Monday, April 1, 2013

Forrest Fenn and Treasure in Santa Fe

Forrest Fenn and Treasure in Santa Fe

You heard me right, gold in Santa Fe just waiting for the lucky treasure hunter who can unlock the key in Forrest Fenn’s latest self published book The Thrill of the Chase his autobiography.  Apparently clues to discovering the gold are hidden in the book, which can be found for sale on Amazon for $75 or at  Collected Works Books bookstore in Santa Fe with part of the sale going to charity.  Or if you don’t want to shell out the bucks you can get Mr. Maxwell J. Steele’s Kindle version, also the author of Winning Slot Machine Strategies, for only 2.99.  For those of us who know Forrest, I being one of them, we have little doubt that he did just that; why not, he’s an art dealer and we do crazy stuff especially if it causes interest in history and antiquities. But if you can’t find the loot you’re still in luck because there’s gold everywhere in Santa Fe, it’s a known fact.  I’ll share some gems and you won’t even have to spend any money on Kindle.

24K hand gilded frames are on every gallery wall, and you can own this gold just by buying the art, the gold is free...

Golden Adobe Dancing Light, Mark Sublette

Any summer afternoon will provide a light show of golden adobe bouncing off the setting sun.  Head to the Pink Adobe, order a Margarita using Patron Gold Tequila and you’re in for a double dose of golden moments.

If you can’t make summer, don’t worry Fall has great golden opportunities as well, the golden delicious apples ripen and we find them plentiful in numbers at our renowned farmers market in the Rail yard district, or simply walk up Canyon Road and pick them off the trees. 

If your older, come spend your golden years in Santa Fe; it’s the #2 Art Market in the country which abounds with world class food and entertainment. There will plenty of golden sunsets to last a life time.

Finally as I get ready to release my next Charles Bloom sequel Kayenta Crossing this summer I just wanted to let you know there might be some clues in the book to my own treasure chest which I will hide say at 602A Canyon Road; it won’t be filled with gold or for that matter it won’t really be an actual chest but then again the fun is in the hunt and Santa Fe never disappoints and of course that’s where my story takes place.

Kayenta Crossing On sale June 1st, 2013 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Estate Planning for the Professional Artist

Estate planning for the Professional Artist

Having an artist pass away is a terrible loss to any gallery especially if it’s unexpected. There are widespread economic tidal waves for all those in the path.  The artist’s family, collectors and the gallery representatives are all put into uncharted waters if there has been no forethought before the tragic event.
I have lost two artists in twenty years as a gallery owner and I would expect there will be more if I’m lucky enough to stay in business another twenty years. I recently released a fictional murder mystery Paint by Numbers the plot line follows what happens if an unscrupulous dealer takes advantage of an expected artist’s death (or precipitates it as in my novel).  While the book was pure fiction there is some insight to be gained in avoiding problems with your estate if you’re an artist. Don’t put your loved ones and the galleries that represented you into a whirlwind of confusion by not thinking ahead. If your over fifty and making a living as an artist you need to read this blog, take it to heart and do some early estate planning.
It is imperative you take precautions to outline how you want your estate handled once you’re gone.  This should include price structure recommendations and distribution strategies after your death of your remaining artwork.  An accurate inventory with photographs of all your work while your still alive is very helpful to all involved and can prevent the estate from loosing track of artwork you may have located in a variety of galleries across the country or even internationally.  Set some kind of guidelines, even if rough in nature, as to what price structure should be followed when you’re gone and how the remaining artwork should be distributed. This will eliminate many of the problems your estate will potentially have. Just because an artist dies, even at a young age or unexpectedly, it doesn’t necessarily mean the work will go up in price especially if the remaining artwork is mishandled. If there is a large estate and sizable chunk of the work comes out all at one time it could bottom the value of the art, conversely if the work is raised to unrealistic values immediately it might shut down interest for the remaining work as collectors view the estate as creating a frenzy, gauging the market and in some cases the end result might deprive the heirs of expected longtime support from the estates remaining artwork. Turning off collectors dead or alive is never a good thing.
Obviously each estate will be different depending on the art, value and the needs of the estate and its heirs.  This is why it’s imperative as an artist you take responsibility for what you are leaving behind, your art. Unless you want a free for all after your death it’s best for all those involved to have a frank discussion with family, lawyers and the dealers you trust and respect. These details should be spelled out in writing, the better for all involved.  Your artwork is what you spent your life creating and you may have very specific ideas where and how you want it distributed.  You may want some specific museums to get certain pieces, and if this is the case then write this in your will. Just saying it in life to your family or favorite museum director isn’t enough; it needs to be in writing. You may want pieces left to unborn grandchildren or great grand children; this is your chance to make your wishes heard.  Maria Martinez, the great San Ildefonso potter, gave her children and grandchildren her pots while she was alive. This was her way of leaving something behind for a rainy day.  I have seen more than one new roof paid for fully decades later by an artist who understood the value of her art.
As a general rule from what I have seen in estates that have been handled appropriately, there can be a seamless transition.  Thoughtful consideration of how to distribute the remaining art works; price structure and future representation will be some of the most important aspects to workout in advance.  Art is a business, whether we want to admit it or not, and establishing appropriate price structure (just like when you are alive) is also important after your gone. Making large increase in prices can often shut down an interested market for an artists work, and if the artist was prolific there will probably be plenty of work on the secondary market to fill the needs of the collector bases which could circumvent an aggressive estate executor, family member, or executor who does not understand the art market.  Prices don’t always go up. 
If the estate is small and/or the artist didn’t produce much work and there was significant demand while the artist was alive, slowly releasing work at ever increasing prices may be prudent until the floor is established of what the new price structure should be.  In this case hanging onto artwork by the estate maybe more important then selling it too quickly. I’ve heard many an artist say they won’t be worth anything until they’re dead. This might be the case, but if you don’t think ahead it’s possible your work might be worth much less if it’s not handled in an appropriate and professional manner. The burden lies with the artist to consider the unthinkable, you won’t live forever but if you think ahead your legacy might.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Santa Fe: A must visit on your “Bucket List”

