If accounting for 150 years in continuous business operation is categorized as a success, then Findlay Galleries, an art gallery business that has now thrived across the globe for three centuries, is your superstar. To celebrate this remarkable and proud history, the company is publishing a beautiful anniversary book, full of vintage photos with iconic social and jet-setter names, and, of course, beautiful reproductions of the master works on which the galleries have built their reputation and success through 15 decades.
Dating back more than 149 years, Findlay Galleries began as a family business in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1870. In those post-Civil War days William Wadsworth Findlay opened his first art gallery, Findlay Art Rooms, which specialized in European art, silver, china, artists’ supplies and picture frames. Kansas City in those days was a rough frontier town, vigorous and colorful in many ways, but hardly fertile ground for the arts to flourish. The patriarch of
the Findlay family journeyed from Scotland to Kansas City in the 1860s with the dream of bringing art to this crossroad town where he was determined to start his galleries. The tune in those days of “go west, young man, go west” landed William Wadsworth Findlay midway between the east and far west of America.
A number of lean years followed, but also many rich rewards. One of the greatest was Mr. Findlay’s discovery of the now celebrated American painter and sculptor Frederic Remington. Young Remington, who worked as a rack boy in a Kansas City poolroom in the 1860s, spent his spare time sketching the pool hall patrons, the horses hitched in the muddy streets and occasional traders from farther west. He sketched for his own amusement, with no thought of selling his work. Impressed with his talent, “Bill” Findlay interested others in Remington’s paintings, watercolors and drawings, thus starting Remington on his career. Following shortly were the many Western works by Charles Marion Russell.
Findlay Galleries grew successfully in Kansas City. Specializing in American and English paintings and prints from the 18th and 19th centuries, the galleries influenced the development of private and public collections throughout the Southwest and Midwest. William Rockhill Nelson of Kansas City, who later founded the prestigious Nelson Gallery of Art in that city, was one of Findlay’s many patrons during these early years.
In time, Walstein C. Findlay, son of the founder, was well reared in the family business and became head of the gallery and established the practice of frequent trips to Europe to buy directly from foreign markets as his children studied the American market of traditional and emerging artists. As his oldest son, Walstein “Wally” Jr., came of age, he too turned to art as a profession.
Raised in Kansas City, Wally Findlay attended the University of Missouri and while still in college plunged into the gallery business with the zest and determination of a seasoned art dealer. Walstein Sr. sent his son to Europe periodically, and it was during these trips that Wally first came face-to-face with the great French masters, who were to influence his later career. When not traveling to the art centers of Europe, he was selling paintings on the road, driving across the plains from Kansas City to Oklahoma and Texas.
In early 1930, Wally expanded the Findlay Galleries to Chicago, where a branch of the Kansas City gallery was opened. Determined to be a success in his own right, Wally purchased a substantial building at 320 South Michigan Avenue to house his gallery, feeling that important galleries should have their own building in a prime location.
After many successful traveling exhibitions to Palm Beach, Florida, in the 1940s and ’50s, Wally bought an important block through a parcel of land on Worth Avenue in 1960. There he built a three-story gallery of enormous importance, which soon became the social whirl of exciting, premier blacktie private previews during the high social seasons. Following, in 1963, Wally visited his brother who operated his Findlay Gallery on 57th Street in New York. He bought a classic former Hearst townhouse in an adjoining building, which later became Wally Findlay Galleries. By the 1970s, Wally was ready for future expansion and opened a Wally Findlay Galleries on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. By 1972, he continued his expansion into three glorious French townhouses for the company’s first European gallery at 2, Avenue Matignon in Paris. This became an influential part of the international art scene, and by 1976 Wally Findlay Galleries Oriental Tokyo was created—today the name and art form has become an important part of the cultural life of Japan.
Throughout the growth and development of the now famous company, which Wally Findlay headed, the basic philosophy of his grandfather has had a great influence: “Art should be for everyone.” Primarily specialists in impressionism and post-impressionism, which have a special interest to connoisseurs, the galleries also feature works of a varied group of contemporary artists worldwide. Today, the gallery roster includes more that 40 artists globally, of which most are represented exclusively.
Wally Findlay had no children and left the family business without a biological heir. The decision was made to franchise the New York gallery to James R. Borynack, who would eventually acquire the entire international company as the sole owner in 1998, a few years after Wally Findlay’s passing. Borynack’s tenure coincided with astronomical growth in the art market, and he set out to reengage artists and clients and pursue expansion that had been curtailed with the closing of the Paris and Japan galleries.
And so, as the company embarks on its new journey to the 21st century in art, the dreams of the past may only compare to the visions of the future. “‘What we dream today can be a reality tomorrow’ is a proverb I have always kept near my bedside table,” Borynack writes, “to remind me of the possibilities that are always there, if you really want to achieve them.”
James R. Borynack, as a visionary in the expansion of Findlay Galleries, sought to find talent in the far reaches of the world, discovering contemporary representation and artists, including contemporary artists from China in 1978; French Maître of Rouen Isabelle de Ganay; British contemporary impressionists Hugo Grenville and Charles Neal; and contemporary American artists Ronnie Landfield and Priscilla Heine; as well as artists across continents, like Chinese abstractionist Chuang Che and Belgian painter Henrik Simonsen. Expanding the stable of contemporary artists both abstract and figurative, Findlay Galleries has established a presence in the art world with exclusive representation of living artists and artists’ estates that provides collectors the repertoire and selection of more than three centuries of art.
Considering today’s fluctuation of good taste and premature conclusion of what constitutes acceptable values in art, Findlay Galleries is confident that our honorable history, along with our tradition of excellence in the representation of art, gives us the advantage to provide our collectors and new clients a lead in the market with tried and true values.
For over 149 years, the Findlay Galleries have identified and supported artists with extraordinary ability in their respective mediums. We have achieved this by maintaining the highest standards in our relationships with both the artist and the collector.
It is our firm belief that both good taste and uncompromising credibility are priceless commodities, and we will continue this tradition of excellence for our collectors and patrons for many centuries to come.