14. Grand Central Art Galleries

Grand Central School of Art Gallery with fountainThe Grand Central Art Galleries and School of Art in 1923. Image in public domain from the 1923 opening exhibition catalog, from the New York Art Resources Consortium and contributed by the Frick Art Reference Library.

Before opening the Grand Central School of Art, Clark, Sargent, and Greacen established a nonprofit called the Painters and Sculptors Gallery Association, and the nonprofit held its exhibition and administrative locations at the Grand Central Art Galleries on the sixth floor of the Terminal. From 1923 to 1994, the galleries displayed works of Sargent, William Hogarth, James Whistler, and many other artists throughout the decades. In order to become members of the gallery, artists would have to give a work of art each year for three years, and non-artists would have to give around $600 to purchase a donated work.

The opening gala attracted over 5,000 people and featured art by a number of artists like Sargent, French, and Gutzon Borglum, who designed Mount Rushmore. Paintings ranged in price from $100 to $10,000, and in the first ten years, sales reached $4 million. After much success in Grand Central Terminal, the nonprofit moved offices to the second floor of the Biltmore Hotel.

Among the galleries’ greatest achievements was the design and construction of the United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1930, featuring about 90 paintings and 12 sculptures. The pavilion was run until the 1950s, and museums like the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art presented exhibitions there. Famous exhibitions at the Grand Central Terminal included “Retrospective Edition of British Paintings,” featuring the art of William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, and Thomas Gainsborough. After Sargent’s death, the Galleries organized a posthumous exhibition of his sketches and unseen works, which included sketches of his Madame X and Gassed. Other famous exhibitions included one featuring sculptures of Malvina Hoffman, one featuring Italian art by figures like Amedeo Modigliani, and one titled “Realism From the People’s Republic of China.”