Background and History
What is the Galerie St. Etienne?
The Galerie St. Etienne, founded in 1939 by Otto Kallir, is the oldest gallery in the United States specializing in Austrian and German Expressionism, as well as American and European self-taught artists. It has represented Anna Mary Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses since her first exhibition in 1940. In 2021, the gallery closed its exhibition space and became an art advisory. The gallery’s library, archives and scholarly activities were were taken over by The Kallir Research Institute (KRI).
The Galerie St. Etienne still actively represents the contemporary artist Sue Coe.
What is the history of the Galerie St. Etienne?
The Galerie St. Etienne was founded by Otto Kallir (1894-1978) in 1939, after the Nazi Anschluss forced him and his family to flee their native Austria. Prior to that, Kallir had owned the Neue Galerie in Vienna—namesake of the New York museum for Austrian and German Art founded by Ronald Lauder in 2001.
Kallir brought with him works by Austrian modernist masters who were then entirely unknown in the U.S. The Galerie St. Etienne mounted the first American exhibitions of Gustav Klimt in 1959, Oskar Kokoschka in 1940, Alfred Kubin in 1941 and Egon Schiele in 1941. Kallir also facilitated the first American museum acquisitions of these artists through bargain sales and donations. In 1940, the gallery presented the first solo exhibition of the artists who later became world famous as Grandma Moses. Co-Director Hildegard Bachert (1921-2019) saw to it that the gallery gave equal time to female artists such as Käthe Kollwitz and Paula Modersohn-Becker (whose first U.S. show was held at the gallery in 1958). Working in tandem with Bachert, Kallir’s granddaughter Jane Kallir (b. 1954) continued her family’s commitment to scholarship. She is the author of over twenty books, ranging from monographs on Gustav Klimt and Grandma Moses to the first comprehensive Schiele catalogue raisonné, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works. Jane Kallir has curated exhibitions for dozens of museums worldwide.
Why did the Galerie St. Etienne cease commercial operations?
As mega-galleries increasingly prioritize monetary gain and corporate expansion over connoisseurship, mid-tier specialist dealers are finding that their business model is no longer tenable. Rejecting the compromises required to compete in this economic environment, the Galerie St. Etienne’s leadership instead chose to focus exclusively on the gallery’s core mission: scholarship, research and curating.
Does the gallery’s change in direction have anything to do with COVID-19?
No. The Galerie St. Etienne began planning its nonprofit transition five years ago and made its plan public in 2019. However, the gallery’s leadership believes that a nonprofit will be able to make a more meaningful contribution to the post-pandemic art world than a commercial gallery could.
Will the Galerie St. Etienne still exist?
Although the Galerie St. Etienne will no longer have a physical exhibition space or participate in art fairs, it will continue to function as an art advisory. Selections from the gallery’s inventory will be featured in occasional online sales.
What is the Kallir Research Institute?
The Kallir Research Institute (KRI) is a nonprofit foundation, established in 2017 by Jane Kallir and Hildegard Bachert, dedicated to expanding upon the scholarship of art historian and art dealer Otto Kallir (1894-1978). The KRI focuses ont he Austrian and German Expressionists and on self-taught American and European artists. Foremost among these art Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl, Käthe Kollwitz and Grandma Moses. The KRI also specializes in the work of artists who were introduced to the U.S. by Kallir—including Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin and Paula Modersohn-Becker.
The Kallir Research institute organizes events, corodinated educational and curatorial initiatives, and oversees the catalogues raisonnés of Egon Schiele and Grandma Moses. The Kallir Research Institute also owns and administers the former archives and library of the Galerie St. Etienne.
Will the Kallir Research Institute present exhibitions?
While the Kallir Research Institute will not have its own physical exhibition space, it will work with other institutions to curate exhibitions focusing on topics within its field of expertise. See Exhibitions for details.
Scholarship & Services
The Egon Schiele Project
The Kallir Research Institute is the repository for nearly a century of Egon Schiele scholarship, begun by Otto Kallir in the 1920s. In 2018, the KRI launched egonschieleonline.org, a digitized catalogue raisonné that brought the entries on the artist’s oils, prints, sketchbooks and sculptures up to date. The KRI is presently in the process of updated the entries on Schiele’s watercolors and drawings, which number in excess of 2,000. This project will also entail the compilation of dossiers on collectors who figure prominently in the provenances, with special emphasis on those who were affected by the Holocaust.
The Kallir Research Institute provides opinions, gratis, on the authenticity of works not included in the printed or online Schiele catalogues raisonnés.
The Grandma Moses Project
The Kallir Research Institute owns and administers a comprehensive archive documenting the art and career of Grandma Moses from the time of her “discovery by Otto Kallir in 1940. The KRI plans to issue a digitized update of Kallir’s 1972 Moses catalogue raisonné and provides opinions, gratis, on the authenticity of works not included in that publication.
KRI is presently coordinating a long-term gifting program intended to establish a Grandma Moses study center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. The anticipated donations will include at least 20 major Moses paintings as well as archival materials.
Public Events and Activities
The Kallir Research Institute will partner with other institutions to present programs of various kinds. See Public Programming for details.
Licensing and Reproduction Rights
The bulk of the Galerie St. Etienne’s photographic archive, which includes Egon Schiele’s entire oeuvre and all the paintings of Grandma Moses, has been donated to the Kallir Research Institute. The KRI has sub-licensed the photo archive to Bridgeman Images. The Galerie St. Etienne will continue to handle reproduction rights for Sue Coe.
Will the Kallir Research Institute’s resources be available to the general public?
Yes. The Kallir Research Institute’s library and archived will be open to researchers by appointment. The library contains many key art-historical publications on Expressionism and self-taught artists, including hard-to-find catalogues raisonnés. The KRI archives document the Galerie St. Etienne’s activities over a period of more than 80 years and include the research materials used to compile the Richard Gerstl, Grandma Moses and Egon Schiele catalogues raisonnés. The KRI plans eventually to digitize the archives.