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STEPHEN ROMANO, NEW YORK - MEET THE COLLECTOR "The greatest reward is sharing our collections with others to inspire awe.." Interview with Jennifer Lauren August 2020

STEPHEN ROMANO, NEW YORK - MEET THE COLLECTOR SERIES PART THIRTY NINE

original post can be found here.

New York based dealer and collector Stephen Romano makes up part thirty-nine of my ‘Meet the Collector’ series. I met Stephen at the Outsider Art Fair in New York a couple of years ago and we have chatted ever since. Stephen comes at this field with many years experience working in galleries and seems to have a different slant to what he collects in comparison to others. Read on to find out more …

stephen ROMANO gallery Outsider Art Fair New York, Charles Dellschau, Henry Darger, Darcilio Lima, Martin Ramirez.
Exterior view of stephen ROMANO gallery, Brooklyn NY 2016

1. When did your interest in the field of outsider/folk art begin?

My very first exposure was when I worked for Marilyn Pearl at her gallery in NYC in 1992, she introduced me to her friends Dorothea and Leo Rabkin who had me over to their place to show me their collection. I was awe-struck by their passion for this unknown and unsung type of art. It really stuck a raw nerve, and I realized I had a significant gap in my knowledge. The first work I ever saw, ABE KANE by Sam Doyle… I’ll never forget it.

ABE. KANE, Sam Doyle (1906–1985), c. 1970s, house paint on plywood 30 x 48 x 1/2 in., American Folk Art Museum, gift of Dorothea and Leo Rabkin, 2002.4.10

A few months later I was managing an artist run space in Tribeca. Leo encouraged me to seek out Ricco Maresca Gallery around the corner on Hudson Street, which I did, and while I was completely mesmerized I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went until a few years later. I went back to Toronto where I’m from for a couple of years, then in 1996 I came back to live permanently in the US and I responded to an ad in the NY Times for a “Gallery Manager”. To my surprise it was for Ricco Maresca, who had by now moved to Soho. At that time they were hot for, of all things, being on the cutting edge of digital art for a blockbuster exhibition they had recently mounted called “Code”. It included virtual reality artwork by Char Davies, which was just stunning. People were lined up around the block to get in.

RM were very proactive in book publishing on the subjects of folk and outsider art, and they were among the very first galleries to have a new thing called a website. In fact they were among the very first in Soho to dive into the digital frontier of the internet. So I went for my interview and the art itself was astonishing. First thing I saw was a massive Thornton Dial painting, completely blew me away… the materiality, the impressive scale, the depth of the social commentary - I was just overwhelmed by it. Alongside this were works by Bill Traylor, Sister Gertrude Morgan and William Hawkins. I knew this was where I wanted to be… at the epicenter of something I found to be genuinely life affirming. Art made not by people of privilege with degrees, but by creators who were attempting to overcome the very oppression and marginalization they suffered, through the art they made.

2. When did you become a collector of this art? How many pieces do you think are in your collection now? And do you exhibit any of it on the walls of your home or elsewhere?

Although I had access and exposure to some of the greatest masterpieces of the field at RM and afterwards as a private art dealer, I didn’t have the resources to acquire any of it. Collecting wasn’t really something I started doing until maybe 10 or 15 years ago.

I started with vintage vernacular photography and modest folk art, acquiring snapshots and sculptures at flea markets, eBay, trading and later acquiring from from other collectors and dealers. Now the art tends to find me, and other people find me online and offer me works on a regular basis. I was always very interested in photography. I did my BFA Art History thesis on Man Ray. Ricco Maresca had its own photography department. Not much of the work really spoke to me, with the exception of the art of Gerald Slota, and this one other photographic artist, William Mortensen (American, 1897 - 1965). We did a small show of his works, not his quintessential ones in retrospect, but I dog-eared it so then when I do “my own thing”, I remember to look into him better. Now 20 years later we have a collection of well over 450 works, the largest and most comprehensive in the world, and have published two catalogs, and mounted some of the most ambitious exhibitions on the artist.

