At one point, she represented more than 200 artists out of four galleries--she had added spaces in Sedona and Palm Springs--while most galleries handle only 10 to 20.
Even before the crash, she and her staff had begun to realize that they were vastly overgrown. Sasse recalls, "I could not get one person to sit and list the number of artists we had, and that is when we said, `Stop.'" Lisa Sette recounts another quintessential Elaine Horwitch story:
"She came to one of my openings in the spring, and she took my [small] kids by the hand and said, `We are going to see some real art.' She put them in a Rolls-Royce and whisked them up the street to her gallery.
And later I asked them, `Which gallery do you like best?'
They said, `We don't want to hurt your feelings, Mom, but we like hers.'
And of course they would. She had all those polka-dotted dogs."
When the international art market crashed in 1990, collapsing beneath a faltering economy and prices that had soared beyond reason, Marshall Way was not immune. Not only had the bottom fallen out of art dealing across the world, but there were many signs that the "Southwestern style" had run its course. "It was dead in the street," says Sasse. That was when the "era" really ended, when it became necessary for Horwitch to change her style. Some radical decisions were made, according to Sasse. The Sedona and Palm Springs galleries were closed and the artist list winnowed to 75. Horwitch determined to sign on more painters, rather than craftspeople, and to require from them a more serious, museum-oriented background than during the heyday, when she'd buy any painting she took a hankering to, from any artist who came in off the street.
She began phasing out the wooden folk art and concentrating more on respected national painters, some of whom she had long represented anyway, but whose work was now considered a safe investment by the careful art patrons of the Nineties. Her last Scottsdale art opening, held September 14, was for Larry Rivers, the gifted, venerable wild man from New York City.
If the choice of artist was measured, however, the party boogied with Horwitch's usual flair. She flew in Rivers and the entire jazz band he performs with, and the wine and music flowed. "It was a statement of optimism," says Sasse. "It said that even though the market was really hard and it was looking bleak on the street, we were still planning to have gallery exhibitions. We could have said, `No, we can't afford this.' But we said, `No, this town needs this.'" You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought that Elaine Horwitch, art lover and marketer extraordinaire, would not have figured out the new realities and made the transition, if she'd had the chance.
Another quintessential story about Elaine Horwitch, from Scott Jacobson, former chairman of the Phoenix Arts Commission and an art-event organizer:
"Years ago I brought Robert Redford to the Valley to a Hopi event. At the dinner, I was at the front table and Elaine was assigned to a table at the rear of the room. That did not deter her from just moving her chair up and sitting with me, much to the amazement of the New Yorkers at our table.
"It is sort of funny that her middle name was `Sweet.'
"I have always admired that kind of balls."
Because she died in her sleep of unheralded heart failure September 21, at age 58, and her family hasn't yet decided whether the gallery will continue, observers of the local art scene are looking around them with new eyes. They know that, even if the Horwitch Gallery remains open, it will lack Horwitch's indefatigable spirit. They are wondering how to fill the hole she's left. In particular, they are wondering who will represent her many local artists.
Sette has picked up artist Roy DeForrest, but does not anticipate anything more. Tomlinson says he may sign up a few artists, but he won't supply a home for Horwitch's many orphans.
"I don't think there are galleries to take up the slack," says Sette. "I think there is not another gallery that has her taste or style. Joanne Rapp [The Hand and the Spirit] is mostly high-quality crafts, and Riva Yares represents dead or dying males. C.G. Rein is too commercial and not even as chance-taking as Elaine was. And who else is there?"
Other onlookers are taking the opportunity to point out that there is a new art center developing in the Valley, one that has never looked to Horwitch for sole support but that was always a little eclipsed by her light.