Summary of Kootz Gallery
The Kootz Gallery was one of the premier art galleries in mid-century New York. Started by art dealer Samuel Kootz in 1944, it not only helped finance the works of emerging artists like Motherwell and Baziotes in the late 1940s, but it also offered the first post-World War II retrospective of Picasso in 1947. Kootz had a finely-tuned eye for great Abstract Expressionist artwork: when Jackson Pollock rose to fame in the late 1940s with his signature "drips," Kootz reminded the public that Hans Hofmann was producing "drip" paintings as far back as 1940. With prior experience as an advertising executive, Kootz was also a relentless promoter for his gallery's exhibits, trying to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Kootz attempted to imbue his gallery's shows with a sense of grandeur, as if each one was a true cultural event.
Background of Samuel Kootz
Samuel Kootz (1898-1982) switched careers several times before making Modern art his primary focus. Originally a law student at the University of Virginia, Kootz briefly practiced law in his home state of Virginia before moving to New York City in the early 1920s where he worked as an account executive for motion pictures and movie stars.
By the 1930s Kootz changed careers once more. In 1930 he independently published a textbook entitled Modern American Painters, and in 1934 he became involved in apparel designs, commissioning artists Stuart Davis and Arthur Dove to design patterns for silk scarves.
The Macy's Show and Kootz's View on 'Chauvinism'
In 1942 Kootz was commissioned by Macy's department store to select several Abstract Expressionist paintings for a store-wide exhibition. Kootz selected works by Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko, among others. One year later, Kootz published his groundbreaking book, New Frontiers in American Painting, which critic Dore Ashton later called Kootz's warning against American chauvinism in the arts. Ashton wrote, "In 1943..he still saw [chauvinism] as a prevalent attitude, even though 'we happen to be, geographically, the art center of the world today.' "The "chauvinism" to which Kootz referred was referencing the American-centric attitude that many artists, particularly in New York, had adopted in recent years. Kootz wanted to remind people that even following the supposed Fall of Paris, not all great art was being produced by Americans.
Robert Motherwell and William Baziotes
In 1944 Kootz began subsidizing Robert Motherwell and William Baziotes: rather than take a commission on their paintings, Kootz placed each artist on a $200 stipend, provided they meet a yearly quota of 75 paintings. Motherwell later recalled, "It was really bad for a young artist such as myself to be committed to so much work. He was always desperate for money and drove himself and us very hard."
The Kootz Gallery Opens
Hans Hofmann and Adolph Gottlieb both signed with Kootz in 1945. That same year, Motherwell signed a 5-year exclusive contract with Kootz. Two years later, when Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery closed, Baziotes' representation switched from Guggenheim to Kootz, while Guggenheim's beloved Pollock moved over to the Betty Parsons Gallery. Motherwell once commented that "Nearly everybody who had showed with [Guggenheim] went either to Kootz or to Betty Parsons."