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.
Now, in 2018, AFA will continue its push forward with a new vision for the future: the opening of Primary Contemporary @ AFA Gallery. 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.
AFA Through the Years...
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 from 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. 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).
Warner Bros. Studio Stores opened and closed 130 locations over the next six years, many with animation galleries. Disney also expanded its gallery program at an alarming rate, both on a bandwagon that was driven by an explosive market. Celebrities 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 short for $286,000!
Over the next 20 years, Animazing (or AFA) opened a dozen other galleries, including three different locations in SoHo, pop-ups in the South Street Seaport and South Hampton, and three permanent locations.
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 at an exhibition of the costume concept paintings by Anne Hould-Ward, who won the Tony for best costumes later that year.
Hosted the first solo show for pop art PEANUTS painter, Tom Everhart, kicking off 20 years of representation with this artist.
Animazing 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.
Hosted the first of three solo shows for the renowned animation director Ralph Bakshi.
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 during an impromptu concert by Michele Shocked.
Held a benefit and auction with MC Rob Evans, star of Broadway’s Jekyll and Hyde, who performed at the opening.
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 promoting art and culture within a sprawling gallery. This goal was realized through Masterclasses, classical concerts, artists in residence, educational programs for children, and exhibitions of art and sculpture.
In a collaboration with sponsors Gibson Guitars and Yahoo!, AFA launched an exhibition full of celebrity painted Guitars to benefit children who are healed with music at Nordoff-Robins.
Launched the national “Toys for Tots” campaign with Whoopi Goldberg.
AFA opened The Art of Tim Burton, the biggest gallery sale and exhibition of paintings, concept storyboards, illustrations, stop motion puppets and props in history, shortly before MoMA opened the sensational retrospective for the artist.
AFA co-curated and held the biggest exhibition & sale of work by Maurice Sendak in his career, and it opened on the heels of a Warner Bros. film directed by Spike Jonze, “Where the Wild Things Are”’. AFA represented Maurice for 5 years, until his passing in 2012.
Hosted a benefit with Stan Lee in collaboration with Marvel Comics to raise money for the Stan Lee Foundation. Began 8-year exclusive US representation of Italian contemporary surrealist Nicoletta Ceccoli and “Lipson Robotics” sculpture artist David Lipson.
Animazing in SoHo re-branded itself as AFA Gallery (Animazing Fine Art). Began 7-year representation of contemporary surrealist Bill Carman and 4-year representation of Wendy and Brian Froud. Began 6-year representation of French “bio-mechanical” sculptor Pierre Matter.
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.
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 glamorous showroom in the Grand Canal Shoppes in Las Vegas. Began 2 years of representing artist Joe Sorren and 5-year representation of French surrealist painter Anne Bachelier, tableau sculptor Lin Esser, and “Liquid Light” sculptor Tanya Clarke.
A collaboration with Yoko Ono benefited the hungry in New York by raising thousands of dollars during an exhibition of John Lennon’s artwork.
Hosted a benefit for the Tyler Robinson Foundation with the band Imagine Dragons and Rick Harrison from the History Channel show Pawn Stars, who MC’d an auction of artwork donated by the artist Tim Cantor at the opening reception of his solo show.
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. She created a national association in France for the friends and family of the late, great architect Fernand Pouillon, who restored the Chateau Belcastel. A major symposium will bring together the village, a renowned French artist, and university architects who will compete for the opportunity to design a labyrinth playground, which will be built in the village below the castle.
The opening of Primary Contemporary @ AFA Gallery. 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.