At Large  May 29, 2024  Abby Andrulitis

Remembering Sanford Smith: Art Lover, Collector, and Businessman

Wikimedia Commons - Ajay Suresh

New York City's Park Avenue Armory was the venue for many of Sanford Smith's iconic fairs. Photo by Ajay Suresh. License.

On Saturday, May 25th, 2024, Sanford L. Smith, known to friends as Sandy, passed away at age 84. 

From childhood, Smith had a keen eye for collectibles—accumulating baseball cards and comic books while living with his family in New York. As he grew older and later married, Smith’s home collections turned to antiques: toy soldiers, weather vanes, and 19th-century Austrian bronze figurines.

Though these pieces were displayed throughout his home alongside paintings by well-renowned American modernists, Smith would often sell these works to other collectors. He told The New York Times, “The fun was in the hunt.”

Perhaps inspired by his love for composing and discovering new artworks, Smith began producing art and antique fairs in 1979. Smith launched the Fall Antiques Show, conveniently located within his family-owned funeral home business. This was one of the first fairs of its kind to focus solely on American antiques.

Off the success of that show, Smith founded the art show “Modernism” in 1985, which ran until 2010. He also started the Outsider Art Fair (OAF) to highlight artists who did not fit in just one genre or medium. OAF was eventually bought out in 2013 by the art dealer Andrew Edlin and expanded from New York to Paris.

Courtesy of Sanford L. Smith + Associates

Sanford L. Smith

Another one of Smith's popular creations is Salon Art + Design, one of the only fairs at the time to blend art and functional objects. This fair continues in New York in November.

Throughout the years Smith referred to his shows and fairs as “show business.” He managed over 150 during his lifetime, each enjoying success with dealers and pleasure for attendees. Smith also raised millions of dollars for charities along the way with his pre-show galas. He held degrees from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Smith’s shows and fairs had a sense of community to them; they acted as social hubs for galleries and clients to reconnect and quickly became essential stops for buyers and sellers alike. Not only did dealers typically make money, but Smith had a gift for bringing recognition to often-overlooked artists, mediums, and styles.

Sandy Smith leaves behind his wife and business partner, Jill Bokor, as well as four sons and five grandchildren.

A true entrepreneur and lover of art in all forms, Smith paved a significant path in the world of art shows and collecting. His open-mindedness, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to the accessibility and expansion of the art world will be greatly missed. 

About the Author

Abby Andrulitis

Abby Andrulitis is a New England-based writer and the Assistant Editor for Art & Object. She holds her MFA in Screenwriting from Boston University. 

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