Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Spring Schedule for Signings, Talks, Panels and Book Groups

The icy sidewalks of New York's snow bound streets happily have not stopped the city's avid readers from getting to their local book stores. Indeed the bad weather has given many a purchaser the time to curl up and get their copy read. Several critics, who didn't get to it immediately on publication in September gave the book excellent attention in November and December. It was included on two nationally published Holiday Gift Lists and some very gratifying new Customer Reviews popped up on Amazon's web site. You can see all of these in the News & Reviews section right here on my own site.

In fact country-wide, sales have continued at a brisk pace, well beyond the five boroughs of New York City and the shopping spree of the holiday season. In addition to New York City where the title has the advantage of home ground, the book is also proving popular in Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Cleveland where I am proud to see that the fine museums in these cities are stocking the book in their stores.

In January I began a mailing campaign to draw the attention of university art history departments to the value of the book for their students. Initial reactions have been very encouraging and are also leading to invitations to speak with students or alumni. On Friday, March 7th I will be in conversation with my former academic adviser, NYU's Professor Emeritus Laurin Raiken, at an evening session entitled Arts & Society.

Alumni Arts & Society featuring Ann Fensterstock (MA '99) and ART ON THE BLOCK

Mar 7, 2014 | 6:30 PM-8:00 PM


Shifting markets, motives, and artist migrations continually re-shape the urban arts scene and ultimately New York City. This Alumni Arts & Society program will take you on a five-decade journey, following these creative communities across the five boroughs and examining the contemporary art that has emerged from this ever-evolving culture.
Join us as Professor Emeritus Laurin Raiken and alumna author Ann Fensterstock (MA ’99) discuss the commercialization of art, the gentrification of neighborhoods and New York City's response to it all. From Fensterstock’s debut work of cultural history, “Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond.”

The book is also now finding its way onto the shelves of public libraries and I have been invited to speak in June at the Mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library. The date is still being nailed down but I will post it on the blog, Facebook and Twitter once it is firm. Needless to say, I am enormously honored by this particular invitation

Meanwhile, several private book groups have made Art on the Block their next title and I am looking forward this month to some lively discussions in more informal settings where the readership is likely to be broadly based and the questions provocative. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have an occasion in mind. Although some authors are now asking for an honorarium to do these events, (and so they should – most writers make so little from their published work), I am happy to join you for the pleasure of the discussion and the opportunity to promote the book.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, New Calendar Openings to 'Book the Book'.

To everyone who has bought, read, given, mentioned – even raved – about Art on the Block since its publication three months ago, I send a heartfelt 'Thank You' and warmest wishes for the New Year.

If you have been following my Facebook Page at or my web site at you'll have seen that the book has been very strongly reviewed.

In addition to two radio interviews and a rather startled appearance on Loren Munk's infamous Rough Cuts, the book was reviewed or recommended in six print publications, on four on-line sites and was included in the Holiday Gifts lists of both The New York Times and Artinfo. I am enormously grateful to all of the critics, bloggers, radio hosts and videographers who picked it up, and thrilled with the serious consideration and 'on the mark' critiques it's received so far.

September and November were busy with signings at bookstores and galleries and in December I was invited to a number of private events where the history of art or the urban sociology of New York City were the subject at hand.

Large chain book stores and major museums had the book on their 'New Arrivals' tables and it was available in the D. A. P. booth at Art Basel Miami Beach. Again – sincere thanks to you all for your part in getting the title out there.

As the new year gets underway I am now scheduling events for February and  March. If you have plans for panel discussions, Q & A's, book groups or literary talks and think that I could add value to your discussion, please don't hesitate to contact me. Now that the book has been so well received I'm anxious to push even harder to promote it.

A lot of terrific people – artists, dealers, not-for-profit directors and other art world professionals – gave me their time and their trust in telling their stories. I want to get those stories onto as many book shelves as possible.

I can be reached at:


Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Signings, Opening Events and Early Reviews

A sincere thank you to all of the friends and supporters who came out over the past two weeks for book signings of Art on the Block. With open-to-the public venues on the Upper East Side, the Lower East Side, Chelsea and Bushwick, I was delighted to meet for the first time a number of readers who had discovered the book on-line or heard about it through their networks.

The Corner Bookstore on the Upper East Side on publication day, September 17th, 2013.
Signing at The Corner Bookstore.
Photo by Efrain Gonzalez whose Transgender Girls Working on West Street in Greenwich Village, 1986 is included in the plates.
At McKenzie Fine Art on the the Lower East Side.
Photo by Kianga Ellis.
The author hosted by McKenzie Fine Art on the Lower East Side
Photo by Meryl Meisler whose Cars on Palmeto Street, Bushwick, 1985/2013, 2013 is included in the plates.

