Museum-quality work at Lenox's 4 for Art gallery

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LENOX — Many galleries specialize in a particular art form: painting, sculpture, photography. Not so at 4 for Art, where the owners of the Lenox gallery prefer to let a standard guide their eclectic selections: "museum-quality."

"We're really showing art, not decoration," Ute Stebich said during a Tuesday interview at the Church Street business with her partners, Jane Kasten and Akkie Martens.

The easiest way to meet that lofty standard is to, well, show pieces by artists who have work in museum collections, and 4 for Art has no shortage of those. Among others, the gallery features the glass work of Pittsfield native Tom Patti, whose art resides in the collections at Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Louvre Museum in Paris; the textile creations of Dorothy Caldwell, who has pieces at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; and the safety pin feats of Tamiko Kawata, who is represented in the Museum of Art and Design's collection. The robust roster has allowed the gallery to host new exhibitions every two weeks this season, which spans from May 1 to Nov. 1. (During the winter, the gallery is open by appointment.) Currently, "3 Masters in Ceramics," featuring works by Steven Heinemann, Ani Kasten and Sally Silberberg, is on view through July 12. A show involving Susan Rodgers and Hirofumi Maeshiba will immediately follow, running from July 13 to July 26. Peri Schwartz and Patti will be highlighted from July 27 through Aug. 9.

"We want to give every artist a little extra exposure," Stebich said of the shows.

Stebich wishes that 4 for Art had more room for exhibitions, as its collection items fill the front of the shop. Stebich ran Ute Stebich Gallery for more than 15 years in the Church Street space currently occupied by Sohn Fine Art. (Stebich closed the business in 2003 after her late husband fell ill.) Martens worked at the business for a dozen of those years, and Kasten owned Kasten Fine Art in Great Barrington for a decade before closing up shop in 2008.

One Sunday afternoon, the three friends met for lunch with a fourth pal, former Jacob's Pillow Dance Artistic Director Liz Thompson, and the idea for 4 for Art was hatched.

"We were just talking about how much we missed having an art gallery, and then Ute came up with the idea, 'Well, let's start one together,'" Kasten recalled.

The gallery next to The Scoop on Church Street opened in July 2017. Since that time, Thompson has moved to California and left the business, leaving Stebich, Kasten and Martens to make the decisions about which art is 4 for Art-quality. Though opinionated, they rarely disagree on displaying a particular artist's work.

"Basically, we have all have the same eye," Martens said.

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"Similar aesthetic," Kasten added.

The current exhibit includes pieces by Kasten's daughter, Ani, a Minnesota-based up-and-comer in the ceramics world who has work in multiple museum collections.

"She is, right now, captured by the collapse of everything — the environment, politics — and is finding a way through wires of showing how something is held together, or not. It's very fragile," Kasten said of her daughter's vessels and bowls. "They're wheel-thrown and hand-built. She mixes stoneware and porcelain, which are usually fired at completely different temperatures, but she likes it when the accidents happen. To her, they're not accidents. They're just potential for something amazing."

Wire isn't normally found in ceramic work.

"She really has something different to offer," Stebich said.

Silberberg, who lives in Plainfield, created porcelain "Potter Rockers" that resemble cracks in the earth.

"There is a power to them," Stebich said, also praising Heinemann's nearby pieces for being "just so smooth."

Yongjae Kim's photographic New York City paintings, John McQueen's baskets and Trine Ellitsgaard's textiles are also bound to grab gallerygoers' attention. The artists' home countries span the globe, an international focus that contributes to the different artistic interests that make 4 for Art a stop for many different kinds of art enthusiasts. The approach is working.

"You don't have to specialize," Stebich said.

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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