Thewell-known Sidney Janis Gallery first opened its doors to the publicin 1948, and has over the decades, become a guiding light for some ofNew York`s most avant-garde artists. The gallery was incepted bySidney Janis, along with his wife Harriet, who expeditiouslyestablished the reputation of the gallery by curating some of thegreatest exhibitions by internationally celebrated artists. Mr. Janiswas born on the 8th of July, 1896 in Buffalo. When he finishedschool, Sidney Janis toured the U.S. Navy as a mechanist during WorldWar I, where he went to work for his brother who apparently owned ashoe store. On his business trips to New York, Janis began collectingart galleries. It is in New York that Janis met with Harriet Grossmanin 1925 and they got married the same year. During this time, NewYork had a handful of galleries that offered anything in contemporaryart, making avant-garde art solely an intellectual property ofParis1.
Notlong after settling in New York, Janis and Harriet opened and ran asuccessful shirt business by the name M`Lord. Their company`s soleproduct was a shirt with breast pockets that gained popularity in theSouth. However, Janis was soon to devote the best of his time to hisbudding interest for art collection. As the shirt business gainedprosperity, the Janis`s began taking annual trips to museums inParis. This is how the Janis’s began their collection of fine art.It is on these trips that Sidney Janis met some of the greatestartists like Picasso, Mondrian, and Bracusi2.By the early 30`s, Sidney and Janis had already begun acquiring andcollecting an extraordinary collection of these artists` works ofart. In 1934, Janis`s interest in folk art was fuelled by a paintinghe purchased in 1934 "The Dream", by Rousseau.
Thispiece aroused Janis`s interests in primitive and novice painters. Bylate 1934, Sidney Janis became a board member of the Advisory Boardat The Museum of Modern Art. Among some of those artists Janis foundand gave shows to included Morris Hirshfield and Patrick Sullivan,both of whom were initially employed but had a passion for painting.By 1940`s, the Janis`s came to know most of the European artists inexile in the U.S., among them Max Ernst, Roberto Matta, Mondrian andLeger Fernand3.Becoming more interested in Surrealism, Janis helped organize aninternational show by the name "First Papers of Surrealism",Fernand Leger being the first person to perform in the show.
BySeptember 1948, the Sidney Janis Gallery opened its doors to thepublic, with an exhibition of Leger Fernand. In the following months,the Janis Gallery exhibited a remarkable number of shows, includingPiet Mondrian, Early Leger, Henri Rousseau and International Dada4.Mr. Janis, as an art dealer, earned the reputation of a trendsetterand a taste-maker. His contributions to the development of pop artartists like Marisol, Georde Segal, and Tom Wesselmann are highlyesteemed. In 1986, Mr. Janis retired from the gallery after which hebecame a pro-active tennis participant until his late 80`s. Thegallery is under the management of his sons. Harriet died in 19635.
Realizingthat he had to market his newly established artists and their uniquestyles, Janis had to look for ways and means of selling his artists.Therefore, Janis decided to use the "public shows platform"as a marketing strategy6.For instance, as initially indicated, Janis presented the concept ofSurrealism by organizing an international show, introducing FernandLeger as the first performer in the show. In addition to this, in1952, Janis gave Jackson Pollock the first of three solo shows toinaugurate the cultural dominance of Abstract Expressionism. Janiswas using these platforms to reach out to his audience who happenedto be the general public7.His marketing strategies influenced many people, including thoseinterested in painting but had no means of launching their passions.Janis managed to send successfully trends, an actual manifestation ofthe fact that his marketing techniques were on point.
Duringhis lifetime, Janis was bent on supporting creativity and art whilecreating a platform for the exposure of novice and primitive artists,albeit they had not reaped the fruits of adoration and attention ofthe public. He carefully constructed and created his artists usingvarious promotional techniques. One of Janis`s promotional strategieswas cubism, an early 20th-century avant-garde art association thatrevolutionized European sculpture and painting8.Cubism is considered to be the most influential movement of art inthe 20th century, often associated with a variety of art emanatingfrom Paris. In a work of art that utilizes cubism, objects are brokenup, analyzed and assembled in an abstract form. Many art historiansregard cubism as the starting point for all the diverse artmovements9.Janis`s frequent museum expeditions to Paris led to his acquaintancewith some of the greatest pioneers of Cubism, and subsequently hisacquiring of their works of art. Janis`s collection has the works ofartists like Pablo Picasso, Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, FernandLeger and Juan Gris10.
During1940`s, there were so many European artists in exile in the U.S.,among them Roberto Matta, Max Ernst, Mondrian and Fernand Leger11.As a consequence of his passion for art and painting, Janisbefriended most of these Surrealist artists, ending with hisacquisition of their works of art. Developing more interest inSurrealism, Janis helped organize an international Surrealist show bythe name "First Papers of Realism". Sidney also dedicatedhis time and wrote books about surrealism12.Therefore, Sidney Janis also used Surrealism to publicize hissurrealist artists. The third strategy Sidney Janis used to promoteartists was abstract expressionism. Although Sidney Janis was not thefirst painting dealer to exhibit the Abstract Expressionist artists,he was involved with them. In 1950, Sidney Janis planned a show thatincluded the works of artists like Willem de Kooning, JacksonPollock, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman,Sam Francis and Mark Rothko. Throughout the ensuing decade, Sidneybecame the dealer for artists like de Kooning, Pollock, RobertMotherwell, Kline, Guston, Rothko, Clyfford, Barnett and PhilipGuston, all of them Abstract Expressionists13.
