Welcome to our newest podcast from The Art Garage, located in scenic downtown Montclair New Jersey! In this episode we take a look at the exhibit, “Greetings From Wembley”. The art exhibit is on display currently at The Art Garage through April 6th, 2013.
Let’s say a “picker” shows up in your driveway one morning and offers you a dirty wooden box for a certain amount of money, along with other oddities. Would you buy it?
That is what happened to one of three partners of Blowout / Avis Rara Gallery in Montclair. In the fall of 2011, somebody showed up – as they sometimes do if you are in the antiques business – and presented Mr. Potters with some interesting items. A quick peek into the box revealed a few simple drawings. Potters, who loves outsider and folk art and is also a big history buff, thought it might be interesting. So he bought it.
Popping the box open in the gallery, he slowly peeled back wrapped pages of what turned out to be an impeccable collection of “naive” art, wrapped in tissue paper, of pastels, watercolor , pencil and ink; a landslide of expression. “Not necessarily Picasso, but really cool stuff”, says Potters.
“I then triaged it, taking out each item and organizing them. At that point I needed to make sense of what I had.” After a few hours of carefully unpacking and arranging, the collection began to take shape. At the bottom of the box was a catalog which turned out to essentially be the narrative of the entire show: an art exhibit and cultural exchange between the East Lane Senior School in North Wembley, England and the Mary C. T. Williams School in Wilmington, Delaware. All of the drawings and paintings were done by the students, ages 10 through 15 years.
Potters then began searching the internet to see what else he could find, with amazing results. It turned out that the cultural exchange was a big hit in Delaware when it first debuted. He found a short article with pictures from a local newspaper which had made it onto the front page June 27th, 1937. The pictures even included some of the students holding the work, and a sampling of the art in the background. “This is when a collector like myself gets excited” says Potters. “There is a solid connection with the box that was found and a day in the life of America, circa 1937.”
The box, with hundreds of individual works, unopened for 75 years, a perfect time capsule. Unopened, that is, until now.
Potters brought his find upstairs to his business neighbor, Suzanne O’Connor, owner of The Art Garage, also in Montclair. “Being an art studio and having a great art program for kids, I knew she would find this interesting”. She did, and was thrilled. “This is fascinating work. It shows the exuberance of children making art, and how important it was to a child’s education in one of the worlds most advanced countries in the early 20th century. I was bowled over!” said O’Connor.
They decided that they would put together one big art show, putting the work on display as it was in 1937, before the collection was sold as individual pieces. “The work is wonderful and will probably do well at auction” says O’Connor. “What a phenomenal opportunity to show a collection of children’s artwork, exactly as it was 75 years ago. This is a once-in-a-lifetime art show. A must-see for art educators, lovers of Outsider and Naive art, and history buffs”.
“It reminds me of a quote from Picasso” says Potters, “ All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
A Hearty Greeting! An art time capsule featuring the artwork of the East Lane Senior School, Wembley, England, 1937.