The salty air, breaking waves at Georgica Beach and subtle changes of light that splash across the back roads of Bridgehampton on Long Island’s East End have long attracted artists searching for respite or their own inner muse. Summers in the mid-20th century saw the epicenter of the art world shift from the cacophony of New York City to the sleepy environs just a few miles to the east, and a list of those who lived and worked in this idyllic spot puts it on par with Van Gogh’s Arles or Monet’s Giverny: Pollock, Kline, de Kooning, Rothko.
While auctions that feature works by these and other mid-century giants are guaranteed to garner a lot of attention – not to mention bids that easily reach nine figures – other talented artists, who were highly regarded at the time, have faded into near oblivion.
Berry Campbell Gallery, located in the heart of New York’s Chelsea art district, is working to fill that important gap.
Discovering the Past
The gallery’s founders and owners, Christine Berry and Martha Campbell, use their exhibition space to showcase the work of post-war and contemporary artists who don’t get much airtime in other venues. A number of these artists were left behind, not because their work lacks charisma, aesthetic appeal or technique, but because complex social issues inextricably tied to the tumultuous changes that swept across postwar America led to their being marginalized on the basis of gender, race, geography and other factors.
Berry and Campbell’s curatorial approach is intended to shed new light on the works themselves, but also on how the artists’ ideas and lessons took American art in new directions. “Much of the work that we show is by artists who have pursued a particular line of inquiry over many years, even when this has meant going against the day’s trends,” Campbell observed. Berry added that they love “the gritty and the cerebral; art that has a visceral impact and an optical intensity.” Thanks to Berry and Campbell Gallery as well as other galleries that understand the importance of these works and seek to correct the lack of attention to them for decades, the depth that exists in American modernism is beginning to be understood on an entirely new level.
Focus on Exhibitions
The gallery’s owners have made a special effort to highlight works by women. The lack of female representation in art is a void that the art world has tacitly known for many years but until recently has done little to rectify. Recently, Berry Campbell Gallery exhibited work by Perle Fine and Judith Godwin, artists that were represented in the 2016 traveling exhibition, Women of Abstract Expressionism. Later, an exhibition was held that focused solely on 16 paintings by Godwin. In 2019, American abstract artist Yvonne Thomas’s work was highlighted in Yvonne Thomas: Windows and Variations (Paintings 1963-1965), and Country Fields featured the abstract landscape imagery of New York artist Joyce Weinstein.
Other recent exhibitions at the gallery have included works by Larry Zox from the early 1970s, more than 30 paintings by abstract expressionist Frank Wimberley, and Caravan Series by American painter Anne Purcell. Most years also see work exhibited in conjunction with Art Miami and that city’s vibrant art scene.
Along with works produced by residents of the East End, Berry Campbell Gallery’s roster has continued to grow, including works from Color Field, Kinetic, and Minimalist artists such as Edward Avedisian, Walter Darby Bannard, Dan Christensen, Ann Purcell and William Perehudoff. Abstract expressionist and figurative painter Stephen Pace is represented, as are noted contemporary artists Ken Greenleaf, Jodie Manasevit, Jill Nathanson, Susan Vecsey, and Joyce Weinstein.
Christine Berry and Martha Campbell both began their art careers in the museum world but in quite different locales. The places they worked and the art to which they were exposed lend some insight into the creation and focus of Berry Campbell Gallery.
Berry, originally from the small town of Geneseo in Western New York State, received her master’s degree in art history and criticism at the University of North Texas. She remained in the Lone Star State to work as Assistant Curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Since she spent her time around a significant collection of post-World War II art, Berry was able to develop a greater appreciation and knowledge of such luminaries as Philip Guston, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Motherwell, Susan Rothenberg, Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol. She then moved to New York City and took a position at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, which focuses on American art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Campbell, a native of Greenville, Mississippi, graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 2006, and immediately went to work at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. The museum includes work ranging from French impressionism to American modernism to contemporary art, and the walls are graced with paintings by such masters as Cezanne, Degas, Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Whistler, Homer, Matisse, O’Keeffe and Monet, just to name a few.
As fate would have it, both women eventually found a place at Spanierman Gallery and Spanierman Modern in New York City, where they worked as directors for several years. Their mutual interest in art history, along with their years of experience in networking with prominent artists and scholars, led to the next logical step: Berry and Campbell decided to form a partnership and open their own gallery. “It seemed to make sense to work together,” Berry said. Campbell agreed: “It just seemed like a natural progression.”
So in 2013, Berry Campbell Gallery opened on the ground floor at 530 West 24th Street. The gallery quickly drew attention, and clients spread the word. Two years later the gallery expanded, doubling its exhibition space to 2,000 square feet. Christine and Martha’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, as various artists represented in their gallery have been discussed in Artforum, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer and Hamptons Art Hub. They continue to make and sustain important connections and discussions in the art world, and they are always on the lookout to discover another new or forgotten artist.
In conjunction with Berry Campbell Gallery, Sotheby’s Home offers many works of art by some of the finest and most sought-after postwar and contemporary artists. Striking paintings are available by such notables as William H. Bailey, Walter Darby Bannard, Dan Christensen, Eric Dever, Perle Fine, Judith Godwin, Ken Greenleaf, Yvonne Thomas, and Susan Vecsey.