This exhibition, Sugar Daddy: Dear Danielle, opening May 19 and running through June 24 at Denny Gallery, New York, is a culmination of the artist’s years of research into the life and interwoven stories of the wealthy socialite Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, her husband the sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels and their relationship which formed around the Spreckels Mansion now owned by prolific romance novelist Danielle Steel. Opening May 19th.
“Dear Danielle Steel,
My name is Sean Fader. I am a queer artist and a professor at Tulane University. I am writing to you from Stove Works, an artist residency in Chattanooga Tennessee. I have been asked to produce a piece for a show at Antenna Gallery that will open as part of a multivenue triennial in New Orleans. The exhibition’s theme is sugar, and I decided to investigate the history of the sugar daddy, in particular the story of Adolph Spreckels and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. I was immediately consumed by their story which eventually led me to you.”
With each new twist, turn, and revelation, Fader has fallen deeper into the larger-than-life saga, in which carefully constructed public images take on lives of their own. Rather than treat these fascinating lives as specimens to be studied or kept at a distance, Fader has imagined himself in their worlds.
These new works employ headlong identification and fabulation, blurring the facts from the fictions. It started with a common enough phrase—“sugar daddy”—which Fader learned Alma had “invented” and bestowed upon her much older husband, the head of the Spreckels Sugar Company. “Sugar daddy” gets used today to reference those whose relationships are governed by unequal wealth and transactional love, and each offhand application of this term echoes Alma’s inaugural, chiding, and appreciative name for daddy Adolph. Alma was, herself, formidable to say the least, and she became one of the most important art collectors and patrons of art in early 20th century America creating her own museum, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
That sugar went a long way, and Fader’s work recaptures the rambunctious history of this social circle, its romantic entanglements, its scandals, and the ways in which it put art at its center. This story comes to resemble the wild plots and passions of Danielle Steel, who has lived in Alma’s mansion for decades. Fader’s cycle of photographs offers a queer recasting of these coincidences and intrigues, asking how passion and influence take on lives of their own.
About the artist ~ Sean Fader (born 1979, Los Angeles, CA) received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a MA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and a BFA from the New School in New York City. Fader lives in New York City where he is an Assistant Professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in the Department of Photography and Imaging. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally in Dubai, Canada, Mexico, and England. Recent exhibitions include: Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (Buffalo, NY) traveling to the Beall Center for Art + Technology at the University of California, (Irvine, CA), Sugar at Antenna Gallery (New Orleans, LA), Contemporary Performance at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (Tampa, FL), Thirst/Trap at Denny Dimin Gallery (New York, NY), We Are People at Galeria Labirynt, (Lublin, Poland), Apparatus for a Utopian Image 2 at the Center for Contemporary Arts, (Prague, CZ) Picture Yourself: Selfies, Cellphones, and the Digital Age at the College of Wooster Art Museum (Wooster OH), Drama Queer: seducing social change at the Queer Arts Festival, (Vancouver, Canada).
Fader has been awarded prestigious residencies at Loghaven, (Knoxville, TN), Stove Works, (Chattanooga, TN), The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, (New York, NY), Art Omi, (Ghent, NY), Center for Contemporary Arts Prague, (Prague, CZ), GlogauAIR, (Berlin, Germany). Fader was awarded the Catalyst Support Grant, MASS Design, Public Memory and Memorial Lab, Boston Mellon Fellow for Community Engaged Scholarship, Tulane University, Boston, and was named a NYFA Fellow in 2013 and A Blade of Grass Fellow for 2012-2013. He received Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Award for Emerging Photographers in 2012. His work has been featured in the British Journal of Photography, MOMUS, Hyperallergic, Art F City, the Huffington Post, and Slate. Sean Fader is represented by Denny Gallery, New York and Hong Kong.
Sean Fader ‘Sugar Daddy: Dear Danielle’ will be on view from May 19 to June 24, 2023 at Denny Gallery, 39 Lispenard Street, NYC. An Opening Reception will be held on Friday, May 19th from 6-8pm.