Kirkus Star


Edith Gregor Halpert and the Making of the Modern Art Market
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Journalist Pollock's sound, informative first book pursues the success story of a Russian émigré who translated her failure to become a painter into a lively business making American art worthy of view and sale.

Edith Halpert née Fivoosiovitch (1900–70) was in her mid-20s when she opened the first “modern-era art gallery in Greenwich Village,” at 113 West 13th Street, in 1926. The daughter of Russian immigrants who fled Odessa after pogroms in 1906, Halpert aimed to become a painter, but found more success with her business sense, working her way up at Bloomingdale's, Macy's and S.W. Straus. Married to the older painter Sam Halpert, whom she largely supported, Edith hit on the idea that she could use her business skills as well as immerse herself in the artistic milieu by starting up a much-needed gallery space in the bohemian area where all the artists lived—Greenwich Village—rather than uptown with the other galleries. Operating on a consignment basis, she eschewed the popular Europeans and gathered around her a coterie of American modernists such as Stuart Davis, William and Marguerite Zorach, Leon Kroll, Max Weber, Charles Sheeler, Bernard Karfiol, George Ault and her husband. Her Downtown Gallery, situated both down- and uptown over the following three decades, enhanced art reputations and attracted the wealthy ally and munificent buyer Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Halpert’s work lining up artists for the new Rockefeller Center is little acknowledged, as are her early shows for African-American artists like Jacob Lawrence. In this polished work, Pollock emphasizes Halpert's steely business mind and her unflagging commitment to bringing art to “Mr. and Mrs. America.”

A significant contribution to American beaux arts.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2006
ISBN: 1-58648-302-1
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2006