William Mortensen “The Sorceress” 1926 - 1928, Unique print.
William Mortensen “The Initiation of a Young Witch” 1928, unique print
William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) excerpt from "A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft" 1928 collection The Museum of Everything.
Spirit photography by William Hope, 1920’s
JACK EDWARDS Spirit photo of congregation inside the Chapel at Camp Silver Belle with floating apparitions. c, 1940's. 5 x 4 inches
Unknown photographer, Ballerina with Devil banner, circa 1940’
Unknown photographer, circa 1930’s

Quality is more important than quantity in my view, but I would say if I had to come up with a number including what’s under the bed, well over a thousand, which any obsessed collector can tell you is a number that comes to us all too quickly.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your background, your time as the Manager at Ricco|Maresca and your Gallery now?

Sure. I started drawing when I was 2. By the time I was 5 or 6, I was drawing monsters everywhere… in my school books… on the walls… My parents had to intervene when the school called them to complain about it. My aunt in Montreal was a recognized abstract artist. She would bring me supplies and books on the likes of Dali, Bosch and Rembrandt. I went to art school at our local community college in Sarnia Ontario, and by a twist of fate a British sculptor Ray Robinson who was a student of Reg Butler’s at the Slade school in London and an avid follower of David Bomberg’s, was running the department there. He became my mentor, pretty much for the rest of my life. The first thing he told me to do was to close the art history book for a while and read “Journey To Ixland’ by Carlos Casteneda… “Everything you need to know about being an artist, you’ll find in there”. After that I went to the University of Windsor for four years, across the river from Detroit, which was complete immersion into art making.

one of my drawings from art school, circa 1986
Ray Robinson "Birth of a Witch" 2016 acrylic on panel
detail of a sculpture i had exhibited at YYZ Gallery in Toronto circa 1988 "Somnambulism" marble and mixed motor parts, kinetic.

After having some modest successes, I paused my practice as an artist in my early 30’s and worked in a few notable galleries: Gallery Moos in Toronto, the 49th Parallel in NCY, Marylin Pearl Gallery and Miriam Shiell Fine Arts in Toronto. I came back to NYC in 1996 and worked for Frank and Roger for eight years - there was never a dull moment that much I can say. You would never know who was going to walk in the door: celebrities, any variety of curator or collector, writers… it really felt like the epicenter of the field and of course we worked hard to maintain the momentum, relentlessly mounting museum quality exhibitions and shows at art fairs one after the other, producing quality books, and maintaining an inventory of the best possible works of this genre.

The excitement for the art was something that pretty much anyone who came into the orbit of the gallery wanted to be a part of, and this was the place to be, to experience the very best in quality works and to be part of a community of enthusiasts who wanted to have discourse about it. The love for the art and the passion for the presentation in it’s many aspects made us all love what we did. We couldn’t wait to get to the gallery in the morning, and Frank and I usually stayed until well past evening. Everything was highly considered, right down to putting the stamps on the envelopes straight - the pursuit of excellence in and of itself was like a drug.

Frank Maresca, Stephen Romano, Roger Ricco 1997

After leaving RM in 2003 or 2004 I worked with another gallery for a year and half or so, then became a private art dealer. It was pretty tough going at first, but I was very fortunate to have the early support of The Museum of Everything, Jennifer Pinto Safian, John Foster, the late Stephanie Tardell, John Jerit, the late Larry Dumont, Bruno Decharme of ABCD Art Brut, Leslie Umberger who at that time was at the Kohler Art Center, collectors Richard Rubenstein and Selig Sacks, Tim Keny of the Keny Galleries in Ohio, Jean-Pierre Ritsch-Fisch, Bob Roth, and Frank Maresca, among many others. A big step for us was a couple of years later… with a partner we acquired all the works by Charles Dellschau from Frank Maresca - a bit more on that coming up.

