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Inside the New York art school that has quietly fueled the figurative revival

The Rhode Island School of Design. The Art Institute of Chicago. Yale. Columbia. The New York Academy of Art.

Which of these is not like the others?

Unlike four of those programs, which are widely known for graduating artists who quickly rise to the highest levels of the industry, the NYAA may have a lower profile, but it attracts students from all over the world and, as it turns out, turn out to be artists who are rising to equally high places. Unlike those other programs, NYAA is well known for in-depth training in the trade that can receive less stress at many top schools.

Some examples of high-flying graduates: Trey Abdella had an eye-catching stand with David Lewis at Frieze LA this year and an equally striking spectacle at the Lewis Gallery in New York last year. Arcmanoro Niles shows his figurative paintings in technicolor with Lehman Maupin and is represented in the collections of the Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Pierre Naudline He has exhibited at the MCA Chicago and the Nasher Museum in Dallas and is represented by the New York gallery James Cohan. Additionally, the faculty includes notable figures such as Kurt Kauper, Steve Mumford, and Clifford Owens.

“The mission of the school is to teach traditional skills, but in service of creating contemporary art,” said President David Kratz, who attended the school from 2006 to 2008 and became president a year later. “This was the only job he wanted,” he said during a recent conversation in his office, where the walls and many surfaces are covered with student work.

An instructor and students in class. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.

Currently, tuition costs about $43,000 a year and most students receive some type of scholarship or aid, Kratz said. About half of that aid is raised at the school’s signature Tribeca Ball, which allows recent graduates to mingle with collectors and dealers. Tuition is higher than some top programs and lower than others: out-of-state students at UCLA pay $33,238 annually and Yale charges $46,870, while a year at RISD will cost you $61,564.

NYAA isn’t the only school that teaches craft (RISD’s website, for example, emphasizes a “rigorous studio practice” and a “passion for the history and craft of painting”), but it may be the best-known school. for establishing craftsmanship as part of their DNA.

For graduate Kylie Manning, now on Pace’s roster, technical training was just what she needed when she arrived at the Academy. “My undergraduate education at Mount Holyoke was deeply conceptual,” she said. “We were trying to figure out what we wanted to say. The Academy completed that program because it was very focused on developing a strong hand so that you can express what you are trying to share.” The president of the board of directors, Eileen Guggenheim, encouraged her to travel to Leipzig after graduating, where she became acquainted with the painters Tilo Baumgärtel, Christiane Baumgartner, Jonas Burgert and Neo Rauch.

Christiana Ina-Kim Boyle, Pace’s senior sales director and global head of online sales, learned about the school only through Manning (despite working in major New York galleries for several years) and has since served on juries there.

“It’s very interesting to see how grounded that school is in the history of New York; It’s been around for so long,” she said. “They’ve put out some really strong artists, but they haven’t gotten the praise.” From the time he spent there, he also noticed a nurturing environment not always found at competitive art schools.

The artist Naudline Pierre at work. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.

Founded in 1982 by a group of artists, scholars, and patrons, including none other than Andy Warhol, the NYAA was created to impart academic skills that were not widely taught, especially at the graduate level. It all started with free drawing sessions in a church basement, Kratz said, but soon, artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Warhol were on the school’s board of directors and attending classes.

“At first, the school was more traditional and academic, but I changed the focus and tried to give artists all the tools they need,” Kratz said. “Here you study figurative work, but you can learn everything you need to learn.”

In terms of what students need, a common criticism of art schools is that, while they teach art making and theory, they do not offer professional development. To fill that gap, NYAA has hired Catherine McCormick, a partner at MM Fine Art in New York, and artist Dexter Wimberly to educate students on issues ranging from pricing and taxes to how to find work and gallery representation. NYAA is also rare among art schools as a stand-alone master’s program that is not linked to an undergraduate art school.

Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.

The Academy resides in a five-story building on Franklin Street in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, and has been there since long before the area became a gallery mecca. It’s an apt metaphor for the way the art world has, in a sense, caught up with the school: figurative art of various kinds has experienced a major resurgence in a kind of pendulum swing after the moment of “zombie formalism” that the artist-critic went through. Walter Robinson famous identified in 2014. (Real estate has also caught up: NYAA paid $3 million for the building and Kratz regularly receives cold calls offering up to $50 million.) In large shop windows between the columns of the school’s façade are white busts of giants such as Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso and Warhol.

It’s ironic that a school bearing this name would become something of a posh; The word “academic” has been associated with conservatism since the realists and impressionists broke with the Académie des Beaux-Arts. But NYAA has become intimately known to insiders like Wendy Olsoff, co-founder of the renowned New York gallery PPOW, which is just steps from the school. She was serving as a juror at the school in 2014 when another artist recommended the work of painter Elizabeth Glaessner.

“We thought, ‘Why not give him a one-man summer show?’ even though summer group shows were all the rage at the time,” Olsoff said. “We thought, ‘Let’s give a young artist a chance.’ The work caught people’s attention and we continue to work together until now. She is a little different from many artists who come from the Academy in that her practice is not super academic but rather she was always exceptionally surrealist. She didn’t look like anything else she was seeing or much of the work I see at the Academy.

“Compared to Columbia and Yale, the school may still be operating a little behind the scenes,” Olsoff admitted. “But the teachers and followers there are very connected and when they see someone good, they call me. The Tribeca Ball seems unique to them. They have studios open for the gala and it’s a mafia scene. “Artists sell their studios.”

Artist Eric Fischl leads a critique. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.

Critique sessions, in which professors and visiting artists offer evaluations of students’ work, are a long-standing ritual in art schools. On the third and final day of critiques at the Academy this year, a group of faculty and staff, and visiting artist Sarah Peters, migrated between large rooms each displaying examples from two students. Her wide range was exemplified in a room where playful, promising text message sculptures by Kaley Weil hung opposite stunning figurative drawings and atelier-style sculptures by Kaelin Palcu.

In other rooms were digitally generated sculptures and videos of robotic and cyborgian figures by Pedro Dall’Stella, a peephole theater with sculptures on an indoor stage by Sarah Lorito, and eerie painted and stone relief sculptures by Candice Russell. The ship was evident everywhere. At least the morning I was there, the concerns that reign in much of the art world were nowhere to be seen; No object was found in sight and very little was said about its identity.

New York Academy of Art President David Kratz with NYAA graduate Patty Horing with one of her works at the Flag Art Foundation. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.

Topics of conversation varied as widely as the artist’s modes of creation, ranging from the role of artificial intelligence in art creation to suggestions of artists students could observe and the more arcane observations. Sculptor Judy Fox noted that while Palcu’s drawings were impressive, the sternocleidomastoid muscle on one model was not quite right.

Students received mixed but supportive and even enthusiastic reviews. Russell’s were “the best stone sculpture to emerge from this programme” according to Peter Drake; Kauper told Russell that his work “isn’t like anything you see out there. That’s a great place to be.”

Criticism sometimes expanded towards more philosophical issues, which could seem far from the academic drawing at the school’s roots. Alexi Worth said Lorito’s work raised questions such as “What is the role of the artist? Are we sophists? Why am I painting? What is the point? That speaks volumes about what you have done here.”

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