Sanford L. Smith, Creator of Prestigious Art Fairs, Dies at 84

Sanford L. Smith, Creator of Prestigious Art Fairs, Dies at 84

Sanford L. Smith, an artwork lover and entrepreneur who created a few of New York’s most prestigious artwork and design festivals, producing thousands and thousands of {dollars} in gross sales and drawing consideration to beforehand ignored areas of artwork, died on Saturday at a senior residing facility in Manhattan. He was 84.

The trigger was congestive coronary heart failure, his spouse, Jill Bokor, stated.

Mr. Smith didn’t invent the artwork truthful, however he made his occasions important stops for each patrons and sellers. Owners of some Lower Manhattan galleries would spend tens of 1000’s of {dollars} to maneuver their wares just a few miles north to the Park Avenue Armory, the place lots of Mr. Smith’s exhibits have been held.

Evan Snyderman, an proprietor of R & Company, a TriBeCa design gallery, stated that at Salon Art + Design, certainly one of Mr. Smith’s festivals, “we all the time reconnect with purchasers that we don’t see somewhere else — together with New Yorkers who by no means come downtown.”

Some sellers reported promoting extra artwork in a protracted weekend at a Sanford Smith truthful than in an entire 12 months at their very own galleries.

During his years in what he known as “present enterprise,” Mr. Smith ran greater than 150 festivals, together with the Fall Antiques Show, Modernism and the Outsider Art Fair. They have been well-liked (in a number of instances attracting some 10,000 guests over a three- or four-day weekend) in addition to vital successes. The Times known as his 2012 Salon “a museum within the making.”

Asked to explain his profession in a 2022 interview for this obituary, Mr. Smith stated, “I stuffed holes.” What he meant was that he discovered gaps in between what different artwork festivals provided, and created new occasions to satisfy these wants.

The Fall Antiques Show, which he based in 1979, was the primary such truthful targeted on American antiques. Then, upon seeing the curiosity in work by self-taught artists at that present, he created the Outsider Art Fair within the early Nineties.

“In the New York City artwork and design worlds, Sandy was a one-man establishment,” Paul Donzella, a Manhattan supplier in twentieth century lighting and furnishings, stated in a 2022 interview.

“He confirmed unimaginable imaginative and prescient at a time when the entire festivals have been the identical outdated factor,” he added. “Modern design, outsider artwork, works on paper — nobody was shining a light-weight on these classes when Sandy took huge dangers on them.”

In his heyday, Mr. Smith produced as many as 11 festivals a 12 months, generally two on the identical weekend. He organized exhibits in Boston; Philadelphia; Princeton, N.J.; and Chicago, along with New York, which, he stated, was “the place the cash was.”

Some of his festivals proceed greater than 30 years after he based them, together with just a few that he offered to different firms.

How a lot cash modified palms at his exhibits? Mr. Smith couldn’t say, as a result of sellers, who rented cubicles for a flat payment, didn’t report their gross sales. But the numbers would in all probability be astronomical. “In principle, an artwork present can promote a portray for $100 million,” he stated.

What he did know, he stated, is that “lots of people made some huge cash at my festivals.” Those individuals included Mr. Smith, who along with amassing lease from sellers offered tickets to his exhibits for as a lot as $35 a day.

For a few years, he lived in a big brownstone on West 88th Street stuffed with work by such American modernists as Charles E. Burchfield and George Bellows and furnishings by George Nakashima, Charlotte Perriand, Paul Evans, Alvar Aalto and Josef Albers, amongst others.

The brownstone additionally housed collections of vintage climate vanes, toy troopers and late nineteenth century Austrian bronze figures of American Indians, three of the classes Mr. Smith stated he “binged on.” His bingeing generally made him cash, too.

Over the years he offered his collections of American pewter, American spongeware and works by George Ohr, who was referred to as the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” to collectors. Why promote? “The enjoyable,” he stated, “was within the hunt.”

