The Inquirer and Mirror
By Hana Schuster, I&M Staff Writer
Nantucket, MA, August 11 2011 – Art is often more than a treat for the eye or a tonic for the soul. True art is an extension of an artist’s spirit and, for island art dealer Doerte Neudert, art is energy.
Neudert finds that energy in the abstract expressionism of sculptor Billy Sherry and French painter Charlotte Culot, both of whom she represents exclusively through her Art Cabinet Nantucket, and whose work she will exhibit this week at Sherburne Hall on Centre Street.
Neudert has also added a new artist to her roster this year, Joanna Kane, whose colorful abstract paintings are musings on the relationship between time and art. Through overlapping shapes and carefully-selected colors, Kane aims to unlock images of the unconscious and plays with contrasting colors to create dimension on the canvas.
Neudert’s dedication and commitment to few artist she represents is palpable and inspirational. Sherry’s steel sculptures are scattered throughout Neudert’s Market home and across the lawn. “I don’t buy them to help him, I buy them because I love what he does,” she said. Culot’s colorful paintings adorn her walls, bringing Neudert serenity and strength.
“Art is not about the subject. That is why I like abstract expressionism, because it is never about the subject. People don’t always understand that, but it is my goal to help them and make them curious,” she said.
Neudert has been honored three times, including this year, by United States Commerce Association as the “Best of Nantucket” in the art dealers’ category. Nationwide, less than 1 percent of 2011 award recipients qualified as three-time award winners.
Neudert is respected for her keen eye and her passionate dedication by many art connoisseurs, including summer resident Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who recently bought numerous paintings from Neudert.
Growing up in Germany during World War II, Neudert’s exposure to art was limited. Her family maintained a high status in German politics, as her grandfather was a personal assistant to Otto von Bismarck, and her father was a high-ranking Nazi official under Adolf Hitler. Born on Hitler’s birthday, the blue-eyed and blond-haired Neudert symbolized the Aryan race to her cold and distant father. “Out of all my siblings, he chose ma as the ideal of our race. But I could not be, I didn’t believe in it,” she said. “ I did not talk to my father once in my life.”
Recalling the fateful day she escaped Germany and her fanatical father. Neudert spoke softly amidst tears. “We were on the last train that left Germany. Across the track was another train full of Jews who were being sent to die, and I had to see them there while we were being sent to be saved.”
“I was a burden to my family an to my country. Nobody talked to me,” she said. “I loved my parents and my siblings, but I was very different from them. I knew I had to leave.” Neudertrelied on the church for her safety and survival for many years. At 19, she went to Paris where she studied English, French and Spanish, and experienced art and music in ways she hadn’t seen or heard before. “In Germany, there were only certain kinds of art that were allowed. In France, there was so much more and it was wonderful to see for the first time. I knew I wanted to be around it as much as I could.” she said.
Neudert was married to an art professor for 30 years before the two divorced in 1994 while she was in her mid-50s. Devastated by separation, Neudert spend five years traveling the world. She learned to scuba dive in Bali, worked as a cultural advisor in India, did odd jobs in Egypt an Cypress, and took a spiritual journey through Jerusalem to make peace with her Nazi past.
A friend suggested Neudert recover from her sadness on Nantucket, so she traveled to the island where she worked a clerical job for $6 an hour to save money for her next ticket. Instead, after several months, she started a small gallery with just $2,000 to her name.
“There al lots of Nantucket artists and Nantucket galleries. I didn’t want to compete with anyone or hurt anyone’s business, so I wanted to bring something new here,” she said. With her trained eye for art and her dedicated perseverance, Neudert was immediately successful in selling contemporary European modern art, starting with just one artist, Culot.
“She has a great energy in her work, which is totally rare.” Neudert said. In Culot’s paintings, space becomes color and shape as she attempts to juxtapose delicateness with strength. Culot plays with ideas of memory and awareness through her soft pastels and abstract forms. Blocks of color overlap each other, as if hidden memories and emotions are slowly being revealed.
Sherry, who Neudert calls the star of the gallery, has been exhibiting his steel sculptures with her for 10 years. Though his work often takes an ephemeral, lyrical qualities, this yearhe has turned toward more masculine, narrative sculptures, with strong vertical and horizontal lines and fascinating relationships between scale and form.
In the upcoming exhibit, Sherry is especially excited to unveil his largest piece, a monumental steel sculpture that will be installed in the second-floor Sherburne Hall on Thursday morning using a crane.
“They’re not really about anything,” Sherry said of his sculptures. “I just like to experiment with shapes and provide an experience. I Don’t want to guide the viewer in any direction, I want to stir the viewer’s feelings.”
Sherry was glad to find Neudert in 2001, as her passion for his work helped him abandon the insecurities he felt about the legitimacy and the value of his sculptures.
“She made me feel like a real artist,” he said. “She believes in me. Doerte is a rare art dealer because her passion for her artists, her passion for my work, is just remarkable. Working with her has been the best thing that could happened to me.”
Sherry has been on Nantucket since 1976. He is inspired be the sense of space and openness on Nantucket and the island’s organic forms. “Nantucket influences my spirit, and my spirit is in my work,” he said. “That will probably never change.”
Neudert hopes to one day see Sherry’s sculptures featured at the Storm King Art Center, an international outdoor sculpture center in New York. “That would be monumental in my career,” said Sherry, who admitted that he still struggles to acknowledge his own talent and legitimacy in the art world.Neudert, however, does not waver in her support of his work, which, she said, is of “museum quality.”
“I am always invested in the next step for my artists. Right now, the next step is putting Sherry’s sculptures where they should be. I feel that once I have done that, then maybe I can stop.”
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The Inquirer and Mirror