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.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Reading the New York Times April 20th 2011 article, “Dangerous Art,” by Salmon Rushdie, I was expecting to read about a subject I think about daily, but it wasn’t. Rushdie wrote an interesting story about the risks of being an outspoken artist and how artists who veer into politics can have serious ramifications. Ai Weiewei, the famous Chinese artist, is a good example as he is currently under house arrest for both the art and critical remarks he has made about his country.
I was expecting the article to touch on the actual process of being an art dealer or artist and the occupational hazards that accompany the job. My original training before entering the art world 20 years ago was as a physician with an emphasis on sports, prevention and occupational medicine. This unique background puts my mind set in a different place then most others who deal in art.
Since the New York Times didn’t give it to me, I thought I might share just a few of concerns I have about my profession.
In a gallery there are actual hazards you need to think about each and every time you place a piece of artwork. Today I was considering putting some lovely large Navajo rugs on the gallery floor to add color (and cover a stain I hate). The Art Dealer side said go for it, would be great, the bold reds playing against the one of Glenn Dean’s desert vistas.
The physician in me said. “Wait, no, trip hazard; if one lovely and slightly older admirer was so enamored by Dean’s painting that they missed stepping over the edge of the rug, and tripped landing on a nearby Pedro Ramos bronze. I’ve not only injured my client, but I’ve ruined a great sculpture in the process! Needless to say I left the stain uncovered.
Paintings too can be hazardous if they are too heavy for the wall , the wall mount or in the case of older pieces the wire string which can become frayed over time and snap while you are so carefully positioning it. In the case of “too heavy for the wall,” I had this happen, just once, on a large very heavy work. I can vividly remember hearing the crash and thinking “I hope no one was hurt.” I knew which painting it had to be as I remember how heavy it was when I hung it. I had used the appropriate hooks but the wall just could not hold the weight and “Boom.” Luckily, no one was even in the room and the only damage was to the frame of the painting. Lesson learned, double-check everything.
These are only a few of the many pieces of the art profession pie I will discuss today but will follow up in future blogs with some of the other potential problems, like nails, your local E.R. doctor's bread and butter.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Well I was a physician in a prior career, so before I give you a prescription to change careers you may want to investigate the art profession a little deeper. I can hear your longing voice in my head: “You have such a great job, I’m sick of tax time, I wish I could sell art, it looks fun,” and “It can’t be that much work, beautiful paintings they must just sell themselves,” Yes it’s a great job, yes it's fun, and I can assure you most paintings don’t sell themselves, though occasionally they actually do.
So here is my Jerry Maguire manifesto on what it takes to be an art dealer.
First, don’t go into the art world if your only qualification is you really like art, and you hate your current job. It's true, having a passion for art is a big part of being a competent art dealer, but it's only one component. Having a great eye is also very important, but having a good understanding of business in general is probably just as important if you plan to eat. You must have a long horizon for success, three years is not a long time line.
1. Longevity counts: Shoot for being the Billy Bob Thornton of art galleries. Mr. Thornton’s big break came with Swing Blade. He was an overnight success, except it took him more than a decade struggling before Hollywood recognized his artistic abilities. My own experience was it took me ten years before collectors started trusting what I had to say and believed my expertise and commitment to the profession. There is a correlation between 10,000 hours of training in a field before you can call yourself an expert. The day you quit adding numbers and begin to sell art for a living expect to struggle. In the art world, trust is an important factor, and so is reputation. I know first hand why seasoned art collectors, dealers, and artists want to see a track record. I have seen my share of fly by night dealers who look for big bucks and could care less about the client-dealer relationship, these relationships are earned.
2. It helps to have a strong back; sounds strange but true. Every time I move a heavy sculpture or move an unwieldy painting, I wonder if the big boys on Madison Avenue have ever had to deal with this part of the job… My guess is I’m sure they have, they just won’t admit to it, unless plied with copious amounts of alcohol at the end of a long show. Until you have enough capital to hire someone to be your back, get used to lifting and remember to use your legs.
4. Artists are a special breed. They are driven to create and are happy when they are doing so. They depend on dealers to sell their work. If you can’t handle the responsibility or worse yet don’t take it seriously, don’t work with living artists; they have families to feed and count on you to make sales. If art is a product, you’re not an art dealer. I was in a well healed tourist town once looking at opportunities to open a gallery and talked to two local art dealers. Both talked only about how much product they moved (art), not about the artist who created the works and promoting their career, needless to say I marked the town off as not art friendly.
5. Patience and love of human interaction are a must. If the thought of having someone ask if you are the artist who created the works in your gallery is unfathomable, then don’t open a gallery. Not all people have the same level of sophistication when it comes to what they are looking at, and it’s your responsibility to treat all clients the same, even if at the end of the summer season you have started a list of “the stupidest things I heard over my summer vacation.” No one is perfect.
