Art in Town

Campus Arts

Art by the River

Art In Trenton

Art in the Workplace

Area Museums

Corrections or additions?

This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the October 17, 2001

edition

of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

David Rago’s "Going, Going, Gone"

First, you see the name, David Rago, as the sponsor

of an art show award. Then you hear about benefit events for

FACT/Bucks

County and the New Hope Arts Commission at David Rago’s place in

Lambertville

— or an area artist uses the site for a weekend show. You come

across an issue of Style: 1900 (a magazine of turn-of-the-century

design) or Modernism Magazine (20th-century art and design) and notice

they are produced by editor and publisher David Rago. You wonder:

who is this guy, anyway?

Finally a friend lets you know: David Rago, with an international

auction business based in Lambertville, is an author, publisher,

auctioneer,

and community-minded patron of the arts, and his is a veritable

"local

boy makes good" story.

Rago’s published biography indicates he took his first steps toward

his present-day auction empire at age 16, selling porcelain and garage

sale stuff at the Golden Nugget flea market in Lambertville.

Publishing his first article in a national magazine while still in

college, Rago became a specialist on American art pottery — capped

by publication in 1997 of his benchmark book, "American Art

Pottery."

As an arts and crafts dealer, he has written other books and hundreds

of articles, worked in a New York gallery, and run auctions at the

Meadowlands and in Manhattan. An expert appraiser for TV’s

"Antiques

Roadshow," he also lectures nationally.

In 1996, he bought the old silk hosiery mill at the northern end of

Lambertville to convert into headquarters for David Rago Auctions,

Inc. Already gutted, the building 1929 glass and girder structure

of 12,500 square feet became a self-contained auction facility with

space for merchandise appraisal, storage, photography, and display

— and auctions. For Rago, these require space for telephone and

internet bidding as well as on-site bidders. Lambertville restaurateur

Jim Hamilton designed the office area that runs along one side of

the building, housing about 18 auction employees and five editorial

staff for Rago’s two quarterly magazines.

Three weekends a year are earmarked for arts and crafts

("Craftsman")

auctions; two more a year, for auctions of modern pieces; and

occasionally

there are special smaller ones for pottery, antiques, and collector

items. Operating out of 333 North Main Street, Rago partners with

a few different people whose complementary specialties enhance the

range of auctions held there. For instance, his partners for arts

and crafts auctions are Jerry Cohen and John Fontaine; and with his

partner and wife Suzanne Perrault, he runs the Perrault-Rago Gallery,

a nearby venue for private sale of 20th century decorative arts and

furnishings.

"This is a specialty auction house," says Miriam Tucker,

Rago’s

chief operating officer. "Major houses know more about many things

than we do, but we know more about certain things than they do."

For instance, she says, no one on staff with a major auction house

knows as much about American art pottery as David, or about post-war

modern furniture as John Sollo. And, she adds, Rago’s guarantee is

a significant departure from that at most other houses, where "as

is, where is," and "buyer beware" prevail.

On a mild October day between weekend auctions scheduled this fall,

Rago was casually dressed in shorts and a polo shirt while he looked

over furniture just received for an auction in January — including

a long George Nakashima dining table and a Stickley mirror. John

Sollo,

Rago’s partner for the modern auctions, joined in. Together, they

and a few others talked admiringly about the work on hand. Rago’s

experience in this area gives him about 30 years of history to draw

on; he can look at that Stickley mirror, for instance, and mentally

compare it with the many others he has seen.

Sollo, an imposingly tall and rangy man, joined forces with Rago

around

the time of the building renovation, bringing his own expertise on

modern design into the mix that grew to encompass furniture, ceramics,

lighting, and glass. A folk art fancier at first, Sollo was converted

by a Paul Evans modern chair to focus instead on 20th-century design.

The two launched David Rago modern auctions in 1998, and they have

co-authored "Collecting Modern: A Guide to Mid-Century Furniture

and Ceramics," due out next month.

A solidly built, gray-haired guy with warm brown-eyes and a matter

of fact well-spokenness, Rago says self-deprecating things, but it

would seem he does so from the comfort of a successful business.

"Becoming

an auctioneer is definitely an act of desperation," he says,

looking

back at his beginnings in this area. When he left the New York gallery

he had been with in the early 1980s, he realized he had lost his

market.

"So I figured I’d hold an auction and find out who the buyers

were." Easier said than done, he soon learned.

