PaperCity Magazine

April 2017 - Houston

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77 the protocol for placing calls on his behalf. Everyone snapped to attention when he entered the gallery, and the sense of being part of something formal and important kept the staff slightly on edge, yet proud and inspired to do our best. Everything at the gallery was done a certain way. Everything was approved by Long — and still is: gallery invitations and the handsome catalogs that were its calling cards, artist selection and exhibition installation, collaborating with museums on scholarly volumes and shows. Clients were trusted and respected. Gentlemen and ladies merely signed for works, which were sent on approval to their homes, delivered and placed so the client could test-drive the art. The honor system ruled, and payments were sent in a timely manner after a sale was fi nalized. Openings were old school — and still are: 5 to 7 pm, valet parkers, passed cocktails as well as nice wines from Richard's. Then there's the roll call of artists and exhibitions presented across the decades. Each memorable in their time, even more so looking back — a bounty of works, many of them masterpieces by the greats, which would be challenging and extraordinarily expensive to present today at a museum, let alone a gallery. One example is portraiture by turn-of- the-century expat John Singer Sargent — canvases that rendered society kings and queens in luscious surfaces and Grand Manner poses. His depictions provided windows onto a certain caste and character. "Thanks to Meredith Long, there are more Sargents in Houston than in any other place in the world," late MFAH director Peter Marzio remarked upon the occasion of a 2010 museum exhibition of "Houston's Sargents," placed alongside the traveling show "Sargent and the Sea." The roundup of stately portraits owned by Houstonians and purchased through Meredith Long totally eclipsed the visiting exhibition. Nineteenth and early-20th-century notable painters Frederic Edwin Church and Mary Cassatt had their day in the gallery. The former was celebrated in a museum-quality display of his sweeping landscapes, on the occasion of the galleries 50th anniversary in 2007. Opening night was capped by a dinner, a fund-raiser for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's American department, held at the tony Bayou Club. In 2010, Long partnered with another blue-chip American gallerist, Warren Adelson, to present a rediscovered cache of American Impressionist Mary Cassatt's exquisite, understated works on paper, a high point in the annals of the gallery history. The exhibition was shared between Adelson's Upper East Side gallery and Long's River Oaks bastion. The gallery also carved out special turf for sporting paintings and prints. No one owned sporting art in Texas like Meredith Long. His name and that of artist Jack Cowan will forever be intertwined, beginning in the early 1960s. To Cowan's works, Long added Al Barnes and Herb Booth; the trio were involved in every signifi cant commission and conservation organization, documenting hunting and fishing trips, some with former President Bush (41), thus recording a way of life and a landscape that has either vanished or is under siege. Among contemporary masters, the late Kenneth Noland (known for his compelling targets) stands out. Long relays a hilarious episode where Noland and some of the Color Field painters came to visit and they all went hunting. He rushed them away from the fi eld and on to dinner because many of them were not skilled with a shotgun. Noland also proposed to his girlfriend, Architectural Digest editor Paige Rense, in the gallery during his opening. "She was a marvelous woman," Long remembers. Helen Frankenthaler of the limpid Color Field abstractions — one of the best abstract artists in the last half century — was also a staple and represented ambitious gallery programming that was ahead of its time. Recently I was browsing the gallery's ample library and found a Frankenthaler catalog for works on paper exhibited in 2004 that is utterly sublime. I remember being asked to "Get Helen Frankenthaler on the phone!" I quaked at the thought of dialing up a living legend, but somehow rang up the studio and relayed a message on behalf of my boss. A contemporary artist whom Long has championed throughout his career is '80s and early-'90s darling Donald Sultan. Thirty years ago, Sultan's minimalist, large-format drawings of charcoal eggs or fl owers rendered against a white background represented a radical brand and a return to a brooding realism. Selling a pair of Sultans for fi ve fi gures each during Art Chicago in 1989 was my fi rst big break as a gallery fl edgling. I was also involved with placing an epic, six-fi gure Sultan oil-and-tar-on- linoleum painting shortly after the fair. In the 2000s, the artist seemed to have lost some of his early luster, but now his massive, environmentally tinged canvases, edged with a sense of the apocalyptic, seem right for our time. Long represents Sultan to this day. Nearing 90, Long has slowed down a bit — no international travel, focusing instead on trips to his Hill Country ranch and occasional hunting forays — but remains indomitable, with wit at the ready. Every afternoon, as he's done for the past 60 years, he presides over and conducts business at the gallery. The day of our photo shoot, he was entertaining captains of industry and trustees of boards over drinks, conversation, and art. "It's a dude party," Martha Long says. She and a staff of three oversee the daily operations of the gallery, in close collaboration with her father. Martha has been at the gallery full- Cornelia and Meredith Long cut a rug at the Alley Theatre Ball, 2007. Long's beloved Cavalier King Charles, Andy II, in the viewing room with John Singer Sargent's Bedouin Encampment, 1906 COURTESY ALLEY THEATRE CHISHOLM & KENYON, INC. PHOTOGRAPHY CHISHOLM & KENYON, INC. PHOTOGRAPHY Meredith Long, second from left, with American Association of Museums brass at the gallery's opening night for the benefi t loan exhibition "Americans at Home and Abroad," March 26, 1971

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