What makes Carl Solway an exceptional and indeed special art dealer? His lengthy career began some 50 years ago when he opened the Flair Gallery. Located on Race Street in what was then an extension of Pogue’s Department Store, it was later moved to West Fourth Street, when the building he had occupied was torn down to become a garage.
The name of the gallery then became the Carl Solway Gallery. When space next door became available, Carl opened a second gallery known as The Not in New York Gallery. Carl realized that many of his customers traveled frequently to New York to purchase art, and that he would need to carry both national and international art in order to be successful.
Thus, the thrust of his exhibitions was not only the great international artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, and others. Pop artists included Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, George Segal, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, and Tom Wesselmann. Other prominent American artists in his stable were Saul Steinberg, Julian Stanczak, Hans Hofmann, Pat Steir, Joel Otterson, Kenneth Showell, Marie Vescial, Roxy Paine, John Clem Clarke and George Rickey.
Carl was not afraid to move his gallery. He believed his collectors were loyal to him and would follow to his new location. Thus, he moved from West Fourth Street to Fourth and Elm Streets and then to an old warehouse near Findlay market, where he is located today.
Carl was the first to understand that urban wall art was important. He explained that crime and vandalism decreased in the presence of art on walls. He contacted approximately ten local artists and commissioned them to create and paint walls on downtown buildings. The images on the walls would then be transferred to an edition of prints which were sold to the public to pay both the artists and the costs of wall installation. His assistant at that time was Jack Boulton, who a few years later became Director of The Contemporary Arts Center.
Carl also believed in partnering with artists. He befriended John Cage and with his sponsorship created a series of multiples for sale. Similarly, following her successful exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center, he published a series of prints by Nancy Graves based on photos of the surface of the moon.
Another successful venture was his relationship with Nam June Paik. Carl not only published a set of Paik’s prints, but also was responsible for the creation of the Paik 27-foot high, sculpture, Metrobot, which initially was installed on Fifth Street, near Walnut, outside the Contemporary Arts Center. It is now located outside the Center on Vine Street. Little known was the fact that many of Paik’s later great video sculptures were created and assembled in the upper floors of Carl’s Findlay Street warehouse.
Buckminster Fuller became a friend and Carl sponsored a sculptural piece and world map by the iconic genius.
Several decades ago, the curators at the Cincinnati Art Museum were requested to go to New York and bring home to the museum objects for exhibit and sale. While the exhibit was successful, only a few pieces were purchased. When asked why not more had sold, Carl explained that art does not sell, one must sell art.
This is where Carl excels. He has the unique ability to stand with prospective buyers and help him or her understand why the piece is important, what the artist is attempting to portray, and, in effect, why the collector should purchase it. Accordingly, he was successful in developing many of the fine individual, corporate and museum collections in the city and surrounding area.
With one of his three sons now sharing in the running of the gallery, he leaves a strong legacy of contemporary art in the city.
May 5, 2016