Stephen Foster Fine Arts / Abstract Expressionism: Historical and Market Perspectives
26 Hillside Rd. New London, CT 06320 Tel (860) 443-1000 Cell (860) 303-5544 Fax (860) 443-0050

Our Agenda

Stephen Foster Fine Arts has been responsible for the promotion and brokering of works by the abstract expressionists for the past two decades. Clients have included private collectors and institutions in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Our research, publication, and curatorial experience in dealing with the movement accounts for our reputation in the advocacy of this work.

Stephen Foster was responsible for curating the European Franz Kline Retrospective, Franz Kline: Art and the Structure of Identity as well as the comprehensive exhibition entitled An American Odyssey: Debating Modernism, 1945 - 1980. He is also author of The Critics of Abstract Expressionism. The firm's background and achievements in curating and publication constitute a solid platform for advising and consulting in the acquisition and sale of works by the abstract expressionists. We are confident in our capabilities for providing a specific focus for, and securing informed and productive relationships among, all parties engaged in the buying or selling of works by these artists.

Jose Guerrero, Blue Converging, Oil on canvas, 22 X 26 inches c. 1960

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Excavating Abstract Expressionism

If Abstract Expressionism was a major (albeit quiet) revolution in the arts, which we passionately believe it was, it was within the transitional work of the fifties that the revolution worked itself out. Jacques Barzun, one of the century's great humanists, recognized this when he referred to the heroic years of the movement as "abolitionism." And it was to this work that critic Harold Rosenberg referred when he spoke of the "great, flawed art" of the abstract expressionists. It is the work from the late forties through the late fifties that prompted the artists themselves (as well as the most perceptive of the early critics) to observe that it "could never be the same again."

We seek to restore a historical balance to the perception of the movement — to repair a market inflicted historical disconnect — by confirming its radicalism, and that radicalism's enormous impact on subsequent artistic developments. Although the works of the various artists can be fundamentally different, even diametrically opposed, the issue is the means and character of their common ground, and where their most serious concerns about the viability of the past and the possibilities of the future of painting most significantly intersected and converged. It is this confrontation of issues that made them a community and a movement and that best describes the nature of their significance.

Willem de Kooning, Untitled (Woman), Graphite drawing on paper, c. 1952, 8.5 X 11.5 inches (sheet size), Unsigned

Ultimately, the great work and the nature of its importance lay in what the work reflects about what could and could not be saved from the past, the "crisis" of achieving meaningful painting in what amounted to an institutional and traditional vacuum, and the pictorial resolution of these problems into the extraordinary painting of their mature careers.

There is an abundance of great works from the period which are best examined in terms of the tensions created by both their affirmation and denial of the past, perhaps the most distinguishing characteristics of the most important work of the period. Although much of the most significant work was produced from the late forties through the late fifties, there remains the production from the late fifties forward, a body of spectacular works, which were importantly a matter of "playing out" the full implications of the defining years.

That said, all of this also involved a legacy of significant proportions which took all of this for granted and which celebrated the liberation it entailed. The younger artists, frequently and questionably referred to as "second generation" abstract expressionists, sustained what had been accomplished and consecrated it as a tradition.

Our goal is to concentrate a new focus on what is referred to above on the "defining years" of Abstract Expressionism and to achieve the creation (or historical re-creation) of the movement's "epicenter;" that is, the movement's self definition. Although not running counter to prevailing perspectives, our position does seek to restore to the abstract expressionists, and to the nature of their achievement, the authentic radicalism by which the period itself found its most profound and meaningful justification.

Stephen Foster

May, 2015

Installation shot, Franz Kline: Art and the Structure of Identity, Stephen Foster, curator


An American Odyssey, 1945/1980: Debating Modernism. An exhibition of one hundred thirty works accompanied by a book length (410 pp.) catalogue with all exhibited works reproduced full page, in color. Circulo de Bellas Artes,Madrid, April 13-May 30, 2004; Domus Artium 2002 (Salamanca), June 10-July 31, 2004; Kiosco Alfonso (A Coruna), September 2-October 2, 2004; QCC Art Gallery (Queens, New York), October 24-January 15, 2005.

Franz Kline: Art and the Structure of Identity. An exhibition composed of about 70 works accompanied by a book-length catalogue. Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona, March18-June 5, 1994; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, July 8-September 11, 1994; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, September 27-November 21, 1994; Saarland Museum, Saarbrucken, December 11, 1994-February 5, 1995. 213 pages with 21 black and white illustrations and 71 full color plates. Bibliography and chronology.

The Critics of Abstract Expressionism (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1980).

Stephen Foster, Credentials

Stephen Foster has served the field widely in reviewing the scholarship of his peers (The National Endowment of the Humanities, The National Endowment of the Arts and the Getty Post-Doctoral Grant Program) and has administered and directed numerous fine arts and interdisciplinary cultural fine arts programs of international scope. His consulting activities have ranged from advising prominent private, public and corporate art collections to corporate and industry consulting.

Additionally, Foster has served as consultant and series editor for UMI Research Press' and Macmillan/G.K. Hall's fine arts publication programs. Numbering over sixty volumes, the UMI series (Studies in the Fine Arts: The Avant-Garde) represented an exhaustive revisionist study of twentieth century art history employing the expertise of many of today's most widely respected scholars. In addition, the ten volume G.K. Hall project (Crisis and the Arts: A History of Dada), described as the most comprehensive monograph on a movement ever undertaken, has set new standards for publication of its kind. In both of the above cases, Foster has managed and coordinated large teams of experts, numbering in the dozens, into systematic, coherent research and publication programs whose impact has been substantial and enduring.

As faculty involved in teaching and research at major art history programs since 1972 through 2001, he taught a full spectrum of twentieth century graduate courses and advanced seminars, supervised numerous M.A. and Ph.D. students through courses of study spanning all aspects of the history of twentieth century art, and has produced a distinguished record of broadly cited publications.

Publications include An American Odyssey, 1945/1980: Debating Modernism, 2000, with additional essays by Daniel Siedell, Estera Milman and John Yau (chronology by Janis Mink). Hans Richter: Activism, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde, contributing editor, 1998. Dada Cologne Hannover, contributing editor with Charlotte Stokes, 1997. Dada: The Coordinates of Cultural Politics, contributing editor,1996. Franz Kline: Art and the Structure of Identity, 1994. The Avant-Garde and the Text, eds. Stephen C. Foster and Estera Milman, 1988. "Event" Art and Art Events, contributing editor, 1988. The World According to Dada, 1988. Dada/Dimensions, contributing editor, 1985. Lettrisme: Into the Present, contributing editor, 1983. The Critics of Abstract Expressionism, 1980, 1985. Dada Spectrum, co-contributing editor with Rudolf Kuenzli, 1979. Intermedia, co-editor with Hans Breder, 1979. Dada Artifacts, with contributions by Richard Sheppard and Rudolf Kuenzli, 1978. His full resume is available upon request.

Foster received his Ph.D. in Art History from The University of Pennsylvania and has been the recipient of honors and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Getty Grant Program, The Mellon Foundation, and the Smithsonian.