For those that enjoy a variety of art, world-class cuisine, outrageous sunsets and mild summer weather then Santa Fe definitely needs to be on your bucket list.  I’ve been going there my whole life and I still get a thrill peaking over La Bajada hill (Spanish for “The Descent”) on I-25 coming from Albuquerque and seeing the City Different tucked into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Spanish for the “Blood of Christ”). That initial view, followed by my first bite of green chile, the smell of pinion trees and visuals of ridiculously slow low rider cars all say home. 

The art scene in the summer is non-stop, with a multitude of major shows, openings and of course Friday art walks up and down Canyon Road. As gallery owners we can’t wait for the summer to start and sometimes to end. It can be challenging dealing with the number of tourists that decide to fulfill their life long dream of seeing Santa Fe, but of late the crowds have been thinner and the getting a table at my favorite restaurant La Boca even do-able, as long as its before 6.

The first thing you want to find is a Canyon Road Arts catalog.  The book is chalk full of great places to eat, many of which you would never know about as a tourist.  It also has a handy map of all the galleries on Canyon Road and what they handle, no galleries are left out, and it’s by far the best gallery guide for the road.  Most of the hotels will have a copy and you can always find free ones at my gallery at 602A Canyon Road.

After you have hit enough galleries to make your feet sore, and neck red (be sure to wear sunscreen, we’re at 7000 feet, then head to the museums again all listed in the aforementioned catalog.  This year there is a great exhibit, which just opened at the Wheelwright Museum about their founder Mary Cabot Wheelwright.  There are some remarkable artifacts from her life and a short video on the great weaver Hastiin Klah.

Lastly, if you can swing it, come to Indian Market weekend, to see it is to believe it.  The hundreds of vendors that set up around the plaza is like nothing you can imagine.  This year the show is August 18th and 19th but the activities really start on the 16th.  I will be having a book signing on August 16th for my new murder mystery “Paint by Numbers” and on the 17th a Friday afternoon opening 2 - 4 for Shonto Begay both at my gallery.  These are just 2 events we will have, but almost all the galleries will be celebrating a favorite artist, many of them related to a celebration of Native American art.

So if you haven’t planned a trip to the Hampton’s or Paris, then come to the second oldest city in America and plan to be charmed, there is no place like Santa Fe, especially in the summer.

Monday, April 30, 2012

What I look for in an Artist

What I look for in an Artist

Ray Roberts

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.

