Monday, April 1, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Friday, June 1, 2012
Monday, April 30, 2012
Selecting an artist for gallery representation is not much different then selecting a spouse, expect the artist relationship can take more time to develop. Any gallery that doesn’t realize they are entering into a relationship is in trouble from the get-go.
Most of the artists I represent have been with me for 10 years or longer and a couple are approaching 20 years. That’s longer than most marriages. I know it’s a relationship because I feel bad when something happens negatively in my artist’s life and happy when something good occurs. I root for their successes no matter if it’s because of me or not.
I not only know their life’s history, when they were born, where they studied and who they show with, but I also know them as people not just a product line. I care about them as friends. It hurts when an artist doesn’t sell as much as I like or worse yet if they feel they have to move on because it just isn’t working anymore.
When I look to represent an artist I want someone who cannot only paint, but is a good fit as a person. As a gallery owner you have to deal with different types of personalities, which can be as varied as painting styles. An artist may feel one of his stable-mates paints too much like them and doesn’t want their work to hang on the wall next to them, or agonize why one artist’s prices are higher then theirs. I try to avoid conflict by having a group of artists that have their own voice and don’t look like anyone else. By having group of mature accomplished artists to begin with I have managed to have a group of individuals that root not only for the success of my gallery but also for the other artists we show.
If you’re an artist and are considering a gallery, talk to other artists and see what that gallery’s reputation is. Do they pay on time, are they going to be good for my career, do they even care? Bad dealers (and artists) get found out fairly quickly and these are the ones to stay away from. In my business I take personality into consideration. If the artist is just too difficult, even if I like their work I’m not going to be interested in developing a business relationship. Both parties should spell out their expectations. This doesn’t have to be in writing but a good verbal understanding is crucial. Money, just like in a marriage, can cause problems. Every gallery has its own way of doing business, in my own business I try to let an artist know when we pay and what bills we can expect to cover.
As a gallery I’m in the sweet spot, and it only took me 20 years to get here. I have a great stable of artists who seem to enjoy being in my gallery with their fellow artists. It didn’t happen by luck, or by taking who’s hot or sells well, but by a real evaluation of each and every artist that works with me. The smart artists do the same. They make sure the gallery owner is more than a wall in a good location but a person that cares and someone they can work with.
The next time you enter a gallery, if you sense thought in their display, and information flows from the individuals trying to sell you artwork, you have found a good gallery to spend your money with as the artist gallery relationship is a solid one.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Galleries, while normally a place of joy and inspiration, can also be a lawyer’s meal ticket if reasonable thought is not given to every day activities. It’s important for any gallery to have a plan for risk prevention.
In part one of this blog I shared what I felt were a few salient points in the everyday life of an art dealer and some common sense things to remember in the gallery work place. Part two expands on these issues to protect everyone working in and visiting your gallery.
As a gallery owner the largest and potentially most dangerous workspace is your exhibit space. Here are some pitfalls to avoid (these also apply to artist’s in their studio setting as well):
On more than one occasion I have had an artist show up with their entire body of work, much of it still wet (you know who you are!). A multitude of wet paintings in a small exhibit space can quickly fill the room with fresh paint odors. Potent fumes can cause some sensitive clients and employees to have problems. This is also true when you’re touching up a wall before a show. The simple addition of fans, opening doors to improve ventilation and common sense are your best lines of defense. Ask your employees if fumes bother them, if it does, move them from the area or hang after working hours, (remember you wanted to be a gallery owner). As a courtesy to your clients make them aware of any fresh paint odor before they enter the exhibit space allowing them to make the decision to enter or not. They always thank me.
Artists please realize when you are transporting wet oil paintings in your closed car there are potent fumes; please be very aware of the need for good ventilation. This also applies to your studio space where you should always have adequate ventilation, both mechanical and structural.
Potential injuries can also occur during the hanging process. Hanging a piece of art requires sharp nails that can be projectiles not only for you but also your art. Never place a painting directly underneath you as you place the hook and nail. Hammers fall and nail slip at high rates of speed. I know of paintings that have had a nail puncture the canvas in just this way; even elbows have been known to go through Picassos, accidents happen.
Nails can flip into an eye when hammered into a wall and lodge directly into the globe. I did see this once as a physician working the emergency room. You can require your employees to wear goggles but this probably isn’t practical and while this injury will rarely be an issue; simply have the discussion of what can potentially happen and the best way to avoid an accident. It never hurts to document these discussions. Nails should be gently hammered in, no hard forceful blows, as this is how you can potentially flip a nail.
Another area of potential danger is packing with blown foam. We have our employees wear goggles and gloves when using blown foam packs. You are mixing chemicals that react. If a bag ruptures during the process our employees must immediately notify us after they have followed the emergency guidelines for exposure. An emergency eye wash station is a good idea; we have them available in both galleries. Sawdust, chemicals, and small metal shavings are always a risk.
