Downtown Art Gallery Makes Way for Masters on Paper | arts and entertainment
Cary Greenberg claimed an unassuming stretch of Main Street that offers mostly food and drink.
But he sells Picassos and Rembrandts.
Greenberg, a former architect who now runs the Stakeborg Greenberg Fine Art Gallery, spent decades of his life aspiring to open his own art space. This passion took second place, however, as he developed his career and started a family.
Greenberg spent decades working in architecture and living in Michigan and first came to Sarasota in 2005 while working for a restoration company. He moved permanently soon after and began frequenting the Stakenborg Fine Art space owned by Christian Stakenborg.
A decade later, in 2016, Stakenborg wanted to retire and he offered Greenberg the opportunity to take over.
“I met him and kind of collected art. We developed a friendship,” says Greenberg. “I had parts I wanted to sell and parts I wanted information on. I bought parts from him. And finally the guy was about 80 years old; he said, ‘I would like to retire. Why wouldn’t you buy my gallery? So we made a deal and he stayed with me for about three years.
Stakenborg’s specialty was modern masters on paper, and his collection included etchings and lithographs by artists like Picasso, Goltzius, Rembrandt, and Piranesi. At one time, says Greenberg, Stakenborg had the largest collection of Rembrandt prints. These were all sold to a private investor and Greenberg began trying to diversify.
He didn’t just want to sell masters on paper; he also wanted to represent some local artists.
This was not Greenberg’s first attempt to run a gallery. He had opened his own pop-up space in a Detroit suburb in 1990, but he soon realized it could be a tough business.
“Then the market crashed,” he says. “And I said, ‘This is crazy.'”
But now, in his second attempt at running his own gallery, he’s hit the ground running.
Greenberg, with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in architecture, went back to school and became an appraiser in hopes of better understanding what art will sell.
He says most of the artwork in his shop is on consignment.
The artists — or the people who own the pieces — left them in his gallery in hopes he could sell them, and Greenberg says he enjoys connecting in the community.
“Most of the time we get serious art collectors,” he says. “I also get a lot of domains. The children arrive and say: “My grandfather is dead and we don’t want art”. What can you do with our Rembrandts? What can you do with our Picassos?
“And that’s what I do. I sell them for them.”
Greenberg says that at one point the art on its walls represented a sweep of about 500 years.
But now it’s only about four centuries of art.
He gestures toward the walls, pointing to a few limited-edition Picassos and a Toulouse-Lautrec.
“There are only 100,” he said of Toulouse-Lautrec. “That’s what makes my gallery different. I tried to bring originals and different things that no one else wears.
Greenberg says he had a Toulouse-Lautrec in the same series that sold for $42,000.
The one he’s selling now is marked $38,000 because the stamp on it has faded a bit. But it’s the stories behind the work and the rarity that make it worth possessing for a collector.
“There’s something about the subject and the exuberance of the art,” says Greenberg.
“He is a master. It did not flood the market. He was very picky about what he did and who he did it for. He didn’t need the money. He did it for art.
Greenberg recently started selling the work of Otto Neumann, a famous German painter who died in 1975.
Greenberg says Neumann donated much of his work to the Rothschild Collection, and now he’s one of the few galleries in the United States that has Neumann’s work for sale.
There are 10 Neumann pieces in the Stakenborg Greenberg gallery, and that number will eventually grow to 24. Greenberg will be hosting a Neumann exhibit later this year, and he says there’s a lot of interest in seeing the works. Greenberg says Neumann’s works on display will include unique monotypes created by the artist.
“A one-design is a unique piece,” he says. “He does art on glass, then he presses on paper. He pulls it up, makes more color, presses the paper and pulls it up. That’s it.”
Greenberg gestures to a room in the back room of his gallery.
This is a painting by LeRoy Nieman of an event at Madison Square Garden honoring the great boxing champion Joe Louis.
It’s like the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in that you can watch it forever.
Greenberg, who has already invested time in it, can cite Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis, Billy Cosby and Henry Kissinger, even Ladybird and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
There’s also a wall of rock and roll memorabilia, including a John Lennon painting and John Cougar Mellencamp artwork prints.
The back room houses a collection of numbered and signed photos by Rob Shanahan, Ringo Starr’s personal photographer and author of “Volume 1: Through the Lens of Music Photographer Rob Shanahan.”
A few steps away, back in the gallery’s main room, is a collection of four Norman Rockwell prints signed by the artist himself.
Rockwell has lasting appeal, says Greenberg, both because of the prolific nature of his work but also because of his dated aesthetic.
“It’s a great story here,” he says. “These were brought by the daughter of a teacher who was his neighbor on the East Coast. He would introduce himself and lecture his students, who were in elementary school. Every time he walked in, he brought them a poster. It’s a print; a high-end print, but he signed it by hand. That’s the value on this. There’s four of them.
Greenberg wanted to have a personal touch in his gallery, so he started representing a select group of local artists and trying to sell their work. Slowly but surely, he made space in his gallery to hang them in a prominent place.
As soon as you enter the art space, you will see the very distinctive figures painted by KD Tobin, a fine artist based in Sarasota since 2004. Tobin’s abstract figures resemble old murals in their design and execution .
You will also find the photography of Wayne Eastep, who says he uses the medium as “visual poetry”.
Greenberg’s gallery houses the sculpted figures of Saul Rubenstein, a former optical surgeon who divides his time between Michigan and Sarasota.
Another local artist, Nikitas Kavouklēs, was part of Leger de Main, a Manhattan arts consortium before moving to Sarasota more than two decades ago.
Greenberg has several pieces by Kavouklēs, who works in a variety of mediums, including oil paint and monotypes.
“I think I represent six local artists,” says Greenberg. “And also American artists who pass through here. The rest are all masters. Dead masters.
“Nick always wanted to hang out with Rembrandt. So here he is with his Rembrandt prints.”
If you are going to: Fine Arts by Stakeborg Greenberg. 1545 Main St. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. GreenbergFineArtGallery.com.