Much later I had a physical gallery from 2014 - 2016 in Brooklyn. It was quite a scene and generated a lot of press for such a modest undertaking. I gave it up with the aspiration to move the operation to Manhattan, but I still haven’t settled into a situation, and probably won’t anytime soon things being as they are. I’ve been working from home since then, and became surprisingly busy with opportunities: working with other cultural institutions, for instance presenting Darcilio Lima at the Reina Sophia Museum in Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; organizing the first ever one person exhibition outside of the US on William Mortensen with the Dark Mofo Festival in Tasmania; lending some Charles Dellschau works to Gagosian Gallery for an an exhibition at the Seattle Art Fair, as well as for the “Vestiges and Verse” exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum; and an exciting upcoming exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art curated by Robert Cozzolino. Also I’ve been mounting special exhibitions for the New York and Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, including the most exhaustive exhibition of William Mortensen’s entitled “Celluloid Babylon” and “Charles Dellschau: The Mythology of Flight” - both curated by Brian Chidester. My website can be found here.

Colin Christian "Trypophobia"stephen ROMANO gallery 2015. Named one of the top 10 exhibition of the year by Hi Fructose magazine.
Colin Christian "Trypophobia" stephen ROMANO gallery 2015. Named one of the top 10 of the year by Hi Fructose magazine.
stephen ROMANO gallery PULSE ART FAIR with Sonya Fu (background), Henry Darger, Limor Gasko, Rene Pierre Alain.
With Metropolitan Museum of Art Curator Kelly Baum and the works of Darcilio Lima 2018
The works of Darcilio Lima at the Reina Sophia Museum, Madrid 2018
detail of the exhibtion "Saint-Bowie" march 2016 stephen ROMANO gallery NYC
Magic sigil by Barry William Hale to conjure the spirit of Bowie commissioned for the exhibtion "Saint-Bowie" march 2016 stephen ROMANO gallery NYC
stephen ROMANO gallery Outsider Art Fair 2017, William Mortensen, Darcilio Lima, Erna Kd
stephen ROMANO gallery Outsider Art Fair 2017, Anonymous - Apocalyptic, Dante's Inferno, War..
stephen ROMANO gallery Outsider Art Fair 2017, Vincent Castiglia, Charles Dellschau, Martin Ramirez, William Blayney, A. Fiorello, William Mortensen, Imp Sculpture, Venus of Detroit.
stephen ROMANO gallery Outsider Art Fair 2017, Erna Kd (Indonesia), Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule, Vincent Castiglia, Lori Field, Damian Michaels, Kim Bo Yung.
William Mortensen exhibition at Dark Mofo Festival 2018, Tasmania, over 6000 visitors in 10 days.
William Mortensen exhibition at Dark Mofo Festival 2018, Tasmania, over 6000 visitors in 10 days.
exhibition detail of "William Mortensen and the Coven of the Sibylline" tribute exhibtion NYC 2018
exhibition detail of "William Mortensen and the Coven of the Sibylline" tribute exhibtion NYC 2018. Installation by Alexis Palmer Karl and Ken Weaver with works by William Mortensen.
Charles A.A. Dellschau (upper right) at Gagosian Gallery’s exhibtion “Out Of This World” at Seatle Art Fair 2018
exhibition detail "NOCTEM DIABOLI" NYC 2018
exhibition detail "NOCTEM DIABOLI" NYC 2018
exhibition detail "NOCTEM DIABOLI" NYC 2018
exhibition detail "Opening the Third Eye" with Daniel Goncalves, Barry William Hale, Alexis Palmer Karl, Natsumi Goldfish NYC 2018
exhibition detail "Opening the Third Eye" with Daniel Goncalves, Barry William Hale, Alexis Palmer Karl, Natsumi Goldfish NYC 2018
exhibition detail "Opening the Third Eye" with William Mortensen, Burt Shonberg, Daniel Goncalves, Barry William Hale, Alexis Palmer Karl, Natsumi Goldfish NYC 2018
Exhibtion detail of William Mortensen’s WITCHES at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft, Cleveland 2019.
William Mortensen’s WITCHES at SCOPE ART SHOW NYC 2020

I have also been collaborating with the ever amazing Morbid Anatomy and Greenwood Cemetery, participating in exhibitions at the Fort Hamilton Gatehouse and in the Nightfall program (one of the most awe-inspiring annual events in NYC), as well as collaborating with the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft in Cleveland, mounting an exhibition of the works of William Mortensen and Barry William Hale. (update: the 3d Virtual exhibition "Apparitions" will be presented in real life at the Buckland Museum October 1 - December 31 2020!)

