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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jim Levis on Beauford Delaney: Internal Light

Jim Levis of Levis Fine Art is the driving force behind the hugely successful opening of Beauford Delaney: Internal Light – the first one-man show of Beauford’s work since the Minneapolis Institute of Art exposition Beauford Delaney from New York to Paris in 2004-2005. A specialist in the art of mid-century modernists, Levis represents the estates of artists of this era who, as innovators are deserving of a serious second look. His clients include the estates of Elaine de Kooning, Budd Hopkins, Maurice Golubov, Walter Plate and now, Beauford Delaney.

Beauford Delaney: Internal Light
Levis Fine Art
Image courtesy of Levis Fine Art

Levis has shown Beauford’s work at his gallery since 2006, when he was offered the opportunity to take four paintings on consignment. He says that Beauford’s œuvre, whether figurative or abstract, engages him and others who view it:

Great art resonates with one’s soul. The way Beauford uses color to capture and reflect light makes his paintings, regardless of palette or subject, enervating. Beauford’s art speaks to me in a profound way and its impact is universal. His paintings echo an energy that was his salvation and when it was beyond his brush, and his reality he struggled terribly until he was able to reconnect with his internal light.

Beauford’s life story adds a huge amount of context and makes interacting with the image more meaningful. He was born into a world where one’s imagination was the key to salvation as his family struggled emotionally, physically and financially. One of 12 siblings, only 4 lived to be adults; one of whom was his treasured brother Joseph, a fellow artist and confident. Beauford also forged relationships with many who were in the arts as well as patrons, including James Baldwin, Larry Calcagno, James Jones, Ahmed Bioud, Henry Miller, Bernard Hassel, Al Hirschfield, Alfred Stieglitz and others. Many of these individuals were not only life long friends and supporters but sitters for his portraits.

According to Levis, roughly 500 people attended the opening and he noted with pleasure that they showed genuine interest in Beauford’s work. Despite the social nature of the occasion, people spent a considerable amount of time looking at the paintings and significant sales were made.

Beyond the “revenue metric,” Levis notes that the “awareness factor” for Beauford’s work seems to be truly blossoming. Several people who attended the May 9th opening and who had never seen more than a few Delaneys in the past have already come back to the gallery for a more in depth viewing. Based on the outpouring of congratulations on the show, Levis is considering organizing follow-up events for focused collectors, scholars, and museums.

Over 30 paintings are currently being exhibited, mostly from the Paris Period between1953-1972 with others in reserve. They have a “pristine provenance” in terms of authenticity and ownership and have been certified by the estate. Beauford Delaney: Internal Light features a mix of abstract and figurative works, with the ratio of the two being roughly 3-to-1. As this is the first of a series of planned expositions, subsequent shows may have a different mix.

Because there was no organized transition plan for Beauford’s work when he died in 1979, many of his paintings were lost, misplaced, mishandled, or misappropriated over the next 25 years. Over the past 6 years, Levis has recommended resources to the estate to aid in their recovery, photography, cataloguing, data-basing, additional scholarship and publication. His reputation of serving other artist’s estates earned him the trust of the Estate Administrator, Derek L. Spratley. Beginning, 2 years ago, the first few paintings were sold for several times the high auction record to serious collectors. Based upon his performance, Levis Fine Art has been selected as Official Representative of the estate, a responsibility that Levis takes quite seriously and acknowledges as a milestone for his firm.

One of Levis’ additional responsibilities is to review and selectively catalog letters from of a treasure trove of Beauford’s “papers” that are held by the estate, independent of the documents held by the Schomburg Center in New York. The estate’s collection of documents provides interesting insights for future scholarship.

While other galleries sell Beauford’s work, Levis Fine Art is currently the only gallery authorized to sell paintings on behalf of Beauford’s estate.

Beauford Delaney: Internal Light will run through June 15, 2013.

Levis Fine Art
514 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011
(646) 620-5000
Contact: James Levis

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