintings. Also, several of the artists showing at the 13th ARC Salon have been curated into ARC Select: Modern Muses, an exhibition that will open at Rehs Gallery in midtown October 27th.

The Art Renewal Center has also developed a partnership with Sotheby’s, which will host the entire exhibition at their Los Angeles location from December 4—13, 2018. The final stop for the live exhibition will be at the MEAM Museum from February 8—March 31, 2019 with the ARC Award Ceremony and Opening Ceremony on February 8th, 2018.

The ARC salon is now held every 15 months, and while the 13th Salon is touring, the 14th Salon will be accepting submissions beginning Dec 1st through March 15th. For this 14th ARC Salon, a 10th category will be introduced for works created fully from life without the help of photographic references.

To learn more about the exhibition, visit www.artrenewal.org/13thARCSalon/Home/Exhibition

To learn more about the Art Renewal Center, visit artrenewal.org

  1. I have a little trouble with the title of this category as the two words are diametrically opposed and together are oxymoronic. I am happy that Brom’s The Night Mare is not part of reality. Realism we must remember was a concept that was founded by Gustave Courbet in reaction to the imagined Orientalism of the 19th Century Salon painters. He established the concept of Realism to portray the everyday reality.

Kara Lysandra Ross | ARC Co-Chairman and Chief Operating Officer | Founder

Fred Ross | ARC Chairman | Founder