Several dear friends also hosted private signings in their homes and it was there that I met the independent book sellers Harriet and Bob. Both long time professionals in the publishing world, Booked by Harriet is a husband and wife team that provides on site book sale services to smaller events where a local bookstore is not involved. Working from your RSVP list, Harriet arrives at your venue with just the right number of copies, sets them up attractively and takes care of sales – whether cash or credit card. The author is free to chat with readers and discuss inscriptions, and the hosts simply enjoy the event. Booked by Harriet does all the rest.
Art on the Block from Booked by Harriet.
Photo by Efrain Gonzalez.

Reviews – ranging from White Hot Magazine and Flavorwire to The New Criterion – began appearing even before the book was released. To read what's been written so far, listen to my interview on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show or have some fun with the surprise visit from YouTube's James Kalm, see the News & Reviews tab on my web site at:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Twelve Years Ago and Five Years On: Things Fall Apart

As another anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks looms, I find myself reflecting – amidst a thousand other mixed emotions – on the reactions of New York's art world as it watched in horror as the Towers fell that day. Needless to say, the impact of the atrocity, and the feelings of stunned incomprehension and utter paralysis that beset the arts community for months to follow, is inextricably woven into the art history of that era.

Here Is New York: Remembering 9/11 An exhibition of photographs and artifacts at the New-York Historical Society in 2007.

Out of respect for the artists who were struggling to re-find their creative voice during the months after the attacks, I chose not to include in the book imagery of work produced during that difficult time. Much of it was deeply personal, reflective, fundamentally cathartic and never intended to leave the privacy of the studio.

This is not to say that other tragedies, cataclysmic events and life-changing crises befalling New York City across the five decades covered in the book were not put on record by its artists. Of the 40 color plates at the book's center, several depict not just the places and people who made up the era's history, but also the social, political or economic phenomena that informed – and as often as not infected – the zeitgeist.    

At this mid-September moment, another anniversary of sorts comes back to haunt us. Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal posted a chilling little Timeline on its digital edition, with slide show and videos of the months to either side of the Lehmann Brothers collapse on September 14, 2007.

Chapter 13 of Art on the Block – "After the Fall: 2007 to 2010" – examines the effects of the 'Crash of '08' on the arts community – not just working artists, but galleries, museums, collectors and the art world press. Opening with New York Magazine's ever-provocative Jerry Saltz's maxim that "Recessions are hard on people but they are not hard on art" – the dots are connected to earlier art world times of famine in the mid-1970s and early '90s.

Andy Yoder, All Your Eggs, 2009, 23 carat gold, clay, wood, excelsior, and shredded U.S. currency
Courtesy of Andy Yoder and Winkleman Gallery, NY

I share here some of the art that was made in reaction to the bursting art bubble of 2008. Acerbic, resigned, bewildered or just plain modestly scaled-back in the face of the new reality, these beautiful but trenchant works were very much a product of their time.

Susan Graham, Vessel for Safekeeping (Survivalism), 2009, hand glazed porcelain, and pewter
Courtesy of Susan Graham and Schroeder Romero Gallery, NY.

Tellingly, all three of the pieces shown here were produced as collaborative projects – either between artists or between galleries – nimbly adjusting to the new reality with affordable limited editions. The Schroeder Romero story and the history of the Winkleman Gallery are covered in the book and here they joined forces in a market-sensitive effort called Compound Editions. The artists materials of choice – whether Andy Yoder's shredded US currency, Susan Graham's ironic use of porcelain, or William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton's watercolor-benign but wickedly targeted boxed sets of condolence cards – all speak to the resilience of art in the face of ever-repeating cycles of economic adversity.

William Powhida & Jennifer Dalton, Our Condolences, Volume 1 (Original Card #5, All Good Things . . )
atercolor and pencil
Courtesy of William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton, Schroeder Romero Gallery and Winkleman Gallery, NY

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Season's Opening Sunday.

I am very much looking forward to (one of) the season's openers this coming Sunday. I will be wandering the exhibition openings on the Lower East Side with the advance copy of Art on the Block tucked under my arm and hoping to run into many of the people who participated in it. 

The gallerists of this newest of art neighborhoods – and the last chapter of the fourteen in the book – were especially enthusiastic about telling their stories. While I was not able to get to everyone as my deadline loomed and some fascinating backgrounds and bios did not make it in under my word count limits – I'm thrilled to have been able to add some of our youngest and brightest new art world rain makers to the art history timeline. 

Below, a listing of many of the galleries that will be kicking off the 2013-14 season on Sunday.

