35th Anniversary Exhibition
May 10th – June 3rd, 2018
AFA Gallery is proud to present: a group exhibition celebrating the rich history and continued reinvention of AFA Gallery over the past 35 years. By showcasing new work from AFA’s stable of artists juxtaposed with pieces from the archives, the 35th Anniversary exhibition takes the viewer on a visual tour through four different genres of artwork brought together by one curator’s core vision. Every piece is rooted in figurative technique, employing technical virtuosity to explore layers of complexity through whimsical symbolism.
The story begins with a gallery called Animazing, specializing in conceptual animation art and cartoon expressionism. After the emergence of CGI (computer-generated imagery), traditional animation art ceased to exist and the gallery evolved to exhibit “fine art that is fun”.
In keeping with its natural momentum, the gallery’s artistic evolution continued and shifted its focus to original illustration art by American contemporary masters. In 2012, its SoHo branch re-branded as AFA Gallery (Animazing Fine Art). A more sophisticated gallery emerged, one that focused on living contemporary surrealists whose work was edgy and masterful.
Part of the proud legacy that AFA has built over the years is that many works hanging on our walls have been acquired or exhibited by such prestigious museums as The Morgan Library & Museum, The Museum of American Illustration, The Charles M. Schulz Museum, San Diego Museum, LACMA, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, New Britain Museum of American Art, Vero Beach Museum of Art, Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Walt Disney Family Museum and The Bowers Museum.
Now, in 2018, AFA will continue its push forward with a new vision for the future. Dedicated to presenting compelling programming both in the US and internationally, the new art space will focus on emerging and established artists working across diverse artistic disciplines.
Animazing Gallery is incorporated, and with a briefcase full of Bugs Bunny animation cels and a mountain of inspiration, this “By Appointment” showroom was successfully launched in the dining room at home, in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.
The Grand Opening of the first brick and mortar showroom of Animazing Gallery, located in Hastings on Hudson, New York. (1989-2006)
Animazing Gallery emerged into a fiercely popular animation “collectable” market as a leader in the industry, hosting exhibitions with important Directors and animators in the industry, such as Chuck Jones, (Warner Bros. cartoon Director) Maurice Noble, (Concept Artist) Ralph Bakshi, (Animation Director) Marc Davis, (One of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men”) Bill Melendez (Peanuts TV) and Jim Davis (Garfield).
The Warner Bros. Studio Stores opened and closed 130 stores over the next 6 years, many with animation galleries. Disney also expanded its gallery program at an alarming rate, so they were both on a bandwagon that was driven by an explosive market. Celebrities like Michael Jackson, Steven Spielberg and Whoopi Goldberg competed at auction, and the glass ceiling was broken when a collector from New York won a 1935 Mickey Mouse cel from a Disney cartoon for 286k!
Opened a second showroom in SoHo, and over the next 20 years, a dozen others were opened, including three different locations in SoHo, pop-ups at the South Street Seaport & in South Hampton, together with three permanent locations, most notably after New York, in New Orleans Las Vegas and France.
The Grand Opening of Animazing in SoHo helped to raise money for Broadway Cares, and the collaboration was celebrated by the entire cast of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway for an exhibition of the costume concept paintings by Anne Hould-Ward, who won the Tony during that year for best costumes.
In a collaboration with the Charles M. Schulz Museum, launched the first solo show for pop art PEANUTS painter, Tom Everhart, kicking off 20 years of representation in the US. | Launched “The Secret Art of Dr Seuss”, a collection of limited edition fine art prints and sculptures that became a museum tour that has since traveled the globe.
Started exhibiting at the Jacob Javitz Center during Art Expo for six years. In the heyday, held 50’ of booth space to accommodate high profile events with artists in this endeavor. Heidi Leigh spoke annually on a panel of industry experts in a lecture series.
Held openings with artists and created synergy with charitable organizations and museums to help make the world a better place. Over the decades, raised more than 400k.
Held a benefit for the families of firefighters from the local precinct with an auction for a performance painting created by pop art Disney painter David Willardson together with an impromptu concert by Michele Shocked. Hosted the first of three solo shows for the renowned animation director Ralph Bakshi.
Held a benefit for Broadway Cares with an auction and MC Rob Evans, star of Broadway’s Jekyll and Hyde, who performed at the opening of a solo show for Ralph Bakshi.
Began 14-year representation of imaginary surrealist Daniel Merriam. He lived in France during two summers to be an artist in residence at Chateau Belcastel.
Acquired an 11th century historic monument, Chateau Belcastel, in the Aveyron region of France, with the intention of creating a sprawling art gallery to promote art and culture. This goal was realized through Masterclasses, classical concerts, artists in residence, educational programs for children, and exhibitions of art and sculpture.