6. Finally, something you would never guess crucial to being successful in the art world and wasn’t a factor when I opened my gallery, is having computer skills. If you feel you're old school and having a gallery is only about hanging art on the walls, you’re in trouble from the get go. I would recommend a different profession. Don’t open an art gallery, you will fail. Remember this is a business, and you must support your business with the latest in technology, even if your own skills are limited. Yes, there are still plenty of the old guard art dealers with no email, website or cell phone, but they are not starting up, they are dying off; you will read about their demise most likely on your iPad.
Bottom line, love what you do, and do what you love, but make sure you can add numbers, sell, have a good back, have a nice smile when someone enters the room, and understand that a URL is not just your gallery name but one of the keys to your success…
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
At least it’s Oscar weekend and even the pain of an expanding belt line couldn’t take away from the morning’s awaited paper. Undoubtedly there would be numerous stories on fashion and fame at its most extreme.
I decided on starting with the epitome of Oscar fantasy, the Times style section. The first few pages were as hoped, Oscar gowns, gossip and the authoritative prediction of the night’s winners and losers. As I turned the slightly sweat stained pages my pace slowed and I became engrossed. Suddenly I was brought from Hollywood right back to Tucson all care of the New York Times by a tasteful ad by Ralph Lauren on pages 8 -9. An expensive two-page spread of fashion and home design. Interspersed in the ad, between a young model and Lauren home design, were 20 pieces (I did count) of vintage Native American art. The images included Navajo rugs from the Crystal trading post, banded Navajo blankets, a large Pima Olla, Mono and Tohono O’odom baskets. I was brought home when I was expecting only the razzle and dazzle of L.A.
A New Yorker’s insight into what was supposed to be cool and hip brought me back unexpectedly to my own business and inspiration, Native American art.
Lauren, never afraid of being a dictator of taste, has stayed true to his aesthetics of what it means to be American and still have original style. Lauren has consistently included Native arts in his world. It’s a shame that more of us that live in the West aren’t as perceptive when it comes to collecting. Of late I have heard the drum beat of dealers in our profession, lamenting collectors are getting older, the kids don’t want it, and it’s all about the contemporary art scene.
These are valid points, yet some how a New Yorker like Lauren can dismiss these nay Sayers with a single ad. He still sees the value and uniqueness of Native American arts in the most modern of settings and cultural happenings. A vision, which has not waivered on what, makes art and design in his mind’s eye.
I also still love seeing a great blanket or kachina added to my home’s surroundings. My love for Native inspiration still burns and hopefully these objects will also touch my children and not just during Oscar week.
I encourage you, while watching the Oscars and litany of magazines boasting fashion of the rich and famous, to make sure and look for Native inspiration. I know if Ralph Lauren has anything to say about it you’ll find it somewhere, because he gets it. So thanks Ralph. You extended my bike ride by an extra 15minutes as I digested your take on the world and it was just as good as El Charro’s green enchiladas!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Canyon Road Area Merchants have banded together to support and promote one the most historic roads in America Canyon Road. With a hundred galleries located in distance of just less than a mile, it has to be one of the great confluences of artwork in America. The newly formed Canyon Road gallery associations mission is to promote knowledge of the road, its art and history.
The artwork is as varied as the people who visit. Over Christmas I did a television interview in my Canyon Road Gallery for a Japanese television program which was focused on Canyon Road. There are numerous wonderful contemporary art galleries such as Selby Fleetwood and McLarry Modern, which can be found on the road intermixed with more traditional galleries like Medicine Man Gallery and Tresa Vorenberg Goldsmiths.
|McLarry Modern, Photograph by nadelbachphoto.com|
The Canyon Road Merchants will be bringing together varied arts, restaurants, and historic residences to celebrate this most unique place in America. To follow the activities of Canyon Road you can visit www.canyonroadarts.com, the one stop website for activities on Canyon Road and Santa Fe.
Monday, February 14, 2011
I for one am taken back by the amazing imagery of a Whistler painting (there are dozens)
I can even look at his impressive frames for inspiration. Yet not seeing the nostril of a bucking bronco at close range or the cloud formations of a Dixon painting down to the last brush stroke leaves me wanting more. So Google, I like a good piece of art as much as anyone does, but “Where’s the Beef?”
An interesting online western experience can be found at the Phoenix Art Museum’s newly completed web page of Western American art, a collection worthy of Google’s attention. http://www.phxart.org/collection/westernamericanmain.php
A comprehensive collection of both living and deceased chroniclers of the west. Including such standouts as Maynard Dixon, Howard Post, Ed Mell and Robert Henri. If your hungry for western masters there’s plenty of tasty examples for the most discriminating palate.
Howard Post, San Tan Valley, Permanent Collection Phoenix Art Museum
Museum purchase Western Art Associates 2010
Image courtesy of Howard Post
Thursday, February 10, 2011
It’s a rare a day when an artist doesn’t contact our gallery and ask if we can look at their portfolio or make recommendations of a good gallery that might be interested in handling their work. For the record, after all this is an Art Dealer Diary blog, my gallery has been about keeping a very small stable of what we consider exceptional artists. When our gallery agrees to represent an artist, it’s because we have been following their career for along time in print, at shows, or online. It’s rarely a cold call from an artist, although it does indeed happen but for our gallery it’s definitely not the norm.
