A superstar, a design star and a populist star

Des Moines CITYVIEW, 5 May 2021

When asked about his recent acquisitions of Julian Schnabel works, Steven Vail, of Steven Vail Fine Arts, responded, “These are somewhat unbelievable to be offered in Des Moines. We have been receiving inquiries nationally and internationally and have several pending sales. Each is unique with the artist’s hand embellishment in addition to the artist’s base screen-printing work, thus giving them the status of “unique” works on paper. Collectors in Berlin, Miami, Greece, Beverly Hills  and others have all been reaching out to SVFA in Des Moines inquiring about the work.”

Between Heaven and Earth


CITYVIEW, 21 February 2013

Elsewhere, Steven Vail Galleries has added an impressive lineup of cutting edge artists from all over earth, if not heaven. Theatrical Argentine Guillermo Kuitca, his playful compatriot Lilliana Porter, Pop Art star Ana Mercedes Hoyos of Columbia, surreal commentator Dario Villalba of Spain, Chinese cultural fusionist Su Xiaobai, Canadian symbolist Stephen Andrews, Spanish abstract expressionist Josep Guinovart, chromatic phenomenalist Carlos Cruz-Diez of Venezuela, expressionist Nedko Solakov of Bulgaria, Spanish Tachisme founder Antonio Saura and ironic lithograph artist Stefan Bruggemann of Mexico are now available at the gallery.

The Untimely and the Most Timely 


CITYVIEW, 1 July 2020

Steven Vail Fine Arts — Project Room is open by appointment with an exciting new series that fits the current moment like a correctly sized glove. Mitchell Squire, an Iowa State professor, has long worked on art that explores “the inability to express pain.” One series, exhibited by Minneapolis Institute of Art, created abstract human victims out of police gun practice targets, revealing a dialectical dynamic in an artist whose previous shows, including one at Drake’s Anderson Gallery, had been serenely meditative.





Steven Vail at Lucca

Des Moines CITYVIEW, 30 September 2020

Steven Vail is an international art dealer whose Steven Vail Fine Arts gallery is in Des Moines. I asked him to lunch, and he chose Lucca, Steve Logsdon’s mostly Italian café in East Village.



Local Art Scene

CITYVIEW, 5 June 2019

Local art scene is continually improving 

The award-winning architects of Spiller and IDEAA along with Christensen Development are putting the finishing touches on the new Steven Vail Fine Artsspace on the ground level of the Fitch Building, across the street from Exile brewery and restaurant. The previous second-floor public gallery space in Historic Teachout Building opened well over a decade ago as a collaborative effort between Vail and legendary architect and arts patron Kirk Von Blunck.
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The Show Must Go On 

Des Moines Register, 4 October 2019
Steven Vail Fine Arts to celebrate new location with exhibition Vail has been in the art industry since the 1990s. He initially attended Drake University as a finance major.

"When I was younger, I bought a few pieces of art, and when I was in my early 20s, I sold a few pieces," Vail said. 

He then began to spend more time in New York City around artists, poets and musicians. When Vail made his return to Iowa, he asked his friend Davis Sanders to build him a gallery, and his art career began. 

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Cosmopolitan Elegance

CITYVIEW, 3 October 2018Vail comes down to earth

Steven Vail Fine Arts moves this month. For decades, Vail has had galleries high above the streets, in skyscrapers (insurance companies like that) and in the Teachout Building. Vail does not really need walk-in traffic. He does most of his business with New York investment brokers and in appraisals. But an opportunity arose, and he is coming down to street level, across Walnut from Exile Brewery. Here’s his official explanation:

“The architecture firms Spiller and IDEAA converted a dim, dark raw space on the ground level of Des Moines Fitch Building into a beautiful, lightfilled gallery. Located a block from the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Garden and sheltered from the city’s chaotic streets, Steven Vail Fine Arts – Project Room is comprised of a main exhibition salon, an art research library and an auxiliary exhibition space which will feature works from our collection. Executed by Christensen Development, the finished gallery is a beautiful, modern space that offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.”

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Steven Vail Interviews Artist

Judith Shea

 19 April 2018Is there a natural crossover between fashion and art in the creative process?

I only worked in the fashion business for a year, 1969-1970. I lost interest in it. That was the moment of great unrest and change in American society-civil rights, women's 'liberation', Vietnam, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, Earth Day, and Nixon. In my fervent twenty-one-year-old world view, fashion didn't seem worth giving my life to. The crucial thing I brought from my great design education though, was the knowledge of how to build a figure-using cloth. This technology was vital to my early work, and remains so.