I'm also delighted to say that many of the names here are new to me, having opened after I wrapped up my research last Fall. Now that the book is done and my time is (reasonably) my own again – back to my regular rounds, seeing what goodies you have all got.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

To Brooklyn, From Brooklyn, With Love.

As the one year anniversary of Brooklyn's big, brash Barclays Center approaches, this week's New York Times gave some 'Bravo Brooklyn' coverage to the installation of Ursula von Rydingsvard's 19-foot-high, cast bronze sculpture Ona, currently being installed directly under the Center's distinctive oculus overhang.

While much play was made in the article of the German-born sculptor's 35 year tenancy of "a vast studio in Williamsburg", now 71 years old and at the height of both her creative powers and international fame, artists of Ms von Rydingsvard's stature are about the only ones still able to keep studios there.

Eric Heist, Ex (72 Berry), 2008, graphite on paper
Courtesy Eric Heist and Schroeder Romero Gallery, NY

Art on the Block gives two full chapters to Williamsburg and charts the course of its rise and demise as an incubator of artistic energies and a staunch defender of its own, home grown talent. In the earliest 1950s and '60s days of clandestine living in illegally occupied industrial buildings little in the way of community existed, fearful of discovery and eviction, artists even hid from each other. 
James Cathcart,  South 3rd St. and Hewes Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1988, gelatin silver print
Courtesy James Cathcart and Causey Contemporary Gallery, NY

By the 1980s there was some fusion of a loosely knit community and by the 1990s enough raw likeminded energy to fuel multi-media extravaganzas like Cat's Head 1 and 11 in the waterfront's Old Dutch Mustard Factory. Impromptu and fiercely independent exhibition spaces like Four Walls proliferated, opening and closing as their purposes were fulfilled and the artists running them turned to other projects.
By the turn of the new century, however, the Manhattan spot light was beaming down on the outer borough as galleries proliferated and critics and collectors alike made the Williamsburg scene their darlings. Poaching of talent by Manhattan dealers and what were seen as traitorous defections by Williamsburg galleries decamping across the river left the scene depleted and interest waning. The era of Williamsburg as prime ground for artist-unaffordable condominiums and beyond-the-budget boutiques was inevitably underway.

Erik Benson, Brownnfield (site), 2010, acrylic on canvas over panel
Courtesy Erik Benson and Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, NY

And local artists working in Brooklyn put it all down in their work. Documenting the dereliction of the pre-hipster landscape, mourning the evictions and the co-op conversions but moving on once again to other enclaves – in Bushwick and beyond.

Deborah Brown, Dick Chicken #1, 2010, oil on canvas
Courtesy Deborah Brown and Lesley Heller Workspace, NY


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Currently on the Calendar: Truly a Full Service Bookstore

As Art on the Block's release date of September 17th approaches, my calendar is filling up with invitations to read and sign copies of the book. I am particularly thrilled that my first event on the evening of publication is at The Corner Book Store on Madison Avenue and 93rd Street.

The Corner Bookstore
Palgrave Macmillan
request the pleasure of your
company for a reading by
Ann Fensterstock
author of

Art on the Block
Tracking the New York Art World
from Soho to the Bowery,
Bushwick and Beyond
Art on the Block Cover
Tuesday, September 17th · 6:00 p.m. 
Wine and Cheese Reception & Book Signing Will Follow the Reading

The terrific staff there – whose impressive literary backgrounds are worth checking out on their website at – are all very old friends. As a twenty year resident of the Upper East Side this was my local independent bookstore from 1986 until 2006.

Throughout the 1980s Nick, Chris, Danielle and their colleagues kept my husband Lee and I supplied with the armfuls of good reading that is the luxury of couples-before-children.

The late '80s saw my purchasing profile change for copies of Good Night Moon and The Big Red Barn for our then-little girls Kate and Jane. Into the early 1990s we journeyed onwards to chapter books and high school reading lists.

In the mid '90s the staff calmly took my orders for such works as Painted Love: The Art of Prostitution in Nineteenth Century France – with no questions asked. My return to graduate school and an M.A. in Art History was, in fact, the answer.

Through the late '90s they remained equally discreet over Gothic: Transmutations of Horror in Twentieth Century Art and Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power. It was at this point (for fear of a call to Social Services – Department of Unfit Motherhood) that I felt compelled to explain my Thesis on the art of the twentieth century fin-de-siecle.

When Art on the Block was first announced by Palgrave Macmillan in their spring catalogue, The Corner Book Store picked it up immediately and asked to be the first to offer it to my many good friends and old neighbors. Like a good marriage – things change but the perfect partner just keeps right up there with you.

Support your local indie bookstore!