As galleries across New York City adapt to the growing pressures of the global art market, Galerie St. Etienne, the highly influential dealer in Austrian and German Expressionism and work by self-taught artists, is taking an unusual tack, transitioning to a nonprofit foundation by the end of 2020.
The formation of the nonprofit, the St. Etienne Foundation, is being announced as the gallery celebrates 80 years on West 57th Street. It will continue the gallery’s longtime practice of scholarly research and assisting with museum exhibitions, says the gallery’s director, Jane Kallir, who will run the foundation through grants and an endowment.
“We came to a fork in the road — either pursue scholarship or commerce. The two don’t work in tandem the way they once did. The emphasis on corporate branding and investment in today’s market undermines connoisseurship,” Ms. Kallir said. In 2017, she founded the Kallir Research Institute to update and digitize the gallery’s Egon Schiele catalogue raisonné. Ms. Kallir also plans to update and digitize the gallery’s 1973 Grandma Moses catalogue raisonné and publish a digital one for Austrian portraitist Richard Gerstl.
The gallery was founded in Vienna in 1923 by Otto Kallir, Jane’s grandfather, as the Neue Galerie — Ronald Lauder named his Upper East Side museum after it — and soon became an important spot to see work by artists of the Vienna Secession. After relocating to New York in 1939, the gallery gave such artists as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Schiele their first American solo shows, with the help of longtime gallery co-director Hildegard Bachert, who died last month at the age of 98.
Three more exhibitions are planned for 2020, including new work by the longtime gallery artist Sue Coe, who is known for her social activism and biting political art, timed to coincide with the presidential election.