Tenyears later, in 1961, Sidney Janis presented "The New Realists".He was one of the first paintings dealers to hold a show of pop art.Since it was a new thing in the market, Sidney saw this as anopportunity to promote upcoming artists. Artists like ClaesOldenburg, Jim Dine, George Segal and Tom Wesselmen sprouted fromJanis`s efforts of promoting painters. The term "Nouveaurealisme" refers to an artistic movement began in 1960 by YvesKlein and Pierre Restany. This group of new realists viewed theuniverse from a realistic perspective, unlike the concept of abstract(mental) painting14.They saw the world as an image from which they would grab parts andincorporate into their artwork. Their principal aim was to bring artand life closer together. Pop art sprouted in response to thethen-central philosophies of abstract expressionism. Some of theearliest British artists that shaped the movement of pop art wereRichard Hamilton, Jasper Jones, Eduardo Paolozzi, and RobertRauschenberg15.
Alsoin his passion as an art collector, Janis used the promotionalstrategies of Futurism and Dadaism. Futurism is an avant-garde artmovement established in Milan by the Italian poet Filippo MarinettiTommaso. He was soon joined by artists like Gino Severini, CarloCarra, Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla16.Sidney had good friends in most of these artists, which made himstock some of the works of art promoting Futurism by Futurists.Dadaism is a European avant-garde movement that started in the early20th century in Switzerland. It was instigated by Duchamp Marcelandfeatured artists like Alfred Jarry, Erik Satie, and Roi Ubu. Justlike most of the artists, many of the artists that exhibited Dadaismwere well acquainted with Janis. He, therefore, collected someartwork done by Dadaists and added to his painting gallery.
Inhis capacity as an art dealer, Sidney Janis made a lot ofrelationships. In the event of his frequent traveling, Janis managedto make strong friendship ties with already established artists aswell as those that he mentored and molded into publicly acknowledgedartists. He built relationships that made him appreciate the variedperspectives of painting as art. It is this appreciation that droveJanis into acquiring some of the works by these artists, adding themto his gallery. Janis`s relationship with his collectors was goodbecause he allowed them to perform in his shows, which proves that hebelieved in the "novice artists" in new painters17.
Justlike any other business that thrives in an economy, Janis`s artcollection business had cut-throat competitors. Considering thatavant-garde artwork was solely an intellectual property of Paris atthat time, Sidney`s endeavor to break that age-old concept of artmovement monopoly was not well received by his competitors. Someauction houses accused Janis of directing his artists what they wereto paint. From time and again, Janis was an embattled individual.Some of Janis`s competitors accused him of art forgery (theft) whilesometimes he was pushed under the bus by the artists he represented.When paralleled to his competitors, Janis`s practices were more orless similar. This is because there were little technologicaladvances at that time to allow a massive disparity in the methods andprocedures of operation between Janis and his competitors18.
UnlikeJanis`s relationship with other private competitors, his relationshipwith institutions was healthier. Regarding information, they used tobe free enough to share mutual information on the latest trends inpainting. To further illustrate that Janis`s relationship withinstitutions was much better, Janis used to loan some of hiscollections to museums and institutions of cultural heritage. Thissignified the co-operation between Janis, as a private art collector,and institutions. Furthermore, Janis is known to have donatedpictures worth more than a million dollars to museums and culturalcenters. Therefore, his relationship with institutions was healthy19.
Apollinaire,Guillaume, Dorothea Eimert, and Anatoliĭ Podoksik. 2010. Cubism.New York: Parkstone International.
Beil,Ralf, and Claudia Dillmann. 2011. TheTotal Artwork In Expressionism.Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz.
Bradley,Fiona. 1997. Surrealism.Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Nardo,Don. 2012. Painting.Detroit [Mich.]: Lucent Books, an imprint of Gale Cengage Learning.
Sandler,Irving. 1996. ArtOf The Postmodern Era.New York: IconEditions
Weinberg,H. Barbara, Doreen Bolger, and David Park Curry. 1994. AmericanImpressionism And Realism.New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Wollheim,Richard. 1987. PaintingAs An Art.Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
1 (Sandler 1996)
2 (Weinberg, Bolger and Curry 1994)
3 (Apollinaire, Eimert and Podoksik 2010)
4 (Nardo 2012)
5 (Bradley 1997)
6 (Weinberg, Bolger and Curry 1994)
7 (Apollinaire, Eimert and Podoksik 2010)
8 (Beil and Dillmann 2011)
9 (Wollheim 1987)
10 (Apollinaire, Eimert and Podoksik 2010)
11 (Nardo 2012)
12 (Bradley 1997)
13 (Beil and Dillmann 2011)
14 (Sandler 1996)
15 (Weinberg, Bolger and Curry 1994)
16 (Sandler 1996)
17 (Nardo 2012)
18 (Wollheim 1987)
19 (Sandler 1996)