Remember when you hang a show with both paintings and sculpture you need to think about crowd movement and traffic flow. Backing into the sharp point of a sculpture or pushing over heavy pieces is always possible. I always check heavy art pieces to see if they could be tipped over by kids or clumsy clients/employees/or even a distracted gallery owner. The more precarious or heavy the object the closer I try and get the piece nearer to the ground or against a wall where it’s harder to run into.
Ladders are another potential source of injury. Gallery staff are like construction workers, remember that before you let them climb even a footstool. You need decent footwear, not high heals. Two people are better when hanging large paintings, climbing high ladders or lifting heavy sculpture. Never use chairs to stand on, it seems like common sense but believe me there are people reading this right now cringing; they know I’m talking about them! Get a good safe ladder; it pays off in the long run. We have a manual on ladder safety and our employees must read and sign off. If you’re saying to yourself, “I’m a gallery not a construction zone,” think again. These tips will protect your valuable staff and your business.
Finally when moving very heavy objects use a lift. This will keep anyone from bending over incorrectly and injuring their back. A professional lift is a must; I have 2, one for each of my galleries. We use Dandy lifts and although they cost around $1000 they allow you to move objects up to 1700 lbs depending on the model. Just one injury to you or your staff alone will pay for this important piece of equipment.
Bottom line, if you consider your gallery a closed construction zone and treat it as such you have just cut your risk for your valuable employees, your clients and yourself.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Technology: How It’s Changed My Art Gallery
My day began with a 4 am wakeup call. A dealer picking on the east coast had an early buy-in at a large antique show and had found what he believed to be a great Maynard Dixon painting. He called because he needed my input before he purchased the piece. (For a more in-depth look at picking watch the show American Pickers.)
Amazingly after 20 years I still got excited at the thought of a new Dixon I have never seen even if it was going to destroy my sleep pattern and ruin the rest of my day.
Now wide-awake, coffee brewing, I told him “Email me an image front, back and signature.” It was this ability to have access to immediate information and connectivity, which has changed the way I do business and makes finding and authenticating pieces so much easier.
Ironically 15 years earlier I had a similar Dixon experience, which was the impetus to write this blog. A different dealer had found a Maynard Dixon at the same east coast show and it was being offered for $3800. The dealer told me all the details as best he could verbally, it sounded very right but I didn’t have an image to know for certain. I don’t mind loosing a hand at the black jack table occasionally, but never for $3800 especially 15 years ago. Needless to say no image could get to me quickly and the seller was not anxious to wait a couple of days. Remember there were no cell phones with cameras or ways to send images other than FedEx or fax, which never works. Needless to say we lost the piece. Two weeks later I was offered the same piece but this time in person. The price had gone up significantly from $3,800 to $28K. I gulped, wondered why I hadn’t rolled the dice and then paid the dealer his price; it was only 6 X 9 inches but had powerful imagery.
Fast forward to present day. Images of the Dixon were sent to my email and iPhone (just in case) and I had all the data I needed to make a good informed decision. I advised against our purchase but thanked him for thinking of me (and for having a camera phone!) I made a quick entry on OneUpMe.com and then struggled to return to sleep thinking of the irony of the morning’s event. If I had this same technology 15 years ago I would have make a great buy, but by having it today I avoided just as big a mistake.
In 15 years our company has gone from having a very large budget for professional photographic images and overnight FedEx letters to nearly zero expenditure. We do in-house photography with high-resolution cameras and send most everything via email. We are slowing weaning ourselves off most cards and mailers (bad for the environment) except for our own book, which we love producing Canyon Road Arts.
This weekend technology trumped again. I was picking an antique show for fun, something I rarely do these days but still enjoy. I found a nice looking painting, good imagery, very well priced but something about the signature felt a little off. It wasn’t an artist I had owned more than once in the past. The dealer said he would guarantee its authenticity. The frame was correct, a period frame with a nice old sticker, which was taped on with a more recent tape (a clue). I looked up the artist’s signature on www.askart.com on my iPhone, which showed two examples. As a general rule an artist’s signature is usually the last piece of the puzzle I use when I’m looking to authenticate a painting but in this case part of the signature was obviously forced to look like the artist signature, and in my opinion it looked fake. It’s not uncommon for unsigned paintings to have signatures added later by an estate, wife or someone just looking to add value to the piece. For this painting however it meant I wasn’t interested and technology saved the day again.
Technology has changed our business dramatically in just 15 years from phone, fax and mail, to text, email, social networks and Internet. Six years ago I cut my Yellow Page ad to a minimal amount. I’ll never forget my representative who was very incensed with my lack of understanding how marketing works in retail telling me in his experience those who cut their ads way back did not stay in business very long. Well, I’m still here. In fact last week I cut all my Yellow Page ads to zero, as I believe the majority of consumers now find their information on the web. Will I loose a customer from not having any paid advertising? I’m sure a few, but it’s my way of continuing the process of utilizing my capital towards what I feel is the best form of communication rather than traditional blanket advertising.