10 Questions for Bernice Steinbaum «

Bernice Steinbaum

By Jose Fresco

AOM: It’s always fun to know someone’s roots- where did you grow up, what were your influences, where did you attend University and what was your major?

BS: At a very early age, I met Joseph Cornell. I was a “latch key” kid whose mother worked and therefore was not there after my day at school. I spent every afternoon in the library. I met Joseph Cornell who, after many months, invited me to his studio (I did not know what a studio meant). He asked me to talk about what I saw and that day was the day I became an art dealer. I majored in Art History and Art Education.

AOM: Tell me about the Steinbaum Gallery in NY. How did you fall into the business, fond memories, who you were representing back then?

BS: I got into business because I had resigned from my teaching position and I was driving my family crazy. They found me cleaning the shower stall with a toothbrush and I would wake them up at 6:00 o’clock AM to make their beds. My husband implored me to find a job. Art was the one thing I knew.
In NY, I represented, among others, Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, and Jaune-Quick-to-See-Smith. One of my fondest memories was the day that I found out that Ringgold and Schapiro has won Guggenheim awards. I asked both women to come to the gallery and as a surprise, I tied a huge pink ribbon around the building. I met them at the door with Dom Perignon. I also represented three McArthur Genius award winners- Pepon Osorio, Deborah Willis, and Amalia Mesa-Baines.

AOM: Can I put you on the spot and ask if you have any favorites?
BS: All 25.

AOM: Bernice Steinbaum Gallery is one of the cornerstones of the Wynwood district. That was a pretty risque move considering the neighborhood back then. How did you know?

BS: If you build it, they will come. We are now some 76 galleries.

AOM: You seem to have the Midas touch in picking your artist to showcase. How do you know when they have that “it” factor?

BS: Intellect and risk-taking on the artist’s part and gut reaction on my part. I believe that each of my artists will be part of the canon of Art History. I too will have my place because I represented them i.e. Peggy Guggenheim and Leo Castelli.

AOM: Speaking of Wynwood, Second Saturdays has become a social phenomenon that’s taken on a life of its own. What is the good and bad of it? Will it ever mellow out like the Gables Walk?

BS: The good part of Second Saturdays in Wynwood is that Wynwood becomes a destination. Some of our visitors have been fearful about the neighborhood. Others, who are dining in the “hood” see the numbers of people walking around and realize that there must be something to see. Now that most of us serve non-alcoholic drinks, we don’t get people who regard our gallery as an ersatz saloon.

AOM: What is your view on the state of public funding for art. Is there a crisis. Should public monies be used?

BS: What would you expect a dealer to say? (That’s why I’m the baddest)

AOM: Your current show with Karen Rifas and Aurora Molina, among others is spectacular. Tell us a bit about the show?

BS: I am very interested in artists who use detritus.

Karen Rifas, who is best known as the “leaf lady”, recycles southern oak leaves into geometric installations, that the rest of us throw away. In her current exhibition she uses various colored cord to create unique geometric patterns, forms and spaces. She uses color in order to question our sense of perspective, while her geometrically arranged cord installations invigorate space with movement and illusion. Straight lines appear to be curved, often the cords vibrate while the colors intensify. Rifas’ site specific installations of nylon cord, stainless steal, or stitched leaves enable her to create volume with a spare amount of material.

Molina also uses detritus. In the current exhibition title A Critique of Established Attitudes Towards Aging & Beauty, she recycles women’s pantyhose. Her soft sculpture figures, though, belligerent or ill-behaved, like children they demand our attention. These figures appeal to our social consciousness. Some figures have motion sensors while others have sound devices. Molina makes us know through movement and sound that elders are still alive and still have a lot to say.

AOM: What’s special for Art Basel? What’s next for Bernice?

BS: The gallery will feature Peter Sarkisian who has done small table top video sculptures. His work is featured in the Whitney and the SF MoMA to mention a few public institutions. Our booth will be a surprise. We are not at liberty to discuss it at this time. Come see us at Art Miami booth # 32. We are the host gallery and serve mimosas, coffee, and croissants every morning to other dealers, press, art schools and everyone that comes in. We also have the cleanest potties.

AOM: Bernice, what do you think, President Obama- boxers or briefs?

BS: In his effort to deal with divisive Republicans he wears briefs that are one size smaller than appropriate to unite both parties.

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This entry was posted on September 27, 2011 at 1:27 pm and is filed under Interviews P-T . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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