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American MirthART PIMP, CITYVIEW, 10 AUGUST  2016Things are looking a bit more like business as usual again at Steven Vail Fine Arts. The second-floor gallery in the Teachout Building was inaccessible for weeks because of crime scene barricades. Architect and building owner Kirk Blunck was found dead in front of Vail’s doorway, and it became a kind of memorial.

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Ultimate Tag Sale


The Des Moines Register, 8 November 2015


Attention, shoppers: You don’t have to wait for Black Friday. An Iowa millionaire is selling off his lifetime collection of art and artifacts at a tag sale this weekend in Urbandale. A pair of life-sized wooden tigers. An orange-feathered headdress. A case of 18th century surgical tools from India.They’re all up for grabs and priced to move.


To set the prices, Townsend enlisted the help of Steven Vail, who runs a gallery in the East Village, and Steve Mumma, who runs A OK Antiques in Valley Junction. They did some benchmark research but relied mostly on the prices Townsend originally paid — and then marked them down.

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Take a closer look: Steven Vail Fine Arts presents collection of self-portraits by Chuck Close

Little Village, 3 June 2014

Steven Vail Fine Arts is currently showcasing a collection of prints by Chuck Close that encompass a range of techniques, including woodcut and silkscreen. The show goes through June 14 and is a rare opportunity to see a grouping of the artist’s work in Eastern Iowa.


The Year of the Really Big Show 


ART PIMP, CITYVIEW, 18 December 2013


Event of the year — Steven Vail Fine Arts celebrated its 20th anniversary of representing world-famous artists like Chuck Close by expanding to the historic Packing and Provision Building in downtown Iowa City.

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20 Years of Fortitude

This year marks Steven Vail’s 20th anniversary in the gallery business. His exhibitions here, of internationally renowned artists, have usually received more media coverage from New York, Germany and even Hong Kong than they have in Des Moines. How did he manage to survive?

​“Luther Utterback (Des Moines artist) took me to New York City when I was 23. The first friend he introduced me to was Jan Frank. We hit it off really well, and I would end up moving into a part of his loft on Bond Street,” Vail began.This year marks Steven Vail’s 20th anniversary in the gallery business. His exhibitions here, of internationally renowned artists, have usually received more media coverage from New York, Germany and even Hong Kong than they have in Des Moines. How did he manage to survive?

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Gallery Brightens IC

The Daily Iowan, 27 September 2013

Similar to many, the 1980s proved to be a trying period in Steven Vail’s life. But in line with a national farm crisis that placed particular challenges on a number of Midwestern states, Vail tried to buck the trend, opting to open a collection of art in a renovated Des Moines warehouse. But like several other artists of the time period, he said, he was showing works ahead of the time for Iowa’s capital. 

More than 30 years and a new title later, Vail is back at it again, this time with a new place for artistic appreciation: downtown Iowa City. 

Glories of the Prairie and Fall


CITYVIEW, 16 October 2013


Steven Vail Fine Arts opened its second gallery last month in downtown Iowa City. A month before opening, the gallery was negatively reviewed in an alternative paper, but reviews following the debut were quite favorable. The discrepancy between those anticipatory and actual reviews represented two larger issues. Generally speaking, a lot of grass roots art criticism views success as a sell-out. As in Des Moines, Vail represents successful, established artists who are popular with investors and hedg-fund managers as much as with novice collectors. Large crowds, starved for art with the University of Iowa’s art museum closed, seemed most appreciative of Steven Vail Fine Arts – The Project Room.

In Iowa City, the building that houses Vail’s gallery is itself the focus of intense debate. The Historic Packing and Provision Building is part of the $53 million, 20-story Chauncery development. It has been dubbed “The Shadow” by protestors who would like to keep downtown Iowa City short. Acknowledging the debate, Vail’s first show was titled “Art et Architecture.” The Bijou Cinema closed in the Iowa Memorial Union and moved into same building as Vail, bringing film back to downtown Iowa City for the first time since 2007. Future exhibitions at the gallery plan to synchronize with films being shown next door.

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Round and Round 


Des Moines Register, 19 May 2013 



Vicious Circles to Open in East Village Gallery


Des Moines Register, 19 May 2013 

An upcoming art show doesn’t reinvent the wheel — not exactly — but it does roll a few out for a fresh look. “Vicious Circles” opens May 23 at the Steven Vail Fine Arts Project Room in Des Moines’ East Village neighborhood and focuses on the ordinary circle, a shape kids recognize even before they know its name.

​So it’s a simple theme, with endless variations.

