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The Old Master trade is still seeking new ways to restore it to life
22 January 2024

Nicholas Hall, the New York-based Old Master dealer, says this Getty purchase helped give a contemporary art collector the confidence to buy Mengs’s even less obviously commercial Portrait of Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico (1758-59), which was included in the museum-quality exhibition The Hub of the World: Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome, at Hall’s Manhattan gallery in autumn 2023. “The buyer had never heard of Mengs,” says Hall, “but the painting’s symphony of reds appealed to him. ‘This seems modern to me,’ he said.” That ecclesiastical portrait by Mengs, priced in the region of $750,000, was one of 12 works in the show that sold for between $5,000 and $1.5m, according to Hall.

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Season 2023 Episode 29
presented by Philippe de Montebello

A look at “The Hub of the World: Art in 18th Century Rome” on view at Nicholas Hall Gallery. This exhibition celebrates the legacy of influential museum professional, Anthony M. Clark. In collaboration with Galleria Carlo Orsi in Milan, the two galleries have gathered a diverse selection of works that provide a rare opportunity to experience the cosmopolitan appeal of 18th century Rome.

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A Grand Old Art Fair Returns, to a World That has Changed
27 June 2022
Scott Reyburn

The presence of curators, conservators and donors from museums in Europe and the United States is a key draw for dealers to exhibit at TEFAF Maastricht. Representatives from some 20 U.S.-based institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, attended the fair, according to the TEFAF media office.

“American museums are primed to buy,” said the New York-based dealer Nicholas Hall, who specializes in high-end old master pictures. Hall was showing a superb “Virgin and Child With Saints Cecilia and Ursula,” from about 1495, by the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio. Consigned for sale from a private collection in the United States, it had been reserved by another American collector before the fair, Hall said, priced between $10 million and $15 million.

Since TEFAF’s equivalent sister fair in New York in the fall has been scrapped (though it still holds its spring fair for modern and contemporary works), TEFAF Maastricht was now “the one opportunity for dealers to put together a group of pictures to rival the auction houses’ old master sales,” Hall said.

Certainly Hall’s Carpaccio, an Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait as Cleopatra with Heim of Basel at around $8 million and the late Goya canvas “St. Paul,” with the London-based Stair Sainty at $6 million seemed to represent a more impressive offering than Sotheby’s and Christie’s thin old master auctions in London in July.

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Featured in The New York Times
October 22, 2018, page C7

Four Knockout Group Shows to See Now
Roberta Smith
October 2018

‘Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art’
David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, through Oct. 27

In sheer wall power and rare historical gems, “Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art,” a two-floor, 130-work exhibition at David Zwirner exceeds the “museum-quality” designation and edges toward once-in-a-lifetime status.

For one thing, when will another Chelsea art gallery present a combination of old and modern masters that includes Titian, Piero di Cosimo, Salvator Rosa (a naked witch), Jan Bruegel the Younger, Gustave Moreau, James Ensor, Odilon Redon, Max Ernst (three great canvases), and a follower of Hieronymus Bosch? The show has been selected to enhance unexpected connections by its organizers, David Leiber, a partner at Zwirner, and Nicholas Hall, a specialist and dealer, in European art. (Yes, some of the works are also for sale.) The curators were inspired by the Museum of Modern Art’s voluminous 1936 exhibition, “Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism,” with which their effort shares nearly 20 artists — but it has taken a much more focused view. No Dada, for one thing.

What the early 20th century finally labeled “Surrealism” has come to include the uncanny, unfathomable and disturbing. The through line here, for the most part, is the human body and what the human imagination has made and continues to make of it. (Living artists include Lisa Yuskavage, Sherrie Levine and Robert Gober.) We see bodies — ideal and not, and those of other species. Get ready for demons — the temptation of St. Anthony is a recurring theme — and violent historical fact: Kerry James Marshall’s discretely bloody “Portrait of Nat Turner With the Head of His Master” (2011) vividly conveys the fury of the act and, more gripping, the perpetrator’s consciousness of what he has wrought.

Nearly everything here is worthy of close study, so recommendations seem unfair. But please don’t miss Paul Klee’s gorgeously ominous “Black Herald” of 1924; a wonderful Klee-like painting of an abstracted garden made in 1949 by the young Antoni Tàpies; and a little painting from around 1906 by José Gutiérrez Solana, of masked street musicians that echoes back to Redon’s spooky canvas, “The Angel of Destiny,” from around 1900. Also don’t miss two small detailed paintings by unfamiliar artists: “The Cause of Thunder,” a green succulent landscape from 1965 by Richard Humphry, an American Surrealist born in 1942, and its neighbor, Filippo Napoletano’s “Dante and Virgil in the Underworld,” from around 1620, in mostly dark red on slate, which merges Bosch and Piranesi.

The indisputable centerpiece is a copy of Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” from around 1515. In this panoramic vista of humans, animals, birds, near-humans and strawberries, a gastronomical delicacy of the time, the pleasures depicted are often perverse, humiliating and painful, as befits the human condition. As “earthly” implies, Bosch seems to depict a world where God is absent and humans, subject to irrational forces within and without, are left to their own devices.

On a recent Saturday, Mr. Hall drew a small crowd when examining the painting with a conservator. He said it is assumed to have been made with Bosch’s permission, perhaps by someone working beside him as he painted his masterpiece. Proof: the drawing beneath the copy is schematic yet accurate, evidently derived from a tracing of the original.

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