Morbid Anatomy at Greenwood Cemetery, large painting by Wolfgang Grasse “The Throne of Death” 1999

Alongside this I’ve been doing pop-up shows, the most recent was a Twin Peaks tribute exhibition in collaboration with the artist Josh Stebbins and others and the renowned vocalist Rebecca Del Rio performed at the opening. This has been ever evolving into other projects as well, including a scheduled re-mounting at Elvis Presley’s Graceland to celebrate the official 30th anniversary of Twin Peaks in October.

Josh Stebbins “Listen” 2019 from the series "No Stars" a Twin Peaks tribute.
Josh Stebbins "Jackie" 2020 from the series "No Stars" a Twin Peaks tribute.
Detail of “NO STARS” a Twin Peaks tribute exhibition 2019
Detail of “NO STARS” a Twin Peaks tribute exhibition 2019
Detail of “NO STARS” a Twin Peaks tribute exhibition 2019
Detail of “NO STARS” a Twin Peaks tribute exhibition 2019

Since the pandemic started, I’ve tried to discover new and innovative ways to continue to perpetuate the momentum. I did a curator in residence with Monster Brains, “One of the best websites in the world” according to Guillermo Del Toro, and I am producing a series of 3D virtual galleries exhibitions in collaboration with Kunstmatrix in Germany, amongst other bits and pieces.

"Saint Bowie" 3D Virtual exhibition 2020
3D Virtual exhibition 2020 "Apparitions" a collaboration with Alexa Jade Frankelis
3D Virtual exhibition 2020 "NO STARS"

4. Can you tell us about the book you wrote on Charles Dellschau and how you came to represent his work?

Sure. I didn’t write it other than the acknowledgements though. That we left up to people much more respected and qualified, by orders of magnitude. I produced the content for the book, while Tanya Heinrich was the copy editor. But her contribution was enormous and the book never would have come together in the way it did without her.

Back in 1997, a conservator from Houston’s Menill collection came to the RM gallery with two scrapbooks filled with incredible double sided painting of apocryphal aeronautical vehicles that dated back to the early 1900’s by Charles A.A. Dellschau (1830 - 1923). The paintings held hermetic secrets of a group of men who were in California for the gold rush, and who congregated together in a secretive fraternal lodge like manner. Their purpose was to design and build the very first navigable aircraft, purportedly powered by a mysterious anti-gravity substance called “Suppa”. They were sworn to secrecy, so the Germans could not steal their technology for the purposes of developing war machines, and Dellschau, who was the official draftsman of this “Sonora Aero Club” from 1863 - 1868, only later in life from 1899 - 1922 made a visual record of its existence, as the technology of flight emerged. It was just incredible - truly visionary and aesthetically decades ahead of it’s time. We still really have yet to decipher and contextualize the whole story.

So virtually 20 years after the discovery of the works by RM and after acquiring the inventory, and discovering further works, I set out with the late Thomas McEvilley, Tracy Baker White and Tanya Heinrich to produce something worthy of the artist’s name. Little did we know how ambitious a project this would become, creating a compendium of essays by James Brett, Randall Morris, Thomas Crouch of the Smithsonian, Tracy Baker White, the late Roger Cardinal and Barbara Saffarova of ABCD art brut and of course the late Thomas MacEvilley’s final published essay, whom I was very honored to call a friend. The book also presented for the first time, a sampling of the works in chronological order, illustrating the aesthetic development of the artist’s creative trajectory. As he got closer to his death, the works became more gestural and freehand, discarding the illustrative exactitude he thought was ultimately unessential to his expression. A dance macabre really.