​“This show is kind of different because there is no history, no pretext,” curator Breianna Cochran said. “It’s just about seeing. We just appreciate the works for what they are.”


New Exhibit 


DSM Magazine, 8 November 2012

A new exhibit at Steven Vail Fine Arts–Project Room features prints and works on paper by 15 contemporary artists who have used photography in creating their works. The American and international artists represented in the exhibit, called “Sourced,” have used photography as a template for their imagery or have incorporated photos and photographic source material in their pieces.

The Year of Exalted Memories


CITYVIEW, 19 December 2012

Every piece in Steven Vail Fine Arts’ current show “Sourced” demonstrates how photographic images inspire original art. In one, Phillip Chen recalls the relationship between his father and John Dillinger through trappings of the family restaurant and a death mask of the gangster.


Photography Through an Altered Lens

ART BEACON, 15 November 2012

Many surprises awaited my first visit to Steven Vail Fine Arts and the gallery’s latest exhibit, Sourced: the world-class artists and their contemporary photographic works displayed in a Des Moines’ East Village gallery and the attendance of local artists, Jeremiah Elbel and Phillip Chen, professor of drawing and printmaking at Drake University.

Cameras and Conceptualism

CITYVIEW, 15 November 2012

At Steven Vail Fine Arts, prints by local artists Jeremiah Elbel and Phillip Chen join those of 13 internationally famous artists in the exhibition “Sourced.” “Jeremiah and Phillip not only hold their own in this company, in many ways they are technically more ambitious,” said curator Breianna Cochran.


...All “Sourced” prints either incorporate photography or were inspired by it. Elbel’s dramatic charcoal rubbing was modeled after a photo of self-immolation, perhaps the one that inspired Arab Spring. (Elbel won’t say.) Chen’s two etchings link his father and the gangster John Dillinger, who employed him. Blueprints of a Colt .45, Chinese restaurant trappings and an abacus are superimposed over a photo of the elder Chen’s apron and jacket. In the other half of the work, Chen created a death mask portrait of Dillinger using software that plastic surgeons employ.               


Exhibition of Works by Henry Moore Opens at Steven Vail Fine Arts

ARTDAILY, 11 May 2012 


Henry Moore (British 1898 – 1986) is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century and from the late 1940s has been recognized as the most celebrated artist of his time.


Moore started printmaking in 1931 and was enthralled with the process. In 1958 he met the master lithographer Stanley Jones at Curwen Press with whom he continued to make prints until the end of his life. In his printmaking, as with his sculpture, he was preoccupied with the reclining female form and the mother and child. 

This exhibition of lithographs, etchings and mixed media works explores Moore's graphic work relating to his iconic Mother and Child and Reclining Figures series and is the first exhibition of its kind in the United States. 

Henry Moore Exposition 

DSM Magazine, May 2012

How big of a deal is a new Henry Moore exhibit at Seven Vail Fine Arts-Project Room? It’s the first time a non-institutional venue is hosting a show solely dedicated to the British artist’s prints. Moore (English, b. 1898-1986) is acknowledged as one of the 20th Century’s greatest sculptors.

Exposition Henry Moore, Steven Vail Fine Arts


Review by Alissa for Art Beacon, 14 May 2012

Des Moines is fortunate:  There is nothing unusual about an art exhibition opening on a Friday night in the East Village.  Every week, talented artists present their latest work in the many galleries scattered across our fair city.  However, when a one of those Friday night openings features the work of an iconic, world-renowned sculptor, it is exceptional indeed.  Last Friday’s opening reception for “Exposition Henry Moore” at Steven Vail Fine Arts was that type of pleasant surprise.



August is the New October for Color

CITYVIEW, 18-24 August 2011



Three new exhibitions in Des Moines examine color from different points of view. Less (color) is more in Steven Vail Fine Arts current exhibition “Selective Color in Printmaking.” 


The Vail show, which explores minimal uses of color, has drawn attention from the New York City art media and includes works of such pathfinders from five different countries, some with big names: Rita Ackermann, Kamrooz Aram, Carlos Amorales, Donald Bleckner, Robert Cottingham, Eric Fiscal, Wayne Gonzalez, Antony Gormley, Beverly Semmes, Josh Smith, Pat Steir and Donald Sultan. They demonstrate how restrained use of just black, white, gray and the primary colors can have major dramatic impact in reductive art. Using a variety of print media, their works communicate more through texture, pattern and balance, avoiding the use of color as their primary expressive tool. 