To begin with, there were the matters of room size, set-up, and

sequence

of pieces. "It’s not intuitive. There’s no school for it."

So Rago learned by doing, guided by Eric Silver, an old friend he

describes as a "trained, old-school, English style

auctioneer."

So well did he learn that now he can laughingly share a backhand

compliment

from another friend about his early auctioneering: "If you wonder

what not to do at auction, ask David. He’s made every mistake there

is."

That’s hard to believe, catching him in action today. At a Saturday

afternoon auction last month — postponed from the preceding

weekend

because of September 11 terrorist attacks — there’s palpable

interest,

plenty of people, and, given the timing, perhaps the biggest surprise,

substantial sales. Rago, who had feared a negative impact, even with

his first-ever weeklong postponement, was pleasantly surprised.

"People

watch the sale live across the country," he says. "In this

uncertain economic climate, dealers and collectors are wondering,

`what should I do?’ They’re trying to read the mood and see how this

sale goes. If it tanks, they may be out of a job."

It looked promising from the first lot: an "exceptional, rare

and large Arequipa vase, 1912." Rago says, "I knew this piece

would smoke. At $25 to $35,000, we were at least gonna get the high

estimate." (The glossy catalogs for Rago’s sales show a price

range for every item to be auctioned. Those two figures are the

house’s

estimate of what an item will sell for, and bidding starts below both

this range and the "reserve," or the confidential lowest price

the seller will accept. No lot can be sold until bidding reaches the

reserve level, though it can go beyond that figure.) In this case,

the hammer, or sale, price was $65,000. And that foreshadowed

succeeding

sales.

"You got to start the sale off with a bang," Rago says.

"My

first 50 lots are the pieces that are the best, that I’m most

confident

about. How you structure your sale is critical for success. People

can re-think what they do based on how things are moving, the climate

of the auction — especially how it starts." And for anyone

who thinks a mid-course correction could change things, forget that

idea. "Once the auction is underway, the sequence can’t vary."

Pieces are sold in the same order as they appear in the catalog.

So September’s Arts and Crafts auction went well. Maybe, as Rago

theorized,

lots of people from New York wanted to get out of the city. And there

were others from across the country who had cash because they had

sold stocks and bonds. "Long term," he says, "who

knows."

Divided lengthwise, a fifth to a quarter of the space in "the

Rago building" is offices. Running along the opposite side is

a preparation and display area, for photography and other behind the

scenes efforts, and to house merchandise for auction. During the

week-long

previews before any auction, those interested can wander around to

touch, examine, or measure anything on display — typically large

and small furniture pieces, lamps, art works, carpets.

Operations chief Tucker says, "That’s the beauty of auction

previews.

If you want to see a $15,000 vase, the cataloguer will bring it out

from the display case, show it to you, tell you about it." Each

piece in the preview period has been assigned a lot number that

matches

its catalog number, and visitors can read the detailed information

there.

The building’s wide center section, where at other times an artist

might mount a show, is for auction action. On one of those days,

bidders

and spectators pass through a reception area into a folding-chair

section that faces a podium on a raised platform. There, a

large-screen

TV will show the item, or "lot" for sale, and next to it,

hammer in hand, stands David Rago, auctioneer.

There’s no shilly-shallying at a Rago auction. It starts at noon,

moves swiftly through the catalog, and ends after a few hours when

the last lot has been offered. The first hint of this efficiency had

come in a comment by Miriam Tucker: Rago, she said, is "a pretty

fast auctioneer," typically handling 75 to 100 lots an hour, or

well more than one item a minute. Only the activity sets the timing

off, she continued — and of course that’s just fine. "People

feel very strongly about getting in early, but really, the key thing

is to be the last man standing."

As advertised, yet with candor and occasional humor,

Rago runs the show. He must keep the bidding increments in mind —

they vary, depending on price range — and be aware of bidders

participating both on-line and by phone, as well as those on the

floor.

Off to one side, Rago employees work for those absent bidders, and

wave to signal their wishes. "It’s with me" signals an

absentee

bidder who left a bid with Rago, and "You’ve broken the order"

means his bidder has stopped and the bidding is open.

In a macabre case on this occasion he announced, wrapping up one sale,

"Sold to buyer number 9-1-1," and everyone gasped. Rago said

only "Goosebumps" into the mike, and moved on. Problems with

another piece had come to light after catalog production, so Rago

detailed the flaws, said dryly, "other than that, mint," then

withdrew it from the sale.

