From da Vinci to Warhol, see it all at Fenske Galleries

Gary Fenske doesn’t even hesitate when asked which of the pieces he likes the best.

“I’m partial to the ‘Horse and Rider,’” he says as a grin lights up his face.

That’s because the bronze sculpture is no ordinary piece — it’s cast from the only surviving Leonardo da Vinci sculpture known to exist.

An artist himself, Fenske co-owns Fenske Galleries, 255 E. Historic Columbia River Highway, Troutdale, with his brother David.

In cooperation with the Las Vegas based company Art Encounter, Fenske Galleries kicked off an exhibit Oct. 1 titled “The Masters,” featuring the da Vinci piece as well as works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, MC Escher, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

“The Masters” will be on display at the galleries from 11 a.m. till close Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 1-4. Admission is free, and all of the pieces are for sale.

Brett K. Maly, the fine art appraiser who appears on the History Channel TV show “Pawn Stars” will be on hand each afternoon at the galleries to talk about the pieces, Fenske adds.

The exhibit coincides with the Fall Festival of the Arts, which takes place in Troutdale and Cascade Locks, from Friday to Sunday, Oct. 2-4. (See “Fall Festival” sidebar.)

The inventor of luminous invisible art, Fenske has created paintings that combine multiple images, some of which only appear under a black light, which causes the painting to appear to glow. Fenske adds that “The Masters” exhibit realizes one of his ambitions as a painter.

“I have some masterpieces inside me,” he says with a smile. “I figured surround myself with masterpieces and that’s how you’re going to create them.”

Travels and travails

The bronze “Horse and Rider” was made directly from a beeswax model sculpted by da Vinci himself in 1508. According to various sources, the artist died before the model could be cast in bronze, and the beeswax model sustained damage through the centuries, eventually losing one of the horse’s legs as well as the rider’s hands and feet. The rider’s model is reputed to be Charles II d’Amboise, French governor of Milan and da Vinci’s patron.

The beeswax model passed through various hands down through the centuries and was moved to Switzerland in 1938 for safekeeping from the Nazis who looted artworks throughout Europe during World War II.

In 1985 a mold was made of the wax horse, and in 1987 U.S. businessman Richard A. Lewis acquired the original mold.

Beginning in 2012, Lewis and a team of experts cast a limited series of the sculpture in bronze as well as silver. Each sculpture measures approximately 12 inches long, 12 inches high and 7 inches wide with a base, for a total weight of approximately 18 pounds.

“Just to be associated with something that is a Leonardo is inspiring,” Fenske says.

Collectors’ dream

Even if the da Vinci piece were not in Troutdale this week, fans of fine art would have plenty to look at in “The Masters.”

Art Encounter’s Scott Ferguson and Rod Maly — the latter who is father of Brett Maly — both enthused about the various pieces exhibited in the galleries.

Pieces include a signature by Picasso worth $2,500, and “Loose Change” by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was just 27 when he died from a drug overdose in 1988 after rising to prominence as a primitivist and neo-expressionist. A friend of Andy Warhol, Basquiat created such pieces as “Loose Change,” valued now at $780,000 and on display at Fenske this weekend.

“He’s considered one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century,” Ferguson says.

He adds the exhibit also contains postcards Basquiat created and sold to fund his painting when he was starting out in New York City.

“He would make them and sell them on the streets and that’s where Warhol met him,” Ferguson says.

The exhibit also features “Lincoln in Dalivision” an embossed lithograph Dali created in 1977. The piece appears to be a portrait of Abraham Lincoln at a distance, but up close is a portrait of Dali’s wife Gala and various other images.

“This is probably the most forged work of art in history,” Ferguson says.

“The Masters” includes a 1956 illustration made by Warhol, a version of which graced the cover of an album by jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, as well as a 1942 Matisse drawing “Reclining Nudes.”

“I like that it’s a quintessential line drawing,” Ferguson says as he looks at it. “This is an artist exercising — it’s a study for a major work.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson says he’s particularly fond of the Eschers the Fenske is exhibiting, including “Three Worlds,” a 1955 lithograph depicting a fish swimming in a pond covered by leaves that have fallen from trees. A mathematician, Escher, much like his multidimensional paintings suggesting infinity, mentally roamed different worlds simultaneously, Ferguson says.

“I like the fact that he was a scientist and one of the finest printmakers in the history of art,” Ferguson says.

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