Coming this Week

Serious Summer Fun

CITYVIEW, 21-27 July 2011


Steven Vail Fine Arts' new exhibition also opens July 28 and studies "Selective Color" in printmaking. Artists come from five different countries and use minimal color for dramatic effect in reductive art. Works range from figural to virtual abstraction and include Eric Fiscal, Donald Sultan, Carlos Amorales, Robert Cottingham and seven others. 


Vail quoted Alberto Giacometti while explaining the inspiration for the show. "My colleagues admonish me, 'paint with more color.' Isn't grey a color too? If I see everything in grey, and if within that grey I see all colors that impress me and that I would like to convey, why should I use another color?"

Biz Buzz


Des Moines Register, 6 July 2011

A new show at Steven Vail’s East Village gallery ti­tled “Se­lective Col­or in Print­making” re­m­inds Elbert of Buzz of the response that his very young daugh­ter once offered at a school car­nival when a man hand­ing out balloons asked her fa­vorite col­or.


Photos Pop off Walls in Exhibit: 

Head to the East Village to Experience 3D Images

Des Moines Register, 6 July 2011

Save your 3-D glasses from the movie theater. You can slip them on again for an art show in the East Village. The Des Moines artist Fred Truck photographed everyday stuff-cars, flowers, bonsai trees- and then tinkered with the tools of digital photography to create overlapping colored images; called anaglyphs, that come together only with the aid of red-and blue tinted glasses (available at the gallery).


The Good and the Bad of 2010

CITYVIEW, January 2011

Exhibition of the Year (gallery): "Fred Truck" at Steven Vail Fine Arts. Anaglyphic and stereographic photographs, complete with 3-D glasses, provided gallery visitors with a new way of looking at things. 

Des Moines Metamorphoses

Des Moines CITYVIEW, 15-21 July 2010

Blunck takes pride in the changes [to the East Village]...  "Having Steve Vail here is just a huge thing. It's a major, major deal to have an International gallery," he explains. 

Steven Vail Fine Arts (SVFA) opened in February on the second floor of the Teachout Building. An exhibition of Jan Frank paintings followed by a show of prints by the artists in the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden place SVFA many levels above other downtown spaces, at least by measurements such as insuance value of inventories and artists' renown with Google.

Art Gallery Showcases Abstract Expressionism

Business Record, 28 February 2009

Steven Vail Fine Arts hosted its inaugural exhibition on Valentine's Day at its new location in the historic Teachout Building in the East Village.

The gallery, which is run by Steve Vail, showcases European artwork; however, Vail said he is probably best known for pieces that represent a movement in mid-20th-century America called abstract expressionism. The space encloses 1,500 square feet and shows the work of only a few artists at a time, Vail said.

"Prints" Offers Peek into Artists' Minds

The Des Moines Register, 14 April 2010


The art dealer Steven Vail has been selling prints by Jaume Plensa for about five years, but it wasn’t until the Spanish artist’s 27-foot-tall “Nomade” figure took a seat in the middle of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park that his artwork caught on with buyers here in Des Moines. “There’s a definite credibility factor,” Vail said. “Now people come in trying to educate me.”

Merging Music, Prints: Vital's Print Interpretations of Classical Music will Open for Exhibition Tonight 

The Des Moines Register, 25 July  2010


Here’s another one for the “Wish I’d Thought of That” file.  The prominent Swiss artist Not Vital (a common Swiss-Romansh name, pronounced Note vee-Tal) cranked up a CD of classical music, dipped the tip of a conductor’s baton in silver ink and proceeded to “conduct” the music over a lithograph stone.  The inky tip left an abstract scribble on the stone’s polished surface, onto which the artist then pressed a sheet of paper.  He repeated the process with several different musical works and eventually sold the resulting print series of thousands of dollars.

Steven Vail Fine Arts to Open Gallery Space in Des Moines in February 

ARTDAILY, 13 January 2009


Steven Vail Fine Arts, is pleased to announce the opening of their Des Moines location scheduled for February 2009. The space, located in the historic Teachout Building on East Locust in Des Moines, was restored and is owned by international award-winning Iowa architect Kirk Von Blunck, FAIA. The 1500 square foot gallery will consist of one single salon. Throughout the year, the gallery will be open to the public and will offer prints and works on paper by European and American contemporary artists as well as continuing its tradition of representing works by world-renowned 19th, 20th and 21st-century artists including Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol.

1501 Walnut Street (Gallery)
2880 Grand Avenue Suite 105 (Shipping/Mailing Address)
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
1501 Walnut Street (Gallery)
2880 Grand Avenue Suite 105 (Shipping/Mailing Address)
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
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