A Conversation with Alyssa Rehs of Rehs Galleries
In recounting the history of Manhattan-based Rehs Galleries, fourth generation art dealer Alyssa Rehs tells the tale of her intrepid great-grandfather, Edwin "Eddie" Schillay, who, towards the end of the Great Depression, followed up on a suggestion from a Greenwich Village antiques dealer, and traveled to England with the sole purpose of purchasing large lots of paintings—enough to fill a ship's container destined for New York where he sold the art in mass.

Alyssa Rehs

Among the 600-plus pieces in his 7-foot by 10-foot container, Eddie would notice a few fine paintings, which he astutely kept aside, framed and offered for sale in a gallery he established just for these better works of art. The arrangement of buying large auction lots and entire estates in England to sell to U.S. wholesalers, while culling through the assemblage for fine paintings for his art gallery, hummed along for two generations and earned him the distinction of being one of the largest importers of 18th- and 19th-century European paintings.

Eddie's son-in-law, Joseph Rehs, continued to build the firm's fine art collection, which, through the years, earned him most favored status with design professionals and private collectors. In 1981, Howard Rehs, with his strong art historical background, joined his father, Joseph, in further establishing Rehs Galleries as one of the premiere galleries in important French and British Realist works, and fine Contemporary art.

In 2013, the firm welcomed its fourth generation of Rehs gallerists—Alyssa (an Art History graduate from the University of Rhode Island) and her brother, Lance (a Hofstra University graduate with a degree in Finance).

When visiting Rehs Galleries, one is usually met by Alyssa who, like her father and brother, may select well over 30 paintings from their extensive collection for your consideration and sure transcendence to artistic bliss.

LUXPOP! recently spoke with Alyssa Rehs on what it's like being a fourth-generation gallerist and her thoughts on collecting fine art.

LUXPOP! : You grew up in a home and environment filled with extraordinary art. What was it like to spend your formative years in such surroundings?

Alyssa Rehs: Depends who you ask! If this question were directed at my father, Howard, he would answer with: "Alyssa always used to say she hates art." This statement is far from true, but I guess that tells you what kind of teenager I was. The truth is, not only did I love art, but I was pretty good at it, too. The back of my childhood bedroom door is filled with pencil drawings I did when I was young. They are still there ... I checked last weekend. I can remember sitting in front of the paintings in my house or my grandparents' home and copying them onto scrap paper. By high school, all my free periods and electives were filled with art classes. By my senior year, I was taking three art-related classes, independent study in drawing and was accepted into a college-level course at Adelphi University.

LP! : What made you decide to follow in the family's legacy?

AR: To be honest, it wasn't always my plan. I began college taking education classes with plans to be a teacher. It wasn't until I was home for winter break during my freshman year when I told my dad I was switching my major. His reply was: "To what?" And I said: "Art History ... I am going to work with you!"

LP! : What distinguishes Rehs Galleries from other esteemed fine art galleries in New York?

AR: One unique thing about us is our history ... I am the fourth generation! How many family businesses can say that? My great-grandfather, Eddie Schillay, and his wife, Ruth, began the gallery in the late nineteen-thirties here in Manhattan. Before you know it, we will be able to say, "One hundred years family owned and operated!"

LP! : You and your brother, Lance, have been running the Contemporary galleries at Rehs Galleries since 2013. Have you implemented any changes?

AR: Absolutely. Before we came into the business, there was very little presence of the gallery on social media. And our website, while it ranked high in Google, wasn't very "user-friendly" nor was it shoppable. My brother and I are always working with our web developers to make the site as fluid as possible, and just a couple months ago introduced a "Buy Now" feature.
Lance and I have also ramped up our social media platforms by posting original and interesting content daily. Additionally, we added a blog to our site, which gives visitors news about the art market, gallery updates and even advice for artists who are trying to navigate the art world.

LP! : Please give us a few tips you would give to young or beginner art collectors on starting a fine art collection.

AR: Start small and find your unique style. I would hate to see someone, fresh to the market, buying into something that's "hot" right now rather than something they'll enjoy looking at fifty years from now. Art is a very personal thing, so take the time to figure out what speaks to you.

LP! : What is your most important rule when it comes to investing in art?

AR: When anyone approaches me about art as an investment, I roll my eyes...seriously. Art was never meant to be a piggy bank hanging on your wall. However, in today's world everything is looked at with dollar signs. So, the best way I could answer this question is quality. Make sure you know what you are buying and from whom. You are far better off with an outstanding work by a lower-tiered artist than a really poor-quality Van Gogh.

"La Famille dans la Loge" by Dietz Edzard.

LP! : At this very moment, what is your favorite 20th-century work; and what is your favorite contemporary piece at Rehs Galleries?

AR: My favorite twentieth-century work currently in our gallery is Dietz Edzard's "La Famille dans la Loge." Edzard was a successful German born, post-impressionist, painter born in eighteen-eighty-three. In the mid-nineteen-twenties, he began painting works featuring female figures, dancers and social scenes similar to those by Degas. It is not only beautiful, but you feel as if you are sitting in the balcony with the audience. I love the ambiance of it.

My favorite contemporary piece is David Palumbo's "Revealing." It is the largest work by David that we have shown at the gallery and is absolutely stunning. The brilliant blue background and dress really make the beauty of the model stand out. I was totally captivated the first time I saw it.