Sanford Louis Smith was born in Brooklyn on July 22, 1939, the primary of two sons of Irving and Rhoda (Levinson) Smith. His mom was a homemaker and his father (born Israel Smith) ran the Zion Memorial Funeral Home on Canal Street.

Mr. Smith started amassing as a baby, first accumulating baseball playing cards and comedian books. He majored in economics on the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, then acquired a grasp’s diploma in communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He was provided a job by Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. But, he recalled: “My father provided me extra money, plus a automobile, to return into the household enterprise. And I obtained to remain in New York. So I took him up on it.” By that point he had married Patricia Lynch, whom he met in faculty. The couple had three sons.

After their father died, he and his brother continued to function the funeral enterprise.

“I used to be by no means a mortician,” Mr. Smith stated. “I did the numbers. But I used to be bored out of my thoughts.” Why? The funeral enterprise, he wrote in an unpublished memoir, “is for lazy individuals. You can’t exit and solicit somebody to die.”

So he discovered one other outlet for his love of enterprise. On his off hours he combed vintage retailers in Greenwich Village, and he turned weekend visits to his in-laws in Connecticut into purchasing expeditions. What couldn’t match into his in-laws’ storage or the basement of the funeral dwelling, he and his spouse offered at a flea market at West twenty sixth Street and Sixth Avenue.

He informed The Times in 2019 that in these days — the Sixties — renting a flea market stall value $15. “The first time we did it, we made $50 internet. I stated, ‘This is for me.’”

During these years he additionally wrote books about painters he admired and made Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewellery that he offered out of the funeral dwelling. At one level he had an artwork gallery on Madison Avenue. Later he started promoting Viennese bronze animals, film foyer playing cards and painted nation furnishings at artwork festivals. (In these days, festivals have been typically held at Madison Square Garden or within the New York Coliseum.)

Eventually he determined he may run a greater truthful. “I noticed that the managers weren’t caring for their exhibitors. As quickly as they obtained the gate” — that means the ticket income — “they ran.” Mr. Smith had concepts for enhancements: offering free coffee to everybody working on the truthful, and hiring sufficient individuals to deal with sellers’ complaints promptly.

Over the years Mr. Smith raised thousands and thousands of {dollars} for charities by permitting them to sponsor gala previews of his exhibits.

He created his first truthful, the Fall Antiques Show, in 1979. “I ran it out of the funeral dwelling,” he recalled. That present ran for 21 years.

Modernism got here alongside in 1985 and lasted till 2010. In 2011 it was changed by the Pavilion of Art & Design. But Mr. Smith had a nasty public feud with Patrick Perrin, the founding father of the unique Pavilion, which was in Paris. According to The New York Observer, every man circulated a letter through the truthful’s run, asking that collaborating sellers promise by no means once more to work with the opposite.

The following 12 months, Mr. Smith changed Pavilion together with his personal creation, Salon Art + Design (which, per its identify, was one of many few festivals to combine artwork and utilitarian objects). He employed Jill Bokor, a former design journal writer who had change into his spouse after Ms. Lynch died, as Salon’s govt director.

In addition to Ms. Bokor, he’s survived by 4 sons: Colin, Jared, and Ian, from his first marriage, and Luc Bokor-Smith; and 5 grandchildren.

His different festivals included Works on Paper, now known as Art on Paper; the National Black Fine Art Show; the Aipad (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) Photography Show; the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair; the Art Dealers Association of America Art Show; the Philadelphia Antiques Show; the New Jersey Antiques Show; the International Fine Print Dealers Association Print Fair, and the Chicago Art + Antiques Show, now known as The Chicago Show: Antiques & Art & Modern.

“Every truthful I’ve ever carried out has been worthwhile, from Day 1, ” Mr. Smith stated in 2022. But his success was extra than simply monetary. “I give him quite a lot of credit score,” Mr. Donzella stated, “for creating these festivals and for staying related for thus lengthy.”


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