A 1919 double sided painting by one of America’s earliest visionary artists Charles Dellschau
Exhibition detail “Charles Dellschau American Visionary” January 2016 Stephen Romano Gallery
Charles A.A. Dellschau (1830 - 1923) LONGTOUR AERO COD 1919. collection of Flora and Adam Hanft, New York
Charles Dellschau featured in "Messages and Magic: Collage and Assemblage in American Art" curated by Leslie Umberger, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Wisconsin, 2008
Charles Dellschau featured in "Messages and Magic: Collage and Assemblage in American Art" curated by Leslie Umberger, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Wisconsin, 2008. with Martin Ramirez, James Castle.
Charles Dellschau in the exhibtion "The Roots of Steampunk" art Cavin Morris Gallery NYC.

I’ve done my best to continue to perpetuate the artist. I don’t know if I’ve been able to give the artist’s legacy the true justice it deserves other than the book itself, as his visibility should be much higher than it is, and that sometimes weighs heavily on my mind. Other institutions, such as The Museum of Everything, ABCD Art Brut, The Treger/Saint Silvestre Collection, Dr. Valérie Rousseau of the American Folk Art Museum, Gagosian Gallery and The Kohler Art Center, have helped support the artist’s visibility internationally. This I am very grateful for.

5. You have an interest in witchcraft, where did this stem from and can you tell us more?

Ha yah. Well, I may as well use this opportunity to clear some of that up. I’ve had an interest since my early teenage years, studying the works of Aleister Crowley, Anton LaVey, Robert Fludd, Eliphas Lévi, Dion Fortune, Carlos Castaneda (whose books “Journey to Ixland” and “A Separate Reality” changed my life), the amazing poet, author and collector and friend of William Mortensen Manly Palmer Hall, the amazing Jack Parsons, among many others. When I was 19 I met a true sorcerer who became my mentor and still is to this day, the aforementioned British artist Ray Robinson. I don’t have any kind of practice, just daily prayers and rituals for protection and hopefully affluence.

The art of the esoteric though is very interesting to me. I have a modest collection of grimoires which most notably includes two different editions of “Doktor Johannes Faust's Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis”, one of which seems to have been used in ceremony. Other notable inclusions are a complete set of the 13 volume Das Kloster. Weltlich und geistlich 1848, a full suite of the work of Jacob Bohme, a Cambodian Shaman’s grimoire, A Tibetan Shaman’s grimoire given to me by Randall Morris, a copy of the “Imagines deorum” from 1581, my favorite book in the world is Romeyn de Hooghe’s Heiroglyphica, which he made in secret and was only published 25 years after his death in 1735. This one I could lose myself in for hours upon end. The books form a significant part of the collection as objects. The size, the weathering, the smell - these are sculptural objects that have had an odyssey of their own that makes them unique. To hold a special magic book in your hands… it’s a primary experience that we hopefully don’t lose in our time of instantaneous access and gratification. In a manner of speaking to me, it’s what the whole essence of collecting should be, to give us access to a higher order, a true primary experience which refreshes the psyche and enriches our quality of life. I don’t mean in any elitist sense… this experience is accessible to anyone who decides to pick up and follow an obsession and see where it takes them. The way information is organized now, you can go to a site like eBay, plug in a term like “Memento Mori” as I did yesterday, and see what’s out there. You don’t even have to buy anything until you feel confident and well informed enough to make a decision. Usually our first few acquisitions are part of the learning curve. It’s like walking into a dark room and letting our eyes adjust.

With one of my copies of “Doktor Johannes Faust's Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis” 1849
Excerpt from “Doktor Johannes Faust's Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis” 1849
Excerpt from Romeyn de Hooghe: Hieroglyphica — Symbols of Ancient People
a complete set of the 13 volume Das Kloster. Weltlich und geistlich 1848

But “witchcraft”… it’s a loaded term. I just see it as artists who were effective at bringing change unto the world. Darcilio Lima (1944 - 1991) for instance, is a Brazilian artist I have interest in. I produced a catalog on the artist, with an essay by Barbara Saffarova. He considered his works as spells for protection against malevolent forces, and gifted that protection to the person who would acquire that work and live with it. To me, this is the true magic.

6. A conflicted term at present, but can you tell us about your opinion of the term outsider art, how you feel about it and if there are any other words that you think we should be using instead?