Mark Sublette

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gallery 2032 What art dealers can expect in twenty years

Most galleries rarely plan beyond their next show, but any good business knows the key to success is forward thinking with at least a 5-year window.

So what will the art gallery landscape look like, not in 2017, but say in the year 2032?  I’ve experienced enormous change in the last 20 years as an art dealer and I expect the same for the future.  Changes I have witnessed include, the development of the internet, digital photography, social media, mobile phones, apps, online stores, online auctions, museum art shows, Art Fairs, the proliferation of auction houses, video art, computer art, oh yes, not to mention two recessions.

How does one plan for the new art paradigm?  If the art model I have experienced so far can be a guide, then expect to see a ferocity of developments in technology drive the market.  The Internet, mobile, social media, globalization, self-promotion and condensation of galleries will be the rule of order.  This pattern seems clear, which means as a gallery (or artist) you need to prepare to be a part of the ever-growing world of transparency; this can be a good thing for those who embrace and move forward. 

Currently the art world is an imperfect model with a few major dominant players leading our profession.   This means that art prices are not transparent or clear on how pricing is derived. You have a few big auction houses and dominant galleries.  The lack of central leaders will ultimately change, with a more dominant role being carried out by the Internet.   The change will result in online mega-galleries and artist owned galleries.  This is already happening with,, and to mention just a few. 

Consolidation online will result in a loss of many of the brick and mortar gallery locations.  Large cities and places like Santa Fe will continue to support art galleries as important local industries but there will be a thinning of the ranks.  This is not say that the gallery as we know it will disappear, just as movie theaters a few will still be around. The experience they foster will be as much about social gatherings and events as selling art off the walls.  Transactions, viewing, and communications will be happening predominantly online. 

The advancement of technology is perfect for a product like art (I hate the word “product” when referring to art). Video will become a mainstay as will three-dimensional viewing.  Walking into a gallery will be both a real and virtual experience. Documentation of art production from start to finish in video format will be commonplace with interactions of social comments becoming part of a piece’s history. 

Problems for galleries will include the continued erosion of the client-gallery mode.  Customers will directly interact with the artist vs. a middleman (art dealer).  This will become the preferred route. It is already happening with museum shows where the less obtrusive, commercial art museum is now an important venue for many artists.  Cutting out art galleries will ultimately eat away at gallery dominance. So what’s an art dealer to do, close up now and start looking for a new profession?

I believe, it can be an exciting time, if you plan ahead.  Realize your profits may be less, which means you need to think outside the box when it comes to revenue.  The more diversified galleries with a strong vision of representing artists as partnerships, not product producers, should continue to flourish.  As a gallery you not are only supposed to sell artwork, but also help build an artists credentials. Focusing on this will bring you support from your artists and help solidify your place as a gallery that counts and one worth keeping. Developing relationships with your artists helps both parties. 

Art dealers will continue to have an important role in letting artists create while they manage, which will be as important as selling. The current way dealers are paid will metamorphose into something different, of which I can’t foresee, but significant changes will occur.  Just as taking credit cards through the Square attached to your iPhone is happening now.

So if you don’t have a Wall or a Channel, never tweet, can’t use a digital camera or recorder, don’t recognize the letters html or haven’t heard of Ruby, you’d better hire someone who does, because what these terms represent isn’t 20 years from now, it’s today’s world. I can only imagine what tomorrow will bring.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Finding Your Art Collecting Pulse

