Vincent Vallarino: A Passionate Beginning
While many galleries struggle to stay relevant in a global art market that places an emphasis on auctions and art fairs, Vallarino Fine Art stands out as something of an unorthodox success story. Curious to the point of restlessness, Vincent Vallarino is a collector and an artist before a dealer. He proudly admits to “buying a painting a day” and has owned over 20,000 artworks since he “fell into the business” 40 years ago. His unique, hands on approach stems from a sincere passion for the art he collects. A self-admitted workaholic, he is nevertheless at his most content while contemplating and discussing the paintings that adorn the walls of his expansive, impeccably decorated, duplex apartment/showroom on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Vallarino Fine Art, 113 East 60th Street, front room
Vallarino began his lifetime love affair with photography at the age of 17 while studying with famed photographer Minor White. After working at the Aperture Foundation and the storied Camera Magazine, he found increasing success as a photographer in his own right. His work has been featured in numerous museum and gallery exhibitions including at the MFA Boston, Addison Gallery, the Victoria & Albert, Polaroid Collection and the Currier Museum.
After buying his first photograph -an Ansel Adams landscape- he quickly caught the collecting bug. In 1979 after moving to New York City, he realized he could sell works in order to fund his rapidly growing habit. He worked with famed fashion mogul Calvin Klein to build a comprehensive collection of Alfred Stieglitz and Irving Penn photographs. He also acquired several major Georgia O’Keeffe paintings for the collector. The purchase of one such painting set the world record for a female artist.
An engaged member of the New York art world, Vallarino wrote several stories for interview magazine and was a regular at Warhol’s factory. He and friend Nicholas Callaway published an edition of Richard Avedon’s famous photograph Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent. Though the project was admittedly ahead of its time, “I sunk every dime I had into that project and it didn’t sell,” says Vallarino. The prints are now prized by collectors. That fateful interaction led to a lasting friendship with Avedon. The young dealer ended up as the face of the artist’s controversial, 2 year advertising campaign for Dior.
Richard Avedon, American (1923-2004), "Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent," gelatin silver photograph, 29 x 43 inches, signed Avedon AP verso, © 1981 by Richard Avedon, all rights reserved
Determined to constantly reinvent himself, Vallarino purchased a sprawling property in Millbrook, New York in 1987 where today he has built a breathtaking, modern studio to house his photography practice and ever expanding collection of artworks. That year he also co-founded the Greenwich Gallery which over the next 18 years developed a reputation as one of the preeminent regional galleries in North America. In 2005 the now established dealer moved back to New York City, determined to re-discover a generation of Abstract Expressionist artists.
Written by Howard Hurst
This post is part of a series of articles on Vallarino Fine Art. Please check back periodically for updates.