Nela Arias-Misson’s Faith is coming to Keyes Art in Sag Harbor

Just in time for HarborFest weekend, Keyes Art in Sag Harbor will unveil a new solo exhibition featuring the work of the late Cuban-born artist Nella Arias-Mison. The show titled faithdebuts with an opening reception on Saturday, September 10th, 5-7pm and will remain on view until October 23rd.

“This is probably the most exciting thing we’ve ever done. … No one had shown her work before,” says Julie Keys, gallery owner and namesake. “This is a major gallery venture in our small suburb of Sag Harbor.”

Studying under Hans Hoffman, a key player in the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s and 1950s, Arias-Mison connected with other influential artists including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Karel Appel, Wallace Thing and Franz Klein. During this time, she visited the Hamptons to work with legendary names like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner. After spending time with the art students of The New York School, Arias-Mison moved to Ibiza, Spain in 1960.

Nela Arias-MisonCourtesy Keyes Art

According to artist and art expert George Negroponte, her European head led to some of her most important works. “The paintings she made generate a gravitational pull and these mysterious objects demand closer examination. Each painting is a story filled with kitsch associations,” he wrote. “Arias-Mison takes a far more reductive approach in these works and compresses the energy of her previous work (she sublimates it) into magical constructions that seem playful, comical and intimate.”

After Arias-Mison returned to the US in 1976, in New Jersey, she lived quietly – continuing to paint, but only rarely showing her art. That is until 1993, when a car accident left her unable to paint. He then moved to New York, then Miami, where he eventually died in 2015, less than two months shy of his 100th birthday.

Her works are now quite valuable, with Keys reporting prices starting at $60,000. “We have museums that are gearing up for this work,” she says. “Carmen Herrera is the biggest thing on the auction circuit right now in the art world. That’s better.”

Arias-Mison is just one of many artists with East End connections that Keyes shows in his gallery, and it doesn’t just happen by accident. “People come into my gallery all the time and say a few things. One is, ‘Do you bring local or international artists?'” My answer is, “The local artists in my community are de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko,” she says. “And we’re not talking about the artists who live in our city: Eric Fishel, April Gornik. The artists who live in our city are big names on the international stage.”

To Nela Arias-Mison
“Untitled” by Nella Arias-Misson (1961, oil on canvas, 30″ x 25″)Courtesy Keyes Art

Opening her gallery in Sag Harbor was fruitful, as it not only attracted serious art buyers due to the village’s artistic reputation, but increased the chances that Keys would run into a famous artist like Fischl and ask to see his latest work.

“To open a gallery here, you have the opportunity, if you play it right, to do something that New York art dealers spend their careers trying to figure out,” she says of the benefits of access to respected artists as well as undiscovered gems like Walter Bobbie, Director of Chicago the musical. He recently asked Keyes to appraise his art, and she liked it so much she included it in a group show with Fay Lansner and Adrian Lobel (open through Friday, Sept. 9).

Keyes adds that the village of Sag Harbor and the people within its borders have been instrumental in her gallery’s establishment and continued success. “The community helped me come together on a level that no other place I’ve been to would have,” she says. “I am a product of what the community of Sag Harbor does for its residents.”

Keyes Art is located at 45 Main Street, Sag Harbor. To learn more, visit

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