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April 2017 - Houston

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79 Art love at first sight. It started with a man. I married his daughter. His name was Ernest Closuit. He was an art collector, and he lived in Fort Worth. I would be up there, and I would see him unpacking what he bought when he went to New York, and I became interested. And he knew LeRoy Ireland, too. LeRoy was working on a catalog, and everybody that knew anything about art knew who LeRoy Ireland was … I knew I was going to be an art dealer. But I didn't quit selling fans. I sold fans and air conditioners for years; my father got me a piece of the territory from Curtis Mathes so I could pay for my first wife. On selling John Singer Sargent. I was just right in the middle of everything. And it was a wonderful time for me. Other people came and become great collectors of American paintings and formed important collections. Houston began to really develop. You can see it on the walls down at the museum. We sold, I think, 43 Sargents. Pretty impressive figure. Best advice you ever got. On one of my trips to New York, Jay Rousuck, vice president, and mentor, at Wildenstein, said, "You ought to have a bar in your gallery for young men to stop by in the afternoon on their way home" — which I did. It was very successful, although on some days too successful. People began to congregate. It was a really great group of people. And on the next trip, he said, "You show sporting painters, don't you, Meredith?" And I said, "Oh no, no, no, we don't do that. That's not our kind of thing. That's popcorn art." He said, "Meredith, let me remind you of something. The Mellons, the Rockefellers, they're all sportsmen. You need to show things that they're interested in." Well, I thought about it on the airplane on the way home and thought, 'Maybe we better do that.' Around that time, Jack Cowan showed up one afternoon. I guess I was sort of in a hurry. I told him, "Well, Jack, I might want to see you later, but not right now." That weekend happened to be when I was invited to go goose shooting with David Wintermann at his fabulous estate. Wintermann said, "Have you seen the new book that Schlumberger put out on Cowan prints?" I got to thinking about it. I called him back, and I said, "Jack, I'd like to look at those works again." He said, "Okay, Meredith but the other day you weren't interested." I said, "Well, I learned a lot in a week." Jack was my first artist in that field — it opened all kinds of doors for me. People who are ranchers and landowners and so forth are interested and like to look at paintings — good paintings, good watercolors — showing all kinds of shooting in Texas. I took Cowan, Herb Booth, and Al Barnes to New York. Only thing is, I had a partner in New York [in the gallery Davis and Long], Roy Davis; he also represented an important Eastern sporting painter. And he didn't want Jack Cowan. I said, "Well, this is my place, and he's going be there." I wanted Jack to get some nice national recognition. By the time we parted at his death, Jack had gone from a tough $850 price to $35,000 to $40,000 with regularity. Big break. The first big painting I sold in Houston was to Mrs. Goodrich. We can look it up: a French Impressionist picture from a Kansas City dealer [Long was dealing French painting during the gallery's earliest days]. I sold it for $37,500,and I thought, 'My god, what a deal.' That's more than my house cost. I lived right over here on Locke Lane. You met Cornelia at the original Houston gallery in Highland Village … That's right. She was serious and quiet. I didn't really know who she was. But she wanted to buy some art. I interested her in some paintings, one of which hangs on our wall at home, a Sargent. She was on about three major committees in the museum at this point. She should be. She is just very good at what she does. She really works at it like a job … Cornelia and I spend a great deal of time together, and with out children, and now grandchildren and a great grandchild. Family is very important. I also spend time with my sons and sons-in-law, taking them hunting. On giving back. You just have to become a part of the community. That's what I did. I supported activities, and I underwrote what I could and did what I could to help make it work … With the Alley Theatre, Patty Hubbard got me in that … Sure enough, I got to know a few people, and I got them to step it up, and we ended up changing directors, of course, as you know — not without some commotion — and now we have Greg Boyd. He's world-class … I was a chairman of the Texas Heart Institute for 25 years, and it's a remarkable organization. It's just fantastic. I went in Above right: Helen Frankenthaler's Untitled, 2001, exhibited in a 2004 show at the gallery. Above: Kenneth Noland's Half, 1959, in the permanent collection of the MFAH, and originally exhibited at the gallery. Cornelia & Meredith Long in Scotland, 2009 "Houston's Sargents," at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2010 Meredith Long & Company MARTHA LONG COURTESY MFAH © ESTATE OF KENNETH NOLAND / LICENSED BY VAGA, NYC. PHOTOGRAPH © MFAH. FRANKENTHALER: WORKS ON PAPER 1998 2002, MEREDITH LONG & COMPANY EXHIBITION CATALOG, 2004

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