Most gallery owners do not like artists to cold call as they are busy during the business day taking care of clients and making sales for artists they currently represent. You run the risk of the gallery not having adequate time to evaluate your work as their attention is needed elsewhere and you, the artist, might feel there is a negative attitude when it’s simply a lack of time. If the owner or manager does take the time its usually going to be under a time constraint; you’re not doing your self any favors in case they do like your work.
As an artist looking for representation, I think you should first find out if the gallery you’re interested in representing you is accepting new artists; many art galleries are not. If they are interested then ask to make an appointment, if they aren’t accepting new artists , I still feel it’s ok to send an email with a link to your website. Art gallery owners always enjoying looking at art. Don’t send too many individual images the owner has to plow through. Instead send a short well composed email with an introduction, a few of your best images and a link to your website should they wish to see additional work.
If you are serious about being an artist that makes sales, you MUST have a website. I plan on discussing this subject in greater detail in future blogs but here are the salient points: your site should have something about you, your career and an image gallery of your best work, including a section showing what you have actually sold; this let’s the gallery and collectors know someone is buying your work.
Keep the site clean, no flash software, and easy to navigate. (I personally don’t like anything site I have to skip an intro or figure out how to get to the information I’m interested in.) I do love music but not when I didn’t ask for any. You’re better off to spend time making sure your art is well illustrated and images are large enough to see.
Finally a word to those looking for representation. Do look to the Internet as it will provide you the best exposure for the least money. Remember this doesn’t excuse you from having a personal art website. A couple of art web sites that can help give you very good Internet exposure are www.artufind.com and www.askart.com
ArtUFind is great because the site takes no commissions and you can list art with a simple Basic Membership, which costs $15/month. ArtuFind.com has a unique option for artists seeking new gallery representation. The “Gallery wanted” option is straightforward and lets galleries browse the site at their leisure and see what might be out there. Remember all galleries have certain niche artists they are looking to add to their stable. ArtUFind has broad exposure with over 250 different art websites feeding the main site which represent many of the major cities of the world, so the exposure is outstanding. It also has a well-designed easy to use search function for artwork.
Askart.com is another website which allows artists to put up their own studio for a monthly fee. Askart is not as inexpensive as ArtUFind but is still reasonable for what you get. AskArt’s main web function is for dealers and collectors to search auction records and for galleries to sell and find artwork. It also has a nice feature for artists. You can submit your own biography to be included in their extensive 110,000-artist database and they have a large audience that visits the site.
The bottom-line, if you’re an artist looking for that perfect gallery to help raise your career to new heights do realize you have to participate. Develop a website, have professional photos of your work taken, make appointments (don’t just walk in with your portfolio) and above all promote yourself while you are waiting for that dream gallery to come knocking on YOUR door.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Reading the article I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself for a major museum this might be a revolutionary concept but for those of us who sell and collect early Native American material these artists and art pieces have always been highly coveted whether it’s a pot by the famous Hopi artist Nampeyo,
or a Navajo weaving by master weaver Daisy Tauglechee.
Native American Art Dealers have long been curators of identifying and recognizing early Native American art and the unique artists who created them. We always understood these people are true artists in every sense of the word and recognize a continued effort should be made to preserve their art as well as to recognize and celebrate their creativity.
One outstanding example of someone who is doing just that is the Native American art dealer Mark Winter who has devoted the last fifteen years to identifying the makers of early Two Grey Hills/ Toadalena textiles. These weavers have been largely labeled as “unknown artist,” a practice soon to be corrected. Mark Winter’s comprehensive book on the subject will soon be out for all of us to enjoy and celebrate these artists’ remarkable achievements. An exhibit at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe based on Mark’s research and collecting is on display through April 17th. I encourage you to visit the show; you won’t be disappointed. The exhibit identifies weavings by individual artist and/or Clan and the display and lighting does justice to the textiles, which are exhibited as pieces of fine art.
I would encourage you to visit Mark Winter at the Toadalena Trading Post, which is just North of Gallup where you can usually find him located behind the counter listening to one of the grandmother weavers explaining the symbols of her weavings. I’m glad to know we can now officially stop calling them “unknown” and refer to them by their names and proper title “master artist”.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
The fact I’m writing this blog is my first comment on the current trend of the art world. The direction I believe all artists and galleries should be heading toward is technology, content, and communication. I invite you to check out Medicine Man Gallery’s’ Facebook, site a place for sneak previews of art and special images that excite my own artistic aesthetics. I also encourage readers to leave comments on my blog as this adds to my own understanding of what is of interest or not.
With this first official entry I’m now a blogger, embracing the 21st century and sharing the inner sanctum of what it means to be an art dealer. Now it’s off to answer another email; that’s what art dealers really do….