PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas December 2021

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Page 37 of 99

A GOLD MINE IN A SHED (Continued) COURTESY CHUCK SMITH A TROVE OF WORKS BY TEXAS' GREATEST ABSTRACT PAINTER IS REDISCOVERED IN A RURAL STORAGE SHED. BEHIND THE SCENES OF HOW 14 LOST CANVASES BY FORREST BESS CAME TO BE FOUND, WHICH DALLAS DEALER AND CURATOR PLAYED A PART, AND WHY THESE WORKS ARE NOW ON VIEW IN THE HAMPTONS. By Catherine D. Anspon. Photography Greg Kessler. A casual lunch in September with g a l l e r i s t K i r k Hopper set off a chain reaction that led to a cache of canvases by visionary modernist painter Forrest Bess (1911-1977) being exhibited in the Hamptons art space The Ranch — America's oldest working ranch, reborn as an exhibition venue whose next-door neighbor was once Andy Warhol. It all began when Hopper and I shared a Tex-Mex meal around the corner from his Design District gallery, Kirk Hopper Fine Art. He relayed a fortuitous quandary. He had recently been contacted by a retired Texas ranch foreman (whose name is being kept private) who had received works by the late artist from his boss, Bess collector and confidant Harry Burkhart of Markham, Texas. Time passed. After moving off the Burkhart Ranch, the former foreman discovered the artworks in his storage shed boxed up with household goods, where they had languished for years. First a little background on Bess. The famous denizen of Bay City, Texas, showed during his lifetime in the mainstream Manhattan art world at Betty Parsons Gallery (home to Pollock, Rothko, Newman, and Still) despite his prosaic day job as a small- town bait fisherman. Since his death, his renown has continued to rise — as well as his market, with canvases measuring 9 by 10 inches fetching six figures. Bess is a revered figure within contemporary circles for his compelling visual language, which he ascribed to arcane abstract forms and colors that came to his consciousness when he closed his eyes. The artist was touted in a 2013-2014 nationally traveling exhibition organized by The Menil Collection, "Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible." The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston also presented his hermetic, diminutive canvases in group shows and a solo exhibition during his Forrest Bess, Chinquapin, Texas, circa 1958 36

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