As the gallery approaches its one-year anniversary, Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art is hosting an exhibit of one of America’s most iconic artists. “Frank Stella Circuits Prints” will be on view (and available for purchase) from May 19 to July 16 at the Upper East Side gallery. An artist proof of Pergusa Three, perhaps the most celebrated print the artist has ever made, will be included in the six-print show.
Wahlstedt’s relationship with Stella is a meaningful one, both as an art dealer and on a more personal level. Wahlstedt met the American printmaker for the first time in 1987 when Stella hosted a professional squash tournament in New York City and Wahlstedt, a professional squash player from Sweden at the time, was invited to play.
Three years later, Wahlstedt came to the United States with the intention of teaching squash. He got a job in Greenwich Village at a commercial club. It was here where he first got the itch for art and reconnected with Stella, whose propensity to pick up a squash racquet was almost as strong as his propensity for a paintbrush. Thus began a new friendship for Wahlstedt with not only Stella, but a number of artists whose interests in squash and art brought them together. He taught them squash and they taught him about art and invited him to their studios. “I became very interested in contemporary art” said Wahlstedt. “I kept playing and teaching squash through the ’90s, but I was more and more interested in, and involved in, the art world.”
Wahlstedt took his new passion to the next level with some art history courses at NYU in the 1990s and then started collecting. His collection began with photography and then extended into prints. He started his own private art dealer company, Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art, in 2006, working out of his home and visiting clients in their homes or businesses. Then, last year, launched his gallery space in September with an exhibit by Stella. “The thing I’ve most enjoyed about having the gallery has been being able to interact with so many new people who have come to see the exhibits,” said Wahlstedt. “I’ve really enjoyed how so many people have given so many compliments about how the shows have been curated and how the work has been hung.”
The Circuits Prints exhibit is the fifth exhibit this year for his small studio (a mere 600 square feet) and one he is most excited about. “It is my favorite series of all the prints that the artist has produced,” said Wahlstedt. “When people come to the exhibition, they are going to look at these prints with handmade paper. The texture is incredible. A lot of people are really going to think they are paintings. In terms of printing, it doesn’t get any better than this.”
The 79-year-old Stella had a major retrospective of his work earlier this year at the Whitney Museum of American Art and currently has a print retrospective on view at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Madison, WI. He is one of the most influential American printmakers of the 21st Century. His Circuits series prints are all named after racetracks in North America, South America and Europe: Pergusa, Talladega, Estoril and Imola. They are made with relief printed woodblocks and relief- and intaglio-printed etched plates. The prints are created from the residue of the paintings. “The scale and the handmade paper that has been colored—it’s not just one medium, but he’s really gone out of his way by using etching and wood cuts simultaneously. They are very sophisticated.”
Sophistication is one thing Wahlstedt credits Stella for infusing in his own life: a sophisticated understanding of the world and how it works. Their relationship “has really broadened my spectrum of looking at life,” said Wahlstedt, who describes his friend and client—with much admiration—for being “just positively full of ideas and totally fearless as a person of taking chances, whatever it might be.”
As Wahlstedt enters his second year as a gallery owner he, too, is taking chances as he plans to include the work of more and more emerging artists in his continually changing lineup. “I’m actively going to different openings and studio visits looking at showing more artists that are a couple years out of art school, maybe just getting their feet wet in the art world.”
While he plans to continue to work with established artists like Stella, he has found great joy in giving newbies the possibility of discovery. “It’s so gratifying if you are able to help an emerging artist sell their work and help them get going in their career,” said Wahlstedt, adding that as a gallery owner, “you are also able to show new fresh works that haven’t been seen before.”
The opening reception for the Stella exhibit is Thursday, May 19, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The artist will be present. For more information on the gallery, visit wahlstedtart.com.