I never really was comfortable with it. I thought it was sensationalist and demeaned the artist’s integrity by highlighting their marginalization. The art stands on it’s own as art, and whether or not this distinction needs to be made anymore isn’t something that seems relevant, other than for marketing purposes. On the other hand, what separates it, is the authenticity of purpose the artists share. That in general they don’t make it for the kind of recognition that artists with professional practices do, that they aren’t necessarily eager participants in the mainstream art world or in mainstream society in general. I’ve worked with all kinds of marginalized people, children mostly, in my time. Hyperactive, autistic and severely disabled - it made me recognize that I have inherent disabilities as well and I realized that I see things much differently. You don’t see the disability first, once you recognize your own. It’s all in your frame of reference I suppose. So the lines become blurred at some point when you contemplate these so called boundaries - what’s inclusive and what isn’t - but then again there seems to be plenty of artists who want to be included in the cannon, and in many cases I don’t see it, and wonder if it’s disingenuous, and that has carried with it some pretty saddening implications. But overall, I don’t know how the field itself would be distinguished.

7. What style of work, if any, is of particular interest to you within this field? (for example is it embroidery, drawing, sculpture, and so on)…

Hmm, there is genius to be found in any medium really, it just depends on the maker, their proficiency of craft, what their intentions were, and how the art came together. Those are really the pillars upon which great art stands in my opinion: concept, technique and execution.

8. Would you say you had a favorite artist or piece of work within your collection? And why?

Well, I have a Guatemalan Shaman’s prayer altar object that I adore. A collector in Florida who has written books on the subject sold it to me. It has such inherent power in it’s truth to materials. The carving is beautiful and everything about it unites as a whole and perpetually edifies . It is so powerful and emotional that you can't even describe it. It's ineffable and I have such a synergistic attachment to it that I cannot imagine it in any other hands - that’s the true test for me.

Shaman's prayer alter object, Guatemala circa 1970's. mixed material.

Also several photographs by William Mortensen, who was a self taught visionary artist in Los Angeles in the 1920’s, who worked with directors such as Tod Browning, Cecil B DeMille and Ferdinand P. Earle among others. He was ostracized because of a prolonged dispute with Ansel Adams, who ultimately dubbed him, “The anti-christ of photography,” but he was very pioneering in the development of manipulated photography - making art that pushed the technical limitations of the camera. He is considered a seminal figure today. To me his works also open the psyche… the third eye. They change the way you see things, if for nothing else their technical mastery.

"William Mortensen’s WITCHES" stephen ROMANO gallery at Scope Art Show 2020

Another memorable work that has passed through my hands was a Bizango altar I acquired from Josh Lowenfels. I had presented it in a couple of different shows and it was always controversial and always elicited a strong response either way. I’m not one to believe that inanimate objects possess the power to effect their surroundings, but this one was a bit different. I don’t know enough about the practice of Bizango to know why. Ultimately my wife Amie asked me to get rid of it, and I donated it to the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cleveland.

Bizango Altar, plaster skulls, cloth, wood, mirror, coconut, yarn, animal skull. Gift to Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Cleveland

9. Where would you say you buy most of your work from: a studio, art fairs, exhibitions, auctions, or direct from artists?

Everywhere and anywhere, the important things are quality and growth. To acquire works that expand the parameters of the collection in a way that emphasizes their affinities in new ways.

10. Is there an exhibition in this field of art that you have felt has been particularly important? And why?

I thought that “Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic” curated by Dr. Valérie Rousseau at the American Folk Art Museum in 2018 was one of the most well though out exhibition of this art. The brilliant contextualization of works that had previously not been seen together gave a fresh overview of the field, and presented enormous potential for unexplored areas of the artists’ creative output and new avenues of exploration. It was basically to me a primer for what could be done over a decades worth of investigation - it was really exciting.

The art of Charles Dellschau included in the exhibtion “Vestiges and Verse” curated by Dr. Valérie Rousseau at the American Folk Art Museum 2018

Another great show, which I did not see unfortunately because it was on the other side of the planet, but I was very intrigued with was the exhibition of the collection of The Museum of Everything at the Museum of Old and New in Tasmania. Not only because it included some of the most quintessential works by what we regard as the major artists we in this field, but the well thought out and curated layout of the exhibition itself. From one view in one carefully considered and constructed room, you see related and corresponding works with relative affinities in the next room. To me this is how an immersive experience should be, and I think no one did it better than they did.

