There are many longstanding traditions in Cincinnati. Panorama of Cincinnati Art is one of them.
Randy and Michele Sandler opened Cincinnati Art Galleries in 1983 at 225 E. 6th Street in downtown Cincinnati. It was the beginning of an establishment of a gallery dedicated to the sale of American and European paintings with particular attention to the works by the Cincinnati School of Painters. By 1986 they initiated an annual show called Panorama of Cincinnati Art. Initially, the exhibition was a sale of work by Cincinnati artists; it later expanded to other regions. There is a general emphasis on representational art although Panorama covers many genres of art, including Hudson River, American Impressionism, Munich school-trained painters; a little modern and contemporary art.
The paintings in the exhibit come from other collections. Owner David Hausrath, who collects art, searches auction sites and buys at auction. He said, “Some of our best consignments have come from estates.” Bessie and Herman Wessel’s daughter-in-law Helen Wessel had a collection of 66 paintings in Florida. According to her estate lawyer, she had a Panorama catalog by the phone. Hausrath was in Australia at the time he brokered the deal with the lawyer. He got up at 4:00 a.m. in the morning to make the transaction on the phone buying the entire collection. Since there were no heirs, it was easy to do. Hausrath drove his mini-van to Daytona Beach and picked up all the pictures packaged professionally.
Another trip Hausrath made was to New York to see art from a couple who had purchased 450 paintings from CAG over the years. They had more art than they knew what to do with. He rented a van and picked up very expensive art driving twelve hours straight through to Cincinnati arriving at midnight. “That’s what it takes,” he said. He often hires a person to help him transport the art. He increases insurance coverage as needed. In addition, he has also travelled in the Tri-State region. Some art comes from other dealers. Some comes from families who are downsizing where the children are not interested in art. Some comes from consignment. CAG has a network of professional consigners with a good eye and longstanding relationships. They enjoy the hunt, visiting estate sales, flea markets and antique stores.
Panorama XXXV also has paintings by each of the gallery’s 18 artists. The 2020 exhibition featured paintings from the Charles and Patricia Weiner collection. Artists in the show include Frank Duveneck, Edward Henry Potthast, Herman and Bessie Wessel, Elizabeth Nourse, Dixie Selden, Louis Charles Vogt, Edward T. Hurley, Jens Jensen, Lewis Henry Meakin, Henry Farny, Reginald L. Grooms, Charley Harper and John A. Ruthven. Each year Panorama benefits a different organization. In 2019 it was the Freestore Foodbank. In 2020, proceeds went to the Artist Assistance Fund at the Cincinnati Art Club.
Beginning in the summer beneficiaries for the Panorama opening are identified. By October invitations are sent out and hosts identified. Due to COVID, this year’s opening was December 3 and 4 although people asked to see the exhibit in mid-November. CAG scaled down the opening that lasted two days with visits by appointment and social distancing.
COVID did not hit CAG as strongly as other organizations. Hausrath said he had a strong December with Panorama. “Sales have been robust,” he said. As of January 1, they sold over 75 paintings. Yet, “It’s not fun wearing a mask,” he said. “We miss the close contact with clients.”
Hausrath said people know about the show. “People reach out to us,” he said. The gallery staff also sends out emails in the early fall seeking consignments. They reach a lot of clients. Yet, Hausrath said, “It’s a challenge to find excellent material. You have to work on it, make the contacts and build a strong base.” That said, many of the collectors do not live here. The gallery’s reach is nationwide for this show. Clients know that the exhibition is an opportunity each year to see and acquire high quality artwork.
There is an excellent full-color 106-page catalog accompanying the show which requires a lot of work. On the cover is “North African Arab” by noted artist Dixie Selden. The rest reveals the quality of art available at various levels of pricing. The catalog has 211 paintings with an additional 79 in an addendum; the photography is outsourced. Staff members Margaret Klein and Sarah Schmitt hung 160 paintings with generated labels in the gallery starting with key paintings. “We want space to hang everything,” said Hausrath. In addition, they prepare the catalog, do the biographies and marketing.
Hausrath stays flexible. Paintings that come in later can change the tenor of the show.
He is seeing people in their 40’s coming into the gallery and making purchases. So, the next generation is becoming attracted to the art. Even online sales have been excellent, according to Hausrath. People buy without seeing the art in person.
Hausrath said the art market has changed over the years. Many artists sell from their website. “One of the challenges is to be heard,” Hausrath said. “We need to be front and center in collector’s minds,” he added. “The business proposition has to be compelling. We have our reputation for quality, fair pricing, fair dealing and ethical practices. It takes many years to build our reputation and stand behind it.”
“We have our niche. Art is a big field. There are a lot of styles of art,” Hausrath said. “We have a variety of shows. We fill an important role in the Cincinnati art scene because of the breadth of art and high quality.” They even sell to museums. School groups come into the gallery; they visit to appreciate the art.
Retired as general counsel of Ashland Co., he has been an art collector and friends of the Sandlers for many years. When the Sandlers sold the gallery, Hausrath decided to buy it five years ago. It is a second career for him which he enjoys thoroughly. Randy Sandler has stayed on as a consultant for the last four and a half years.
Over the years, CAG has given significantly to area organizations such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, Taft Museum, Cincinnati Ballet, and Cincinnati Opera. Panorama is now a tradition. Many people have been coming for 20- 25 years. Impacted by COVID, however, clients stepped up to contribute. They bank on great consignments, positive service, attitude and reputation.
Panorama of Cincinnati Art Show ran through January 22, 2021. Cincinnati Art Galleries is located at 225 E. 6th St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. For more information, visit www.cincyart.com or email [email protected].