The second of two sons, Rago was born in Hamilton Square and grew

up on a tomato farm on Whitehorse Avenue, off Route 1. His mother

was a nurse and nursing instructor at St. Francis Hospital; his dad,

a draftsman with RCA, worked on satellites in the early ’60s; and

his older brother, Donald, works in computers.

Of his experience as an English major at the College of New Jersey,

he says, "I got 100 credits before they kicked me out." A

quarter-century later, he says, "There’s nothing you can do in

life that an English major won’t help with," and confides,

"Even

if my competitors could write, they didn’t have the confidence they

could."

As luck would have it, a major modern auction, presented by David

Rago and John Sollo, is scheduled for October 20 and 21. "Piece

for piece, it’s the best modern sale we’ve ever held," says Rago.

"It’s a selection of several hundred pieces of high-end designer

furniture by the best names in the 20th century: Frank Lloyd Wright,

George Nakashima, Carl Evans, Gaetano Pesce, George Nelson, Charles

Eames, Florence Knoll, the Memphis school, right on down the line,

it’s a Who’s Who list."

"Look," he continues, "obviously I’m a promoter. It’s

my sale, and I’m not gonna tell you horrible things about it. But

this is no BS: this is a great modern sale. It’s a compendium, a

panoply

even, of major pieces by major designers in excellent condition at

really reasonable prices."

Leaf through the catalogs for this auction weekend — the 120-page

bound edition (with a Miro, no less, on the cover, lot 280) for

session

one on Saturday, when high-end items are sold; a thinner one for

Sunday’s

session two, when good, moderate collectibles can be had. With such

covetable things as Mies van der Rohe chairs, a George Nakashima

walnut

slab coffee table, a Harry Bertoia sound sculpture, and Bakelite

jewelry

to be seen and considered, the catalogs are modern wish lists or dream

books, with full-color illustrations.

— Pat Summers

Modern Auction Weekend , David Rago Modern Auctions,

333 North Main, Lambertville, 609-397-9374. Two-day auction of

20th-century

art and furnishings. Www.ragoarts.com. Saturday and Sunday,

October 20 and 21, noon to 5 p.m.

Top Of Page
Art in Town

Arts Council of Princeton , WPA Gallery, 102 Witherspoon

Street, 609-924-8777. "Home," a theme show juried by architect

and designer Barry Richards. On view weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To October 19.

CG Gallery Ltd , 10 Chambers Street, 609-683-1988. Dmitri

Ivanov exhibition of new paintings. A graduate of the Serv Art College

in St. Petersburg, Russian, he finds inspiration in Russian fairy

tales, architecture, and history. To October 20.

Cranbury Station Gallery , 28 Palmer Square East,

Princeton,

609-921-0434. Oil paintings by Cynthia A. Dawley.

Triumph Brewing Company , 138 Nassau Street, 609-924-7855.

"Artista Cuba," contemporary Cuban folk art from the

collection

of Jorge Armenteros who has been studying and collecting Cuban art

since 1996.

Williams Gallery , 16-1/2 Witherspoon Street, 609-921-1142.

"Modernism, Mr. Magoo, and More," featuring works by master

animator, artist, and filmmaker Jules Engel. The Hungarian-born

artist,

who began his career at Walt Disney, and was part of the team that

created 1950s cartoon favorite Mr. Magoo, also created lithographs

at the Tamarind Workshop and Tyler Graphics. Tuesday to Saturday,

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To October 20.

Top Of Page
Campus Arts

Art Museum, Princeton University , 609-258-3788.

"Camera

Women," a selective survey of the history of photography from

the perspective of the woman photographer, with works from the

collection

by Julia Margaret Cameron, Anna Atkins, Gertrude Kasebier, Tina

Modotti,

Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, and others. To January 6.

Also "What Photographs Look Like," the annual teaching show,

to November 11; "Seeing Double: Copies and Copying in the Arts

of China," an exhibition of Chinese art, to November 4. Open

Tuesday

through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours

every Saturday at 2 p.m.

Lawrenceville School , Gruss Center of Visual Arts,

Lawrenceville,

609-620-6026. Faculty exhibit featuring Brian Daniell, Jamie

Greenfield,

Amanda Kamen, Ed Robbins, Allen Fitzpatrick, Leonid Siveriver, William

Vandever, and others. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; except

Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon. To November 16.

