Dealing works of contemporary art
By Steve Seepersaud
Innovation of concept. Maturity of technique. To Barry Neuman '79, these are some of the most important qualities in a piece of art. His perspective is not that of a casual fan; he's an art dealer in New York and director of Modern Culture, a fine arts enterprise handling works produced from 1956 to the present day.
"[Our] primary art market program represents a selection of artists whose works concern the phenomena of modern life," Neuman says. "Initially, this approach was exemplified by works that addressed advertising, the mass media, music, new media, street culture and transportation."
At the same time, Modern Culture is active in the secondary art market, offering works on behalf of prospective sellers and seeking works on behalf of prospective buyers.
Neuman's first steps on this career path took place during his time as a student at Binghamton. Though he was a biological sciences major, he took a number of electives in art history and subsequently decided to explore career paths in the arts, earning a master's degree from New York University in visual arts administration.
"I developed an interest in communicating with audiences about art with which they had little or no previous contact by bringing works from elsewhere to New York and vice versa and by identifying works by significant, emerging artists," Neuman said.
Neuman worked for several commercial art galleries before feeling the urge to launch his own business. He began operating Modern Culture privately, offering works directly to private collectors and curating exhibitions.
His operation first went public when he entered into a partnership with a client who was the president of the Gershwin Hotel in Manhattan. For two years, they ran a commercial gallery in a retail space next to the hotel. Modern Culture At The Gershwin Hotel exhibited works in a variety of media, such as paintings, works on paper, sculpture, photography, video, wall murals and lighting projections. The gallery featured emerging and established artists from across the globe.
Afterward, Neuman operated Modern Culture privately before going public once again - this time, in the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue. He has since operated the business privately but plans to relocate to another public space at some point. Among the works Neuman and Modern Culture have exhibited:
* Katherine Bernhardt's two-gallery solo exhibition of paintings and works on paper, concurrently presented at Team Gallery and Modern Culture At The Gershwin Hotel. The showing received a very favorable review by Jerry Saltz in the Village Voice.
* Chris Kasper's nylon flag - shown at Modern Culture's stand at a fair in Portland, Ore. - which said, "I WOULD PREFER NOT TO," and hung vertically from one nail. Neuman says, like the character who stated this phrase in Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, the flag looked like it was declining to do its job. In an unexpected way, he says, the work addresses the dignity of the individual.
"I believe that all of the artists with whom I've worked are exceptional. It has been a great pleasure to participate in many memorable projects in the visual arts," Neuman says.
Find out more at the Modern Culture website.