Charles Dellschau at the Museum of Old and New, Tasmania 2018

11. Are there any people within this field that you feel have been particularly important to pave the way for where the field is at now?

Yes there is a multitude of people who have made significant contributions that I think should be acknowledged, the danger of course is leaving out someone of great significance out of oversight**. I think the work that Sandford Smith did in bringing this art to the attention of the wide public by initiating the “Outsider Art Fair” cannot be undervalued, along with the practice of having a vetting committee made of peers ensured that there was appropriate curatorial rigor to the fair.

James Brett I think has uncompromisingly assembled a collection of some of the most important works in the field. The Museum of Everything also produces some of the most relevant publications related to the art, with stunning photography and highly respected writers.

Bruno Decharme and Barbara Saffarova of ABCD Art Brut have also perpetuated this art internationally with museum quality exhibitions and publications, and continue to open new avenues of discourse. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the “Photo Brut” exhibition when it comes to these shores. Intuit in Chicago have now presented I think for close to 30 years (founded in 1991 I believe) an ongoing program of works which “celebrates the power of outsider and self-taught art.” More recently the The Treger/Saint Silvestre Collection have mounted engaging exhibitions, which also put the artists in a place of integrity. Shari Cavin and Randall Morris of Cavin Morris Gallery, my favorite gallery, have relentlessly perpetuated a program whereby the artists integrity is always in the forefront. Frank Maresca and Roger Ricco have elevated the field with rigorous exhibitions and important books, building strong bridges between the world of “outsider art” and the contemporary art world… presenting the art with the integrity it deserves.

Carl Hammer and Yolanda Farias, John Ollman, Aarne Anton, Andrew Edlin, Christian Berst, Phyllis Kind, Jean-Pierre Ritsch-Fisch, Yukiko Koide, Creative Growth Art Center and Marion Harris all have made outstanding contributions to perpetuating this art. Newer presences such as Shrine, Arthur Borgnis, Pol Lemétais, Steven Powers, Joey Lin and yourself are infusing the field with fresh vision and optimism for the future. Andrew Edlin and until recently Becca Hoffman, certainly have infused the Outsider Art Fair with a great deal of newfound enthusiasm and excitement.

**And - Henry Boxer, John and Maggie Maizels of Raw vision Magazine, Tom Isenberg (collector), Michael Bonesteel, Edward Gomez.

In so far as private collectors, I would say Monty Blanchard and Leslie Tcheyan have what amounts to the most exemplary collection, which includes an interesting balance of known masterworks and amazing unexpected discoveries which resonate magnificently together as a highly personalized collection. Adam and Flora Hanft similarly - they are risk takers and their collecting is reflected in that with wonderful results and many surprises. John Jerrit is always in pursuit of the best possible examples and enjoys sharing with enthusiasm. Audrey Heckler, Siri Von Reis, Gordon Bailey and Bob Roth come to mind as some of the most quintessential ones. The artist KAWS has been very supportive of Daniel Gonçalves, an extraordinary artist, whom I have worked with on some special projects and exhibitions.

stephen ROMANO gallery Metro Show art fair NYC w William Mortensen, Sonya Fu, Carved Wooden Angels c 1880, Kris Kuksi, Andreas Cellarius Harmonia Macrocosmica 1665.
Daniel Goncalves #341_2019

12. Is there anything else you would like to add?

To me Visual Art is the jewel in the crown of our cultural achievements. I think collecting is something anyone who wants to can pursue, you don’t need vast sums of money to do what’s within your means, but pursue excellence. Certainly, I’ve made some choices in the past that in retrospect I would not make now given the benefit of experience. It’s all part of risk taking, which can only really be seen in hindsight. Don’t be afraid, it’s the best way to learn. The greatest reward is sharing our collections with others to inspire awe in them as well.

Studio view 2020
Studio view 2020, paintings by Wolfgang Grasse
Studio view 2020
Studio view 2020