Finding Your Art Collecting Pulse
I deal with people on a daily basis who are trying to discover their collecting mojo. What to collect? Who to collect? What makes it worth collecting? Every art dealer, like a parrot retorts, “Buy what you like,” “Buy what you like.”
“Polly” is correct, you should purchase art that scratches your aesthetic itch. This may seem simplistic and obvious, but it does provide beginning and serious collectors a road map. “Buy what you like” is a great starting point.
To help advise collectors when building a collection, here are six points to consider. These guidelines are a forensic cross section of how my mind works when buying art for myself, my subconscious and semi-conscious shopping list.
1) A piece of art must provoke me.
I look for an emotion to be triggered. Somewhere deep in my brain a piece of art must trigger my limbic system to fire approval. These triggers can be laughter, sadness, inspiration, déjà vu, or simply pleasure. Without feelings, is a piece really worth taking up your walls? I don’t buy art for color, frames or to fit in a particular place. That’s is not collecting, it’s decorating, or as Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Not like there’s anything wrong with that.”
2) I look for the best example of art I can afford
I would rather own one great piece or example by an artist than 20 lesser pieces. This doesn’t mean I only have major works hanging on my walls; like most of us I have a budget. There is nothing wrong with being patient until an exceptional example shows up. When it does come available buy it, that’s what building a collection is all about. If it doesn’t hurt a bit to write the check or cause you a moment of reflection, then it may not be as important as you thought. Pain means gain.
3) Condition is important.
This is especially important when purchasing older works and antiques. It’s fine to have art with condition issues if the piece’s presence is strong enough to merit the purchase. I own many examples. But if a piece is average with condition issues and your purchasing it because it’s inexpensive, this is an investment; something to sell, not a piece to keep.
4) Don’t be afraid to lead the pack.
I have collected many artists’ works before they become well known. I don’t look for obscure artists I think are going to be the next super star. Rather I look for art that compels me to take it home. Don’t be afraid to collect living or deceased artists when others haven’t made the leap. There always has to be a leader, why not you?
5) Paying a record price can be a good thing.
Now I know you’re thinking “easy for you to say,” but setting records can come in many forms. A “record price” may only be a few hundred dollars if you’re collecting an area with little competition. I started collecting pueblo candlesticks and set records numerous times which helped me acquire the best examples. By paying up, I was able to build my collection faster then if I was totally price conscious. In the long run it also brought up the market for these objects, which I felt had been overlooked.
6) Trust your gut.
This is the most important cue I use. If every fiber in your body is telling you to buy then you should probably buy. Learn to listen to your inner voice. If you don’t, these missed opportunities will be the ones that haunt you. Collecting is hard enough without regrets. If your still lamenting about the one that got away then stop. Learn from this experience and when that special piece pops up, buy it and forget about the new car you need to get. It will still be there in a year, the artwork might not.

                                       Photograph Mark Sublette by Dan Budnik

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Western Art Sets Record with 2.4 Million Dollar Sale

Western Art Sets Record with 2.4 Million Dollar Sale
June 2011, at Brian Lebel’s Old West Show and Sale, a record price of 2.4 million dollars was set for an antique pre-1880 photograph of Billy the Kid.  I had the opportunity to talk with Brian when he came to visit my gallery during the annual Santa Fe Indian Market hoopla.  The following is from that interview:

M.S What do you think the world record sale of the Billy the Kid photograph does for western art in general?
B.L.  “This gives western art a shot in the arm and world wide attention, phone calls have come in from all over the world and we have received phone calls from Scottsdale, Ireland and France.
M.S.  I know, I read about it in the Wall Street Journal the morning after the sale and while not surprised it topped the million mark was happy to see the photograph bring such an impressive number.  What media coverage have you gotten?
B.L. It’s been across the board CNN, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, NY Times, LA Times and even Fox television.  I did one 5-minute interview for the BBC in the middle of nowhere, Wagon Mound N.M.  If you know the area, its very remote and I found a high place near a telephone tower and sat there for 5 minutes talking about the rare photo and Billy the Kid.  I had a highway patrol officer watch me and wasn’t sure what I was going to say if he came up and knocked on my window?  Do I give him the one-minute finger I’m finishing up my BBC interview?  It was all kind of surreal.
M.S So the photograph that sold was one of 4 images known to be taken of The Kid, but is the only one that is known to have survived?
B.L.  That’s correct this is the only known surviving image and it had great provenance.  There were 5 bidders on the piece up to the first 1.2 million so there was serious interest and completion to own this piece of American history.
MS So what’s been the fall out of such intense media coverage?
B.L.  It’s amazing how many people think they have a great historic photograph and I have been inundated with images. We have seen a few very interesting images which we plan on having in our next June 23rd Auction in Denver 2012.
My own take on the general pulse of the Western and Native American market is that great material continues to bring great prices.  The hardest part in this business is still finding those number 10’s out there, which are rare, and the Billy the Kid photo proved that a ten could still bring record prices.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Art A Dangerous Business: Part Two

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

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 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 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.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Promoting Social Connectivity in the Art World

My general aspirations as an art dealer are to sell art, build my business, and help artists develop their careers.   I also have a personal goal that doesn’t have any obvious financial rewards and might not seem important to my business model, but I feel is critical to success. That is the concept of promoting the art world for no other reason than to make it a more complex and interesting place to be.

