by Myrna Zanetell
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Austrian art collector focuses on El Paso
Hal Marcus and his wife, Patricia, recently returned from an amazing trip to Vienna, Austria, responding to an invitation an art collector from Vienna with whom they have established a growing friendship. The trip included some surprises, such as an impromptu art show of Hal’s work at the collector’s private museum.
Hal explains how their acquaintance with Peter Schnabl began:
“Peter enjoys hunting so he comes out to the Big Bend area, which is the location of a particular breed of trophy sheep. He and several companions fly into El Paso and then go to their hunting location from here. Because his other interest is art, he also takes time to visit several galleries when he is here. He has been to our gallery about 12 times over the past 15 years. His visits are generally around Thanksgiving, so Patricia and I have invited him to have dinner with us on several occasions.
“Over the years, he has purchased 120 paintings from my gallery, which include works by Daniel Padilla, Francisco Romero, Hal Marcus, Mauricio Mora, Willibald de Cabrera, Hector Bernal, Krystyna Robbins, Corinne Spinnler, Alberto Escamilla and Marina Savitzsky. He has approximately, 25 Marcus’, 25 Mora’s, 25 Romero’s, 25 Padilla’s, 8 Willibald’s, 8 Bernal’s, and 8 Escamilla’s. He has also acquired Early El Paso Art by Bill Rakocy, Ray Lopez-Aleman & Noel Espinoza. The pieces he purchases are usually not larger than 16” x 20”. He also asks for them to be unframed so that he can put them in a smaller container in order to take them back with him rather than having them shipped.”
Schnabl has also visited other studios such as those of Alberto Escamilla, Corinne Spinnler and Krystyna Robbins. Both Corrine and Alberto characterized Schnabl as a very humble and caring individual. Corinne comments, “He first asked about my work after seeing it in the Sunland Gallery and seemed to be most attracted by my colorful floral pieces. He made several visits to my studio, and the last time he brought me a small gift because he was concerned about my husband’s declining health.”
Alberto was impressed by how Schnabl describing him as “the painter of color,” adding, “He liked my landscapes, especially the ones that depicted rural life.”
Schnabl tends to refer to all artists from El Paso as “Mexican painters,” Hal said, but his tastes in art encompass a wide variety of works. “He has very diverse tastes collecting art from Russia, Turkey, and India as well as the U.S. He also makes purchases through art auction houses in Europe to add to his collections of glassware and decoy ducks, and his wife has her own collection of vintage watches.
“An accomplished real estate lawyer, now retired, he is well respected by a wide range of peers, friends and associates, partly because he is also known as a supporter of the arts. While we were in Vienna, he and his wife, Christiane, treated us like royalty. They gave us the keys to their four-story guest home and also took us to several museums, where we were especially impressed by the works of Austrian artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
“He also took us to his the farm house about an hour out of Vienna where he was raised. He has converted it into a three-story, private art museum where he houses his collection of 450 paintings, collection of glassware, duck decoys, Middle-Eastern and Persian rugs, and his hunting trophies. He also surprised Patricia and me by inviting 30 of his closest art-loving friends to meet us and took us all out to lunch. He even scheduled a small art show of my work in his museum using some of the work he had of mine, plus some drawings I did while we were there.
“I had brought him some small gifts like prints and cards, and he was so gracious about receiving them. I even took my Aunt Alice Alligator book, which he was delighted to have for his grandchildren. They are very respectful of artists and their lifestyles.”
Hal enthuses, “The couple’s hospitality is something we will remember for the rest of our lives because of their graciousness and love of art. It is people like the Schnabls who are the reason we are still in the art business.”
Also: Be sure to catch the “ARTalk” 5-8 p.m. Thursday, July 26 for the Hal Marcus Gallery’s exhibit of the “4 Amigos: Hal Marcus, Mauricio Mora, Daniel Padilla, and Francisco Romero.” Hal will show photos from his trip to Vienna, and viewers will have the opportunity to see works by many of the El Paso artists whose works now hang in Vienna.
KCOS Art Auction recap
For more than two decades, art has played a major role in helping to fund KCOS, El Paso’s public television station. KCOS Director Emily Loya, reports that this April’s 2018 Auction brought in $71,000 – about 30 percent more than last year’s total. “Out of the 140 pieces we presented, we sold 120 of them, including some high-end works by Tom Lea and Manuel Acosta. It is encouraging because it tells us the economy must be better since viewers are spending money on art.”
Hal Marcus confirmed the growing importance of the annual KCOS auction:
“Thanks to the generosity of the El Paso art community, we have actually built a culture around this auction. People really look forward to buying art through KCOS because they know they can find high quality art for reasonable prices – and they are also supporting a very positive cause at the same time. The buying process is so easy, and in many ways it is also less intimidating for those who don’t regularly go to galleries. They can bid from home and remain anonymous.”
Marcus has teamed up with KCOS to offer supporters a chance to own a signed copy of his newest, limited edition print, “El Paso!”, from the mural commissioned by the new Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus. The print, which is 12” x 36”, is composed of 14 panels.
Loya explains that Hal’s print is a promotion in conjunction with the 40-year celebration of the program “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
“We are offering this to new members and also returning members who sign up as sustaining members of KCOS at the $20 monthly level,” she said, explaining that donors will be able to pick up the print at the Gallery.
Not so encouraging
The Art Scene in El Paso is a bit poorer now, with two more galleries closing their doors. Kimberley Vanecek has closed her Art Avenue Gallery and has also discontinued publication of her magazine by the same name. The Galeria Zia at El Paso International Airport has announced on its Facebook page that it will close Aug. 25.
Myrna Zanetell is a freelance writer
specializing in the visual arts.
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