Spotlight on... Russian Art

Eugene Andrew Agafonoff (Evgeny Andreevich Agafonov) was a Ukrainian painter, graphic artist and scene-designer who was born in 1879. He was born to a family of merchants. He got his first art education in St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1899–1907. He studied under the guidance of P. Kovalevsky and F. A. Roubaud. In 1910 Agafonov was awarded gold medal for the painting Draymen at the regional South Russia exhibition in Ekaterinoslav. In 1905–1907 during the Revolution, Agafonov illustrated Kharkov satirical magazines Shtyk (“Bayonet”), Mech (“Sword”), Zloy Dukh (“Malignant Demon”) and others. In March 1906 Agafonov together with A. N. Grot, V. D. and D. D. Burlyuk participated in the 7th exhibition of the Cirlce of Kharkov artists (1900–1908). Since 1908 he exhibited his works at the exhibitions of the Association of Kharkov artists, at the exhibition of the group Zveno (“Link”) in Kiev (1908), in Rostov-on-Don and Kursk. In 1909 Agafonov founded the experimental theatre, Blue Eye, in Kharkov on the basis of the avant-garde studio Blue Lily. He designed a lot of performances for this theatre, including The Stranger by A. Blok. The theatre worked only two seasons and was closed in February 1911. Later Agafonov left the Association of Kharkov artists and organized an avant-garde group Koltso (“The Ring”, 1911–1914). Members of the group were A. N. Grot, A. M. Zagonov, N. R. Savvin, M. S. Fedorov, E. A. Shteinberg and others. In 1913 Agafonov joined the group Bubnovy Valet (“Jack of Diamonds”), took part in the exhibitions of the group in St. Petersburg. Agafonov participated in the First World War; in 1918 he returned to Kharkov. In the same year he designed covers of the Theatre Magazine . Agafonov joined the group Khudozhestvenny Tsekh (“The Art Guild”); in 1918–1919 he together with M. A. Voloshin, Mane-Katz, and E. A. Shteinberg took part in the exhibitions of the group. In 1919 Agafonov lectured as an art critic in the studio of painting and drawing under the ProletCult (Proletarian Culture). He also exhibited his works at the First exhibition of the Art department of Kharkov Soviet of worker’s deputies. Evgeny Agafonov painted a lot of portraits including Lieutenant P. P. Schmidt’s lawyer, A. Alekseev (1906) and portrait of the actress V. F. Komissarzhevskaya (1908). In his paintings Agafonov often used Ukraine national motifs. He also painted landscapes, drew sketches and did drawings. In early 1920s Agafonov immigrated to the USA. He was engaged in easel painting, graphic art and advertising. He exhibited his works at the exhibitions of the Society of Independent Artists (1929); in the French gallery in New York (1931); in the Greenwich public library (1939); and in Derby, Connecticut (1943). Personal exhibitions of the artist were held in the Cas-Delbaut gallery in New York (1931). Works by Evgeny Agafonov, which the artist left in Kharkov, were kept in Kharkov Art Museum. During the Great Patriotic War, the greater part of his works was lost. Only several drawings and theatre designs remained in Kharkov Art Museum." Mr. Agafonov died in 1955. *Info from Art Investment Russia