There are many media options I use to accomplish both my business, personal and philanthropic goals.  These include print ads, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, email, Internet, social networks, blogs, radio, video and television. Many of these tools are low cost or free.  By developing lines of communication to the general art world we are letting them know who we are and what services we can provide the community.

To open these outlets of discourse requires a gallery to not only sell art but also devote time to social connectivity.  For social connectivity to work, you have to be willing to put real sweat-equity into your community on a regular basis before you can expect it to give back.

I recommend any gallery or artist looking to build his or her own identity, especially on a budget, be willing to go the extra mile when asked for help.  This includes providing content, donating artwork for charity events, being a judge, doing workshops, participating in free evaluation days, and even letting school kids visit and ask questions.  This social connectivity process allows you to develop a unique voice in your community and makes a difference to those you touch. 

Providing free content or becoming a resource is critical to become a leader in your field. The blog your reading would qualify as free content. I’m giving away knowledge of how I function as a gallery. You might wonder, “Why would I want to do such a thing?  Give away my trade secrets for free!” I do it for the same reason corporations and individuals provide open source platforms for developing computer applications.  It adds to the overall layers of a vibrant and growing community. 

The Huffington Post recently sold to AOL for $315 million on the backs of bloggers who added free content to their site.  These individuals feel their content was the basis for Arianna Huffington’s windfall. They were not compensated for their content and to some degree I can see their point.  A class action suit has been filed tying to get compensation for the sweat-equity bloggers.

I personally feel even though the bloggers were not compensated they will ultimately be rewarded if they can see past the dollar sign. I do understand a writer’s struggle to make a living in a world of freebies, but those Huffington bloggers have developed their own brand even if it wasn’t compensated in cold hard cash. Huffington is now hiring lots of writers to help build the community and to promote the worth of writers.

I publish a yearly catalog, Canyon Road Arts  that we give away by the thousands. Its goal is to promote Santa Fe as an art community and specifically the galleries on Canyon Road, of which I am one.  The book is heavy on content and light on advertising and its goal is to promote the art scene around Canyon Road, the city of Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico.  I firmly believe by promoting our community’s art scene it promotes the individual components.

I’m amused by some dealers who keep trying to figure out my angle. Why would I list their galleries for free, provide maps on how to find them and give books to my clients? Easy, social connectivity. To help other art dealers do well is a concept many of my colleagues find foreign.  By providing a book about my art community doesn’t mean I will do worse in my own business, in fact it’s just the opposite.  Other gallery’s success means its good for our Santa Fe art community as a whole of which I’m a part.  If all the Canyon Road Art galleries went under I can assure you it would also be very bad for me.

To achieve success as an art dealer/artist and improve your art community I boil the list down my own business concept which I call ARTS.  The acronym consists of 4 components:  Art, Responsbilty, Time, and Social 

The definition of ARTS:

A: Art: Communities’ require positive energy both locally and globally to succeed.

R: Responsibility: Have a vested interest toward improving knowledge about your community.     

T: Time: Consistently dedicate your time towards your community regardless of compensation.

S: Social: Use social platforms to bring attention to your communitie’s needs.

The last component, social, has the greatest potential for your identity to flourish. The costs are minimal. Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter are the big three social connectors. Through this social connectivity, business concerns are promoted and discussed which help promote your art community.

Social connection is the underlying basis of art. As gallery owners and artists we love to talk and share art. So why wouldn’t a platform where a multitude of users can appreciate what you have to say, recommend you or care what you think be of importance?

For a deeper understanding of our current social environment I recommend following Eric Fisher.  On his website,, Eric shares his insights from the vantage of one of Facebook’s bright design strategists who helps others understand the complexity of social design. By sharing his experiences and expertise, he is promoting his community and helping all of us understand the importance of free content, which helps to ultimately bring more clients to the social community.

So the next time your high school newspaper wants to do an article about the art scene at the last minute remember ARTS and provide your time, content, and images for free realizing you might not make a sale but you are promoting art.  Don’t forget to send it to your Facebook fans, Linkedin groups, and Tweet about it. I know I will as soon as I post this to Blogger.