Art 20, Modernism, Outsider Art Fair, Works on Paper, New York Antiquarian Book Fair
Sanford Smith, Founder
Sanford Smith has been a force in the art fair world for some time, but inspiration came even sooner—at a flea market in Chelsea where he ran a stall. It was there that he developed an appetite for collecting; he learned to snatch up kitsch and re-sell it. He soon became fascinated with antiques and opened his first antique art show in 1979. “It was the first all-American antique show in the world and the most successful,” he reminisces. “An overnight success.”
Smith’s eye for discerning the beautiful in found objects of folk art, quilts, and antique furniture soon led him to contemporary and modern art. He went on to produce art shows and became legendary, sometimes producing as many as twelve at a time.
Smith owes his success to sharp business acumen. “I found openings in the market…a niche,” he explains. He also credits his success to dedication, a hands-on approach to business, and his ability to cater to the dealer. “The dealer is my customer,” he says.
He now produces five shows, including the very successful, 23-year-old Modernism, at the forefront of 20th-century design, and Works on Paper, also two decades old and going strong. But perhaps the most interesting of his recent endeavors is the first-of-its-kind Outsider Art Fair, a signature Sanford Smith event in that it showcases artists on the edge—in this case, it’s art created by patients at mental hospitals and prisoners.
All of his shows attract a large following. Most can be seen at Manhattan’s stately and plush Park Avenue Armory. If you don’t see Sandy there, perhaps you can catch up with him weekends when he’s off rollicking through the Berkshires, collecting treasures from antique stores or window shopping at art shops that line the Hudson.