Philly Renaissance

My neighbor described it as a desperate act.  An act forced upon dealers whose need for sales outweighed any other factors.  With this, I envisioned a rather gloomy scene of empty show aisles, dealers trolling booths looking for steals for which they could offset payment and the few potential customers that might be there would be saying over and over, "I'll think about it...".
But that was not to be the case.  Instead it was a vibrant show.  With happy dealers.  And a buying public out in full force.  While it wasn't the best show of my career thus far, it exceeded my expectations!  The Thursday before the show set up was spent picking up the rental truck (and a rather large piece of furniture that I will tell you about a little later) and my merchandise.  I drove to Midtown from the Bronx and arrived at Center 44 with plenty of time to box up the smalls and carry out the furniture.  Well, plenty of time is relative as I arrived at 3pm and the Center closes at 5pm...  It went off without a hitch and I was loaded and ready by closing time.  The drive back home from Center 44 was smooth even being on I-95 at rush hour.  Good omens all around.   After a nice dinner it was lights out early as I had to be up by 3:30am in order to drive to the city and get in line for set up.  At 5:30am the line for set up was already long and I took this as another good omen.  Dealers were excited to be at the show early and to unload first thing.  I was unloaded and parked by 9am.  And I had a splinter...
Let's back track to the day before in the Bronx when I picked up the rental truck.  The owner asked me if I would take a rather large armoire to the show and offer it for sale.  I thought to myself, that the more merchandise in the booth the better and I said that I would take it.  The ex-football player who works there said that it is 'light when it's on the dolly' and told me that I should have no problems moving it.  Feeling like Wonder Woman, I concurred.  For those of you who know me, you know what I mean.  The armoire was the last piece to come off the truck.  As I pulled it out of the truck with my hand truck lined up on the ground, my plan was to gently slide it on to the hand truck...  Luckily two dealers seeing this plan unfold, were kind enough to prevent me from being smushed by the humongous armoire.
Okay, now it's mobile and I'm pushing it into my booth.  Uprighting the armoire went well enough until I got a tiny splinter in my index finger.  I didn't think much of it and I went about setting up my booth getting ready for the weekend customers.  After a long day, and a sore finger, I went home feeling pumped for the weekend.  Saturday and Sunday were busy days full of sales.  One after another, piece by piece, I was happy to sell many large and heavy pieces of furniture.  Even though I did need the rental truck for the way home, my load out was super fast.  Except for the armoire.  Yes, it did not sell and I had to get it back onto the truck.  Hiring a couple porters was the plan and the armoire slid happily back into place.  But my finger still hurt and was now kind of red.
The next day was Monday and I unloaded the few pieces that did not sell and drove the truck back to the Bronx.  After a little price haggling due to the splinter in my finger, we settled up and I went home.  My finger was feeling worse and was now really swollen.  Reluctantly, I called my Dad who has had his fair share of splinters and I described the situation.  After a bit of ribbing, he became serious and wanted to make sure that it was not too infected.  It was at this point in the conversation that he reminded me, "No good deed goes unpunished."  We had a good laugh and I felt inspired to do a little finger surgery...  It took a few more days, but the splinter finally saw its way out of my finger.
So, what does all this mean?  That you always have to believe in what you're doing and stay positive because you never know what may come.  And also, to be cautious about the favors that you do because they might wind up giving you more than you bargained for.

