While the annual Saint Louis Art Fair in can provide a fun outing for casual attendees, it's also serious business for participating artists and the buyers who come looking to furnish their homes, offices or businesses.
Nothing illustrates that better than an encounter at last year's Art Fair between artist Juli Adams and collector John Horseman.
Artist Juli Adams
Juli Adams exhibited at the Art Fair for the first time last year. The Seattle, WA, resident was excited to participate. She was well aware of the significance of exhibiting at what many consider one of the nation's top art events.
Adams' interest in art began when she was young.
“Since I was a kid,” Adams said. “I never stopped. Looking back, I always had the artistic temperament. I started painting seriously when I was 25 and started selling when I was 30.”
One of the pieces she will sell at this year's fair features a young boy in period clothing that includes a top hat. He is holding an umbrella and sits, alongside a cat, on the back of a chicken. Adams calls the piece, “Portrait of a Young Poulqestrian.”
“Yes, I invented that word,” Adams said. “'Chicken rider' just didn't do it.”
The combination of realism and fantasy makes the work look as though it were painted by a 17th century Dutch master having hallucinations.
The combination is irresistible but hard to define. Adams herself is unsure what to call her style.
“It's hard to describe,” said Adams. “If there's a word for it, I guess it would be kind of surreal.”
For Adams, last year's fair proved to be her best show of the year in terms of work sold.
Part of that success can be attributed to John Horseman.
Collector John Horseman
John Horseman is an art collector and financial adviser from Creve Coeur who owns J. M. Horseman Group. When the rest of the world was collecting French artists, Horseman said, he and his wife, Susan, were concentrating on American artists who portrayed American ways of life rather than a specific style.
Horseman has attended the fair for the last 12 years and doesn't always buy paintings. But he usually makes a purchase.
“The other thing I get for my wife is jewelry,” Horseman said. “I assure you, my wife always finds something there.”
Of his approximately 150 paintings, some hang in his office and some in his home. And 57 of his collection now make up a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, one of the premier museums in Memphis, TN. The exhibit travels to art museums across the country.
A book written about the collection is titled, “Regional Dialect: American Scene Paintings from the John and Susan Horseman Collection”.
Before last year, the collection contained only works by deceased artists. All that changed when Horseman visited Adams' booth.
Artist and collector
When Horseman and his wife visited Adams' booth last year, her work caught his attention immediately.
“We have a lot of American magic realism—American artists in the '40s and '50s—and I saw qualities of that in Juli's work, and it resonated with us,” Horseman said. “Juli's work has an eerie, dreamlike quality to it.”
Horseman purchased two of Adams' paintings. She is now the only living artist represented in Horseman's collection, an inclusion significant enough that the name of the collection will change from "Regional Dialects" to "Modern Dialects".
Adams' art has been selected this year for the official Art Fair T-shirt. She isn't sure whether inclusion in the Horseman collection has had an effect on her.
“I don't know yet,” Adams said. “Nobody really knows about it. I guess it is, since it's getting attention now. Even though it happened last year, it's waited until this year to get any attention.”
Editor's note: If you'd like to meet Juli Adams and view her work, visit her at the Saint Louis Art Fair this weekend in Booth No. 237. Tell her you read about her on Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch. The fair runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in downtown Clayton.