Get ready for Mead-mania.
The vast art collection of Gerald Mead, the local artist and collector who has been a fixture on Western New York's art scene for the past two decades, is the focus of three new exhibitions.
The first two exhibitions, which contain recent works Mead has collected and artists whose work has also appeared in the Castellani Art Museum's "TopSpin" series, opened Thursday in North Tonawanda's Carnegie Art Center. The third, "50 at 50: Select Artists from the Gerald Mead Collection," will provide an in-depth look at the top 50 artists in Mead's collection. It opens Aug. 18 in the University at Buffalo's Anderson Gallery.
For Mead, who timed the opening of the Anderson Gallery show to coincide with his own 50th birthday, the shows provide three distinct views into the collection he has been meticulously building for the past 25 years.
At the Carnegie Art Center, "Castellani TopSpin Artists: Works from the Gerald Mead Collection" features work by emerging local artists whom the Castellani has featured in its "TopSpin" series. His collection contains 21 of the 29 artists the series has included since its inception, a sign of Mead's ongoing attempt to build an encyclopedic trove of work from the most visible and important artists to work in the region. That is presented alongside "Recent Acquisitions: Selections from the Gerald Mead Collection," a small show meant to give some attention to a new generation of artists.
At the Anderson Gallery, Mead will show 86 works by 50 artists, including his entire collection of works by Cindy Sherman and Charles Burchfield, along with important pieces by Charles Clough, Robert Longo, John Pfahl, Ellen Carey, Ad Reinhardt and Milton Rogovin. The stipulation for inclusion, Mead said, was that each artist's work must be in the collections of several internationally regarded museums.
"It's a moment to sort of pause and see what I've done [in its entirety]," Mead said. "I think it's a combination of assessment and review and satisfaction, and I think it's sort of a realization that what I've accomplished and what I've assembled has a future purpose."
Mead is a collector in the mold of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, the famed Manhattan art lovers whose main criterion for buying a work was whether they could carry it home on the subway. Mead, who doesn't have the means of a collector like his mentor Charles Rand Penney, has acquired a sizable chunk of his collection by trading his own artwork for that of other artists as well as buying the work of emerging artists for affordable prices. Mead dedicated "50 at 50" to Herbert Vogel, who died last month.
In the introduction to the "50 at 50" catalog, UB Art Galleries Director Sandra Olsen praised Mead's work as a collector and an artist.
"The societal role of collectors cannot be overstated," she wrote. "They uniquely support and nurture artists' careers, maintain the growth of public collections and sustain a community's cultural legacy."
Outgoing Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Louis Grachos called Mead's work "a testament to his creativity on all fronts and his important role as advocate for his many colleagues and friends."
Like many approaching the 50-year mark, Mead has entered a period of reflection about his accomplishments and the direction of his life and work. Even so, he cast the trio of exhibitions not as exercises in soul-searching, but as opportunities to share his lifelong passion.
"It's really meant to be more of a celebration a party where people can appreciate and enjoy what has brought me the most joy in my life," Mead said. "It's a celebration of life and passion and all that has really brought me satisfaction in my life."
"Castellani TopSpin Artists" and "Recent Acquisitions"
WHEN: Through Sept. 8
WHERE: Carnegie Art Center, 240 Goundry St., North Tonawanda
INFO: 694-4400 or www.carnegieartcenter.org
"50 at 50"
WHEN: Aug. 18-Sept. 30
WHERE: University at Buffalo Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place
INFO: 829-3754 or www.ubartgalleries.org