End of an Era, Almost

Ever since I moved to New York City in 2002, I have been an early morning (well before dawn) shopper at the flea markets along 6th Avenue.  By the time I had arrived on the scene, and I do mean scene, there were a few different parking lots and an indoor parking garage packed with hundreds of dealers set up selling every imaginable treasure, and some trash, you could ever hope to find.  Celebrities and rarities.  Sure, I was told of the good old days in the 80's and 90's, when there were many more lots and even better choices, but this was my time and I made the most of it.  
I was the new kid on the block and I had to learn the ropes quickly.  Arriving at 3:30 in the morning with flashlight in hand, I was among the group who would pounce on the cars and vans that pulled into the parking lots.  Shoving and pushing among people who five minutes earlier were seen politely having conversation and drinking coffee together, but there are no friendships here.  This is an all out battle for the next big thing to come out of that vehicle.  This flea market lived up to its reputation.  It was the place to find a real ( fill in the blank ) for $50.  It was the place to see ( fill in celebrity name ) shopping for their favorite obsession.  It was the place to learn.  And that is exactly what I did.  But now, let's back up a bit to that snowy day in February of 2002...
I drove my U-Haul packed with whatever belongings I thought were important enough to bring to New York.  Arriving in Alphabet City, Avenue B near 12th Street, I called my dear friend from high school and he came over from his job at a nearby bar (Beauty Bar) and helped me to unpack into the sublet apartment he found for me.  I had the strength of ten thanks to my excitement over being here.  With the truck unpacked and the U-Haul returned, I went back to my new apartment (at least for the next six months) and set my alarm for 3:00am and tried to catch a quick nap. It was pointless.  So I hailed a taxi and headed to the flea market.  The famous corner address of 26th and 6th (the flea market) and my apartment address were the only two I knew.  That was enough for me.
Walking up to those lots was like walking into a movie.  The city was alive with people going to and coming from night clubs, dinners, premieres, there were delivery trucks and taxi cabs rumbling up the Avenues, and at the flea market there were people with flashlights running from vendor to vendor in hopes of scoring.  So, I jumped right in.  I was amazed to see the deals being struck.  The boxes unpacked.  The tables set up.  It was a well orchestrated chaos.  It was perfect.  There was arguing over who had the item, then over the price, then offers poured in, then it was over and everyone moved on to the next item.  This was repeated countless times in the early hours of the morning.  This was the start of my education.  Luckily, a few dealers clued me in to how the flea market operates.  There were rules...  
There is an unwritten rule book, some of those rules I will share with you now.  Rule #1 - Don't let go!  If you are holding something and you are considering it as a purchase, by no means release your grasp or the next person who is waiting rather impatiently by your elbow will swoop in and scoop it up.  Rule #1a - Don't dilly dally.  Make up your mind quickly.  Rule #2 - Demand 1st Refusal.  If someone is looking at something and you are interested, then you must yell out "I want first refusal".  This will ensure that the other buyer either pulls out his wallet or hands you the item.  This is no time to be shy.  Rule #3 - Be there first.  This one is practically impossible to follow.  What time is early enough?  As I spent more time at the flea market, I realized that some buyers were arriving earlier, much earlier.  So, in order to be there when that great item is brought out, you have to be there early.  
And the rules continue, but let's get back to the action.  So the years passed by and during this time I had become known as a serious buyer of antique and period picture frames.  I thought it was best to specialize in one area, then grow from there.  This specialization allowed to me to develop myself as a knowledgeable buyer and create a solid reputation.  Vendors began to hold things for me.  They began to call me the night before to tell me what they were bringing.  I was beginning to support myself from buying and selling at the flea market.  I created a list of clients from the Who's Who of Madison Avenue art galleries.  I would come home from the market some time in the late morning and photograph my purchases.  Then compose emails and send them out to the gallery owners.  I became a reliable source for amazing frames and was honored to be selling them along Madison Avenue.  I would take the subway to my client's galleries loaded with armfuls of frames.  It was definitely a sight to see.  This was the start of a dream come true.  
And this brings us to today.  I've grown my business and expanded into furniture, furnishings, lighting and art.  Now with a booth at Center 44 in Manhattan and a presence on 1stdibs, I have a couple great outlets for selling.  Sure, I'll still throw something over my shoulder and bring it to a client, for this is my true essence.  You can take the girl out of the flea market, but you can't take the flea market out of the girl!  The antiques business is my passion.  Gentrification and high rises have eaten up the outdoor parking lots once home to hundreds of vendors each and every weekend.  The flea market is now relegated to two levels of an indoor parking garage and the clock is ticking.  Sure, it is still one of my most favorite things to do on a weekend, but the writing is on the wall and it's a bittersweet ending.  The parking garage was purchased a few years back for over 40 million dollars.  Surely those developers aren't interested in maintaining the flea market just for us.  The deadline has come and gone several times already and now the flea market is on a month to month lease.  Where everyone will wind up is still unclear.    
New York City is one of the greatest cities in the world and must have a great flea market.  For me, this was the place where I was able to begin my business.  Where I was encouraged to dream of finding a real score and making it big.  Where I've met some of my best clients.  Where I will always have fond memories.  To this day, I can look around my apartment and see things I purchased there years ago.  Each has its own story and memories.  These I will cherish forever.