Gallery at Mercer County College , Communications Center,

609-586-4800, ext. 3589. "Sub/Urban: Landscapes of the City

and Suburbs," with works by MCCC faculty member Jeff Epstein and

guest artists Violet Baxter and Ken McIndoe. Tuesday to Thursday,

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday evenings 6 to 8 p.m.; Thursday evenings

7 to 9 p.m. To November 8.

Rider University Art Gallery , Route 206, Lawrenceville,

609-896-5168. "Moments of Seeing" paintings and drawings by

artist and medical doctor Frederick Franck. Monday to Thursday, 2

to 8 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m. To October 28.

Top Of Page
Art by the River

Artists’ Gallery , 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville,

609-397-4588.

"Urban Scenes," a shared show by B.A. Keogh and Lisa Mahan,

two Bucks County artists working in a representational style. Part

the show sales donated to the New York Firefighter’s Fund. Friday,

Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To November 5.

Artsbridge Gallery , Prallsville Mills, Route 29, Stockton,

609-773-0881. Members’ art show at gallery in the historic mills.

Thursday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Coryell Gallery , 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville,

609-397-0804.

Fall show featuring Mike Filipiak, John Loeper, and Harriet

Ermentrout.

Open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To November 11.

Street, New Hope, 215-862-4300. Exhibition and sale of a

private

collection of Walter Emerson Baum paintings. Gallery hours are

Wednesday

to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. To November

4.

Hanga , 12 West Mechanic Street, New Hope, 215-862-7044.

James T. Lang, lithographs, colographs, and mixed-media works on

exhibit

in the Artworks Building. Gallery is open noon to 9 p.m. daily.

Tin Man Alley , 12 West Mechanic Street, New Hope,

215-862-1110.

"Monster Mash," a show of creepy snarling, and bug-eyed

creates

by Dave Burke and Stephen Blickenstaff. Website: www.tinmanalley.net.

Gallery hours are Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To November

26.

Top Of Page
Art In Trenton

Artworks , 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436. Faculty

exhibit features Sarah Grove Antin, Helen Bayley, Lisa Fuellemann,

Charles Viera, M.A. Zullinger and others. Gallery hours are Monday

through Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. To October

22.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum , Cadwalader Park,

609-989-3632.

The 32nd annual show of the Garden State Watercolor Society juried

by Bruce Currie and Joanne M. Kuebler. Open Tuesday through Saturday,

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To November 4.

Grounds for Sculpture , 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. Open Tuesday through Sunday,

10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission

is $4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10

Sunday.

Annual memberships start at $45. To February 24.

New Jersey State Museum , 205 West State Street, Trenton,

609-292-6464. "American Indians as Artists: The Beginnings of

the State Museum’s Ethnographic Collection," October 6 to December

15. "The Farming Landscape," to November 11, "Natural

Selections: Sculpture by Elaine Lorenz," to December 30. "Art

by African-Americans in the Collection," to August 18, 2002.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday

noon to 5 p.m. Website: www.njstatemuseum.org.

On extended view: "New Jersey’s Native Americans: The

Archaeological

Record"; "Delaware Indians of New Jersey"; "The Sisler

Collection of North American Mammals"; "Of Rock and Fire";

"Neptune’s Architects"; "The Modernists"; "New

Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and Iron"; "Washington Crossing

the Delaware."

Upcoming Exhibitions: "George Washington and the Battle of

Trenton:

The Evolution of an American Image," November 4 to February 24,

2002. "Images of Americans on the Silver Screen," December

1 to April 14, 2002. "Historic Trenton: Exploring the History

of the Capital City."

Top Of Page
Art in the Workplace

Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb , Route 206, Lawrenceville,

609-252-6275. "Up the River," an exhibition of works by more

than 40 Bucks County Impressionists and Modernists, members of the

New Hope and Bucks County art colony now regarded as national

treasures.

Catalog by Brian Peterson of the Michener Museum in Doylestown.

Gallery

hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and weekends and

holidays,

1 to 5 p.m. To November 25.

Artists represented include Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, Walter

Schofield, Charles Ramsey, Louis Stone, Charles Evans, and Lloyd Ney.

Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters Gallery , One Johnson

& Johnson Plaza, New Brunswick, 732-524-6957. "Laying on

Hands,"

paintings by Jersey City artist David William Cummings. By

appointment.

To November 5.

Stark & Stark , 993 Lenox Drive, Building Two,

Lawrenceville,

609-895-7386. Garden State Watercolor Society associate members show.

Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To November 30.

Area Galleries

Gallery 14 , 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511.

"Two Dialogues with Nature," featuring Heinz Gartlgruber’s

abstract floral studies and M. Jay Goodkind’s black-and-white images

of trees. Gallery hours are Saturday, Noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 1

to 5 p.m. To October 28.

Hopewell Frame Shop , 24 West Broad Street, Hopewell,

609-466-0817.

Show by nine artists of The Art Group, formed in 1992. Members are

J.N. Betz, Judith Koppel, Nadine Berkowsky, Liz Adams, Seow-Chu See,

Helen Post, Stephanie Mandelbaum, Edith Kogan, Gloria Weirnik, and

Edith Hodge Pletzner. Shop hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to

5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To November 10.

Montgomery Cultural Center , 1860 House, 124 Montgomery

Road, 609-921-3272. In the main gallery: a solo show featuring

paintings

by Gail Bracegirdle, member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Society,

to October 30. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m.to 3 p.m.;

Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

South Brunswick Arts Commission , Wetherill Historic Site,

Georges Road, South Brunswick, 732-524-3350. "Mixed," a show

of works by South Brunswick artists Elizabeth Endres, Tufani Mayfield,

Helen Post, Steve Levine, Stephanie Barbetti, and Dan Choman. Web

preview at www.aroundtownonline.com. On view Thursday through

Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m. To October 28.

Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed , 31 Titus Mill Road,

Pennington,

609-737-7592. "Sense of Place," an exhibition featuring the

fine art and illustrative photography of Phil Moylan, Andy Chen, Marc

Stempel, and George Vogel. To November 10.

Top Of Page
Area Museums

American Hungarian Foundation Museum , 300 Somerset Street,

New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "A People Cried Out: The 1956

Revolution

and Fight for Freedom in Hungary," an exhibit with photographs

from the Budapest Museum of Military History, curated by Karoly Nagy

Middlesex County College, commemorating the 45th anniversary of the

Hungarian Revolution. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m.

to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To November 4.

Hunterdon Museum of Art , Lower Center Street, Clinton,

908-735-8415. "Compelled," a multidisciplinary exhibition

of sculpture, painting, fiber, and ceramics by artists including

Chakaia

Booker, Ruth Borgenicht, Giovanna Cecchetti, Paul Edlin, Jacob El

Hanani, Jane Fine, Gary Gissler, and Seong Chun. Museum hours are

Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To November 4.

Michener Art Museum , 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "Artists of the Commonwealth: Realism in

Pennsylvania

Painting, 1950 to 2000," an exhibition featuring the work of

nationally

recognized realist artists and educators who were born and trained

in Pennsylvania, or who spent their professional careers there.

Featured

artists include Diane Burko, Sidney Goodman, Alice Neel, Philip

Pearlstein,

Nelson Shanks, Andy Warhol, Neil Welliver, and Andrew Wyeth. To

January

6.

Museum is open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday

& Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. $6.

Printmaking Council of New Jersey , 440 River Road, North

Branch Station, 908-725-2110. "Small Impressions," a national

juried exhibition featuring printmaking, photography, and alternative

media selected by printmaker Zarina Hashmi. Open Wednesday through

Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To October 27.

Zimmerli Art Museum , George and Hamilton streets, New

Brunswick, 732-932-7237. Exhibitions include: "Peeling Potatoes,

Painting Pictures: Women Artists from the Dodge Collection," to

November 4. "From Whistler to Warhol: A Century of American

Printmaking,"

to November 25. "Robert Motherwell: Abstraction as Emphasis,"

to December 9. "Boxed In: Plane, Frame, Surface," to December

2. "Mother Goose’s Children: Original Illustrations for Children’s

Books from the Rutgers Collection," to December 9. Museum hours

are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,

noon to 5 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free; museum is open

free to the public on the first Sunday of every month. Spotlight tours

every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m.

Continuing exhibitions include: "The Uncommon Vision of Sergei

Konenkov (1874-1971)," to November 14. "Japonisme: Highlights

and Themes from the Collection," ongoing.


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