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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022 2 weeks ago

Downtown art gallery makes space for masters on paper

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Cary Greenberg is an architect by trade and an artist by nature, and he's enjoying his second life in business as the owner of Stakenborg Greenberg Fine Art Gallery.
by: Spencer Fordin A+E Editor

Cary Greenberg has staked his claim to an unassuming stretch of Main Street that mostly features food and drink.

But he’s selling Picassos and Rembrandts.

Greenberg, a former architect who now runs the Stakenborg Greenberg Fine Art Gallery, spent decades of his life yearning to open his own art space. That passion took a second place, though, as he developed his career and raised a family.

Greenberg spent decades working in architecture and living in Michigan and came down to Sarasota for the first time in 2005 when he was working for a restoration company. He moved down permanently not long after that, and he 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 I was kind of collecting art. We developed a friendship,” says Greenberg. “I had some pieces I wanted to sell and pieces I wanted information on. I bought some pieces from him. And finally the guy was like 80 years old; he said, ‘I’d like to retire. Why don’t you buy my gallery?’ So we worked out a deal and he stayed with me for about three years.”

Stakenborg’s specialty was modern masters on paper, and his collection featured etchings and lithographs from artists like Picasso, Goltzius, Rembrandt and Piranesi. At one point, says Greenberg, Stakenborg had the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings. Those were all sold to a private investor, and Greenberg began trying to diversify.

The Stakenborg Greenberg Fine Art Gallery is one of the only spaces in America housing the work of German painter Otto Neumann. (Photo by Spencer Fordin)

He didn’t just want to sell masters on paper; he also wanted to represent some local artists.

This wasn’t Greenberg’s first stab at running a gallery. He had opened his own short-lived space in a Detroit suburb in 1990, but he quickly learned that it could be a tough business.

“Then the market crashed,” he says. “And I said, ‘This is crazy.’”

But now, in his second shot at running his own gallery, he’s hit the ground running.

Greenberg, who holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art and a masters in architecture, went back to school and became an appraiser in the hope of better understanding what art will sell.

He says that most of the art in his shop is there on consignment.

The artists — or the people who own the pieces —have left them in his gallery in the hope he can sell them, and Greenberg says that he relishes making connections in the community.

“Mostly, we get serious art collectors,” he says. “I also get a lot of estates. Kids come in and say, ‘My grandpa died and we don’t want the 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.”

 

A work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the Stakenborg Greenberg gallery. (Photo by Spencer Fordin)

The masters

Greenberg says that at one point, the art on his walls represented a sweep of about 500 years.

But now it’s only about four centuries worth of art.

He gestures around at the walls, pointing out a couple limited edition Picassos and a Toulouse-Lautrec.

“There’s only 100 of these,” he says of the Toulouse-Lautrec. “This is what makes my gallery different. I’ve tried to bring in originals and different things that nobody else carries.”

Greenberg says he had a Toulouse-Lautrec in the same series that sold for $42,000.

The one he’s selling now is marked for $38,000 because the stamp on it has faded a little. But it’s the stories behind the work, and the rarity that makes it worth owning for a collector.

“There’s something about the subject matter and the exuberance of the art,” says Greenberg.

“He’s a master. He didn’t 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 the art.”

Greenberg recently began selling the work of Otto Neumann, a famed German painter who died in 1975.

Greenberg says Neumann donated much of his work to the Rothschild Collection, and now he’s one of a few galleries in the United States who has Neumann works to sell.

There are 10 Neumann pieces in the Stakenborg Greenberg gallery, and that number will eventually jump to 24. Greenberg will be having a Neumann show later this year, and he says there's a lot of interest in seeing the works. Greenberg says the Neumann works on display will include one-of-a-kind monotypes created by the artist.

“A monotype is a one-time piece,” he says. “He does the art on glass, then he presses the paper down. He pulls it up, does more color, presses the paper down and pulls it up. That’s it.”

 

This bright LeRoy Nieman piece will catch your eye. (Photo by Spencer Fordin)

Americana

Greenberg gestures to a piece in the back room of his gallery.

It’s a LeRoy Nieman painting of an event at Madison Square Garden honoring great boxing champion Joe Louis.

It’s like the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in that you can stare at it forever.

Greenberg, who’s already invested the time with it, can point out 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 painting of John Lennon and prints of artworks by John Cougar Mellencamp.

The back room boasts a collection of numbered and signed photos from Rob Shanahan, personal photographer for Ringo Starr and author of "Volume 1: Through the Lens of Music Photographer Rob Shanahan."

A few steps away, back in the main room of the gallery, there’s a collection of four Norman Rockwell prints signed by the artist himself.

Rockwell has an enduring appeal, says Greenberg, both because of the prolific nature of his work but also because of its dated aesthetic.

“This is a great story here,” he says. “These were brought in by the daughter of a teacher who was his neighbor on the East Coast. He would show up and lecture her students, who were in elementary school. Every time he came in, he’d bring them a poster. This is a print; a high-end print, but he’s hand-signed it. That’s the value on this. There’s four of them.”

 

Cary Greenberg stands in front of an oil painting by Nikitas Kavoukles. (Photo by Spencer Fordin)

Keeping it local

Greenberg wanted to have a personal touch in his gallery, so he’s begun representing a select group of local artists and trying to sell their work. Slowly but surely, he's carved out space in his gallery for them to hang in a prominent place.

Right when you walk into the art space, you’ll see the highly distinctive figures painted by KD Tobin, a fine artist based in Sarasota since 2004. Tobin's abstract figures resemble ancient murals in their conception and their delivery.

You’ll also find the photography of Wayne Eastep, who says that he uses the medium as “visual poetry.”

Greenberg's gallery houses the sculpted figures of Saul Rubenstein, a former optical surgeon who splits his time between Michigan and Sarasota.

Another local artist, Nikitas Kavouklēs, was part of Leger de Main, an arts consortium in Manhattan prior to relocating to Sarasota more than two decades ago.

Greenberg has multiple pieces by Kavouklēs, who works in a variety of mediums including oil painting and monotypes.

“I think I represent six local artists,” says Greenberg. "And also American artists who come through here. The rest is all masters. Dead masters.

"Nick always wanted to hang with Rembrandt. So here he is with his etchings on top of Rembrandt.”

 

If you go: Stakenborg Greenberg Fine Art. 1545 Main St. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. GreenbergFineArtGallery.com.

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Spencer Fordin, the Observer's A+E editor, hails from New York and graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1999. Fordin previously worked as a sportswriter for MLB.com for 16 seasons and as a features reporter for The

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