40 Years of Lost City Arts

Jim Elkind, founder Lost City Arts—of one of the most influential design galleries in New York City—has design in his DNA. Elkind grew up in a modernist house full of mid-century modern furniture and spent many weekends traveling into New York with his mother, visiting museums and exploring the city. He fondly recalls her pointing up at the skyscrapers and their architectural details, encouraging and instilling in him a curiosity about his surroundings and an attention to detail that would go on to shape his future career.

The idea to open a gallery originally came to Elkind during a visit to the annual juried art show at University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he attended college. The vetted show featured several hundred artists, many of whom, he realized, were extremely talented but would never make it into the mainstream art world. Taking a page from his entrepreneur father’s book, Elkind imagined opening a gallery in New York called the Gallery of the Unknown Artist where he would feature work by up-and-coming artists from universities around the country.

Claude Conover

Born in Pittsburgh and raised in New Castle, PA, Claude Conover served as art editor of his high school’s publications before attending Cleveland School of Art. There he studied painting and sculpture and, after graduating, became a successful commercial artist. He served in this capacity for several decades except for the years between 1940 and 1945, during which time he worked in a war plant. Throughout those years he continued working in sculpture during his free time, focusing mostly on portraits and busts of terracotta or carved stone.

Conover began his career as a potter in an organic way in 1958 when, while wedging a block of clay, a jug shape came to his mind to which he added a neck and handle. He hollowed out the form, fired it, and entered it in The May Show in 1959, an annual exhibition sponsored by the Cleveland Museum of Art. Titled innocuously as “Pottery Form A,” it not only won an award but was acquired for the museum’s permanent collection. Thus began his decades-long dedication to ceramic vessels and forms. Conover continued exhibiting in The May Show for years to come, eventually winning the silver medal for excellence in craftsmanship, and by the mid-1970s he gained representation in galleries and other outlets across the United States.

A disciplined and tireless craftsman, Conover worked until the age of 83 by which point he had created and sold over 4,000 works, each unique in shape, color, and decoration. His creations are held in over twenty museums across the country, including the Cincinnati Museum of Art, the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as numerous private and corporate collections.

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