Masters and relatively unknown artists into the limelight of L.A.’s arts scene.
Born in Casablanca, Morocco, Stern got his first taste of the art world as a child surrounded by works of art in his home and in his father’s gallery. Entranced by their intrinsic beauty and historical significance, Stern became fascinated with the more human aspect of these pieces. As he grew, he studied the world around him, developing a particularly keen eye for unknown art- work and artists. After operating galleries in London and Paris, Stern launched his own gallery in April 1991, relying on his own personal and professional experiences in the art world to define the tone and image he sought to reflect.
As Stern developed a reputation as an authoritative figure on the Impressionist and Modernist eras, his gallery began acquiring renowned artistic works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that included Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Sisley, Cassatt, Degas, Van Gogh, Matisse, Braque, Chagall, Modigliani, Giacometti, de Kooning, Dubuffet, Francis and Warhol. Solo exhibitions of Matisse, Picasso, Leger, Villon, Kupka and other modern artists secured the gallery as a premier source for serious collectors.
Steeped in his family’s tradition of collecting and showing European art, in 2002 Stern conceived a series of thematic shows that included a seminal historical exhibition of Hungarian avant-garde paintings and drawings from the period 1910 to 1935. Since then, he has organized specific exhibitions relating to urban/suburban landscape, Surrealism and Outsider Art in his endeavor to promote and introduce cultural and unknown artists and art forms.
Stern’s interest in Latin American art saw its roots in this quest for new exhibitions. While searching for formidable art pieces, the collector stumbled upon the work of little-known Alfredo Ramos Martinez (1871–1946). Enthralled by this artist’s unique style, Stern instinctively took on the exhibition of this Mexican master in 1991, which perpetuated a major retrospective at the National Museum of Art in Mexico City in 1992.This experience proved to be the beginning of a new calling for Louis Stern: championing the “forgotten” artist.
“Artists do not always succeed...promoters succeed,” admits Stern. “Many artists will not get the recognition they deserve...but in the end, quality will rise to the top. Someone has to take the work on, and make the public aware of it.”
And that someone has been Louis Stern. On May 20, 2006, the gallery continued Stern’s new calling with Claire Falkenstein: Structure and Flow, Works from 1950–1980. The exhibition features the work of unconventional and experimental artist Claire Falkenstein (1908–1997).
As a contemporary of Abstract Expressionists, Claire Falkenstein was a unique and innovative sculptress, known for creating distinctive structural systems that became both her personal and formal vocabulary. Her work was known for what has been called “anti-form”—dubbed so for the creative principles of her highly experimental techniques.
The Louis Stern Gallery is showcasing many of Falkenstein’s prominent sculptures along with her richly definitive paintings. In an effort to explore the juxtaposition of the rawness of her metal work and lightness of her canvas, the gallery displays an extensive collection that shows off Falkenstein’s talent and significant experimentation.
As Stern comments, “I have always had a great affection for the mavericks of the art world—those artists whose passions overrode the conventional expectations of an era. Claire Falkenstein is just such a maverick and it gives me great pleasure to present this exhibition.”
With accolades and notoriety the world round, why establish the Louis Stern Fine Arts Gallery in Los Angeles? Why not elsewhere? Stern merits Los Angeles (as did Falkenstein) as a mecca that precipitates creativity. “It’s easy to create here by the sheer nature of its monstrous size,” explains Stern.
And to this day, Stern’s eyes remain wide open for what’s on the horizon. Collectors should “buy art with their eyes, not their ears,” he reminds.
And the eyes of this gallery owner, patron, educator and champion of the arts remain wide open.