Launched the regional “Hungerthon” campaign to end hunger with Underdog creator Joe Harris, and gifted artwork that was used as a national poster.
Launched “Toys for Tots” with Whoopi Goldberg sponsored by Warner Bros. in a benefit and opening for David Kracov. | AFA opened The Art of Tim Burton, the largest gallery sale and exhibition of paintings, concept storyboards, illustrations, stop motion puppets and props in history, on the heels of the sensational MoMA retrospective for the artist. | Began 5-year representation of illustrator Maurice Sendak, leading up to his passing in 2012.
In a collaboration with sponsors Gibson Guitars and Yahoo!, AFA launched an exhibition of celebrity painted Guitars to benefit children who are healed with music at Nordoff-Robins. | AFA co-curated with the artist the biggest exhibition & sale of work by Maurice Sendak in his career, which opened on the heels of a Warner Bros. film directed by Spike Jonze, “Where the Wild Things Are”’. This exhibition was supported by the Morgan Library & Museum and the Rosenbach Museum.
Hosted a benefit in collaboration with Stan Lee and Marvel Comics to raise money for the Stan Lee Foundation. | Began exclusive representation of Italian contemporary surrealist Nicoletta Ceccoli and “Lipson Robotics” sculpture artist David Lipson.
Launched the representation of Wendy and Brian Froud with the largest exhibition of their illustrious careers, which was a collaboration with Random House and the Museum of American Illustration Art and Society of Illustrators. During the summer, Master classes were held at Chateau Belcastel over three weeks, for 30 students who were primarily established artists.
Animazing in SoHo re-branded itself as AFA Gallery (Animazing Fine Art). Maurice Sendak, the Retrospective Exhibition, opened at the Bowers Museum in California and continues to travel to museum and literary venues in the US and Europe. Notable venues included the Walt Disney Family Museum and Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, where AFA’s owner, Heidi Leigh, was a guest speaker. Began 6-year representation of French “bio-mechanical” sculptor Pierre Matter.
Celebrated the Grand Opening of a new location in New Orleans with a parade on Royal Street, ending in a ribbon cutting with a Mayoral proclamation of an official “Animazing Cat in the Hat” day. Three weeks later, opened a showroom in the glamorous Grand Canal Shoppes in Las Vegas. Began 2 years of representing artist Joe Sorren, and held solo exhibitions in New York, New Orleans and France. | Began representing French surrealist painter Anne Bachelier, tableau sculptor Lin Esser, and “Liquid Light” sculptor Tanya Clarke. Hosted solo shows for emerging contemporary painters including Jean Pierre Arboleda, JennyBird Alcantara, Kathie Olivas, Kukula, Yoko d’Hobachie, Colin & Sas Christian, and Kirk Reinert.
Published prints and hosted solo shows and for Nicoletta Ceccoli, Kirk Reinert, Bill Carman, Travis Louie, Brian Froud and Joe Sorren. Produced sculptures by Colin Christian and David Kracov and a bronze for Maurice Sendak.
A collaboration with Yoko Ono to benefit the hungry in New York raised thousands of dollars during an exhibition of John Lennon’s artwork celebrating the 100th year of his birth.
Hosted a benefit for the Tyler Robinson Foundation with the band Imagine Dragons and Rick Harrison, art collector and owner of the popular Pawn Stars TV show, who MC’d an auction of artwork donated by the artist Tim Cantor.
Created a national association in France for the friends and family of the late, great humanist architect Fernand Pouillon, who restored the Chateau Belcastel. A major symposium in 2020 is currently being planned with the Department of Tourism and National Archives. | The French Embassy of Arts & Culture knighted AFA’s owner, Heidi Leigh, at the Pierre Soulages Museum in Rodez, France with a medal of honor.
Celebrated 35th Anniversary with a retrospective and group show. AFA announces is dedicated to evolving, and presenting compelling programming both in the US and internationally. New work will focus on emerging and established artists working across diverse artistic disciplines. | Gave a solo show to Korean artist StickyMonger, whose work at the World Trade Center has captured international attention, and in September, another show for self-taught street artist King Saladeen.
A collaboration with the French Department of Tourism and Ministry of Culture, will make possible the manifestation of a site-specific installation by critically acclaimed installation artist Crystal Wagner, who will “wrap” the facade of the Chateau transforming the exterior of the castle into a hybrid of historic architecture and colorful, abstract forms. This ambitious project will be celebrated within the castle’s interior exhibition spaces with small scale sculptures and limited-edition prints.