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.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Art A Dangerous Business: Part One

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.

Glenn Dean Men and Monuments

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.

This simple act of thinking about where certain pieces go or more importantly where they don’t go, can be a critical decision and one you may only recognize after the fact. Sculpture needs to be looked at before placement not only for its beauty but also for having the potential to hurt a young inquisitive child or the eye of a patron! I once turned down a great monumental sculpture by an important artist because it was a sea of pointy longhorn horns that were literally at every possible angle. It was magnificent but I couldn’t image how I would show the piece without roping off the middle of the room. One famous artist, Louis Jimenez, died from a severed artery when his Blue Mustang fell on him on June 13, 2006.

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

So you want to be an Art Dealer

Tax time is around the corner and you’re an accountant searching the web for inspiration about a career change. Fifteen years in the trenches and piles of unfinished returns all of a sudden have left you with an unappealing taste for crunching numbers. A right brained, fun job is what the doctor ordered.

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.

3. You need to like working with people; especially artists. If you prefer your artists to be deceased and hate the thought of working with living artists, don't do it. Artists have enough obstacles without having to deal with gallery owners who think of them as just a product.

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…

Mark Sublette

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tips on how to sell to your artwork before you purchase it

Tips on how to sell your artwork before you purchase it.

Santa Fe is known as the second largest art market in the country which means a lot of art changes hands.  One thing you may have not thought about as you leave the gallery with your newly acquired treasure is what will do you do if you ever decide to sell the piece?  Here are my tips on ways to dispose of artwork:

First of all not all artwork is the same. Many galleries sell what would be described as "designer art."  What this means is it may have been chosen more for the color, size or even the way it was framed rather than for being a collectible piece.  The difference can be like splitting hairs as by definition almost all artwork, whether it was purchased as a hedge against inflation or to go over the buffet,  was chosen in some aspect for how it would look in your home or office.  The difference is weather the art you just purchased will have a resale value.  If you had to get rid of the piece 1) could you? and 2) would you loose money or hopefully at least break even?

As a buyer you should be able to answer this question.  If you can’t then you may need to think a little harder about what it is you are purchasing.  Most good galleries can answer some basic questions like: where did the artists train, are they in museum collection, how long have they been painting, how much does the artist produce and do they sell, has any of their artwork gone to auction and if so how does it do?  Will you resell the piece for me in the future?

If the gallery owner or seller can’t answer the majority of these questions, you may need to rethink what your doing.  Again most established art galleries cannot only answer these questions and many more but will have handouts about the artist’s accomplishments.  

As a general rule the more museum collections and well known private collectors that have acquired pieces by the artist the better it bodes for your purchase.  Auction records that reflect current retail prices are a good indicator, though there are exceptions.  Sometimes pieces that  come up for auction are not the artists best work or could even have some condition issue which is why they are coming back up for resale.

An artist that has academic training is a good indicator of quality, but I personally have three artists with no formal training and they are absolutely gifted, they are also in museum collections.  Maynard Dixon, one of the most highly sought after artists of the West, had only 3 months of formal training yet now is looked at as one of the best painters of his generation

Knowing whether a gallery will resell pieces you have purchased is a good thing to know from the beginning.  Many won’t as they feel their responsibility is to sell the artist's work and not resell works they have sold in the past.  Unless the artist’s work has gone up substantially since you purchased, the piece you may purchasing will loose money.  It’s important when you purchase art, unless you have some special gift in the field, that you buy what you like and not for an investment.  It’s true many artists work do go up. I watched a yellow Marilyn Monroe sell at Christies auction house in 2007 for 28 million that was purchased by the original owner in 1962 fro $250 dollars.  This is about as good a return as any thing possible but it still took buying the right artist, the right piece and hanging onto it for 45 years.  If this had been sold in 1966 he may have lost money.

One of the most interesting aspects about what’s happening in the art world today has been the Internet.  This is a great educational resource to use before you ever step into a gallery.  For instance Santa Fe's Canyon Road Arts book  has a companion website The site has all the galleries and their websites on Canyon Road in Santa Fe listed.  A quick visit to some of the galleries online can tell you a lot about what you can expect before you ever walk through the front door.  The better the site and the more information and content the more likely for a good experience.

When it comes to selling your artwork on the web there are many outlets  which can allow you to sell directly to other art collectors or interested parties.  Ebay of course is the longest standing one, but others include, and ArtUFind.  The last site ArtUFind is very compelling because it has been tailored for the art market, yet keeps prices low to sell.  Artwork listing for a single Classified starts at $5/month and for a paid membership its $15month. The site charges no commissions to sell the artwork just monthly fees that can be cancelled at anytime.  It’s a great source for galleries as well with 5000 current gallery listings, and 800 museums all on the homepage.  There is no charge to use the site, its free to join and the directory listings of museums and galleries is the most compressive and up to date on the web today.  Collectors benefit to by having alerts sent to them for artists they are actively seeking

© Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 
Image courtesy Christies Auction House

Sunday, February 27, 2011

One New York designer gets Native American art; why don’t the rest of us?

Sunday’s struggle on the stationary bike was worse than usual thanks to last night’s enchilada overload at my favorite Tucson restaurant El Charro. Sunday mornings are a ritual, sleeping in late, working out and reading the New York Times while riding the bike. Like life, some days are harder than others and today’s was hard.

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

Santa Fe's Canyon Road Galleries Become a Force

Santa Fe’s Canyon Road galleries Become a Force

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

Many of the galleries are in historic residences one occupied by local artists, and other prominent Santa Feans. Surviving farmhouses from the Spanish period include the Juan Jose Prada home (519 Canyon Road, now a private residence), which was built as early as 1768. El Zaguan, at 545 Canyon Road, was originally a two or three-room house with adobe walls four feet thick. It was enlarged in the mid-nineteenth century by James L. Johnson, a prominent merchant of the old Santa Fe Trail, to contain 19 rooms and courtyard gardens. Now home of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, several rooms of El Zaguan are open to the public.

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, the one stop website for activities on Canyon Road and Santa Fe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Google’s Art Project where’s the Beef?

You might think from this title I feel less than enchanted with Googles new ambitious art driven technology the Art Project, , which is not the case. The melding of technology with art is something I not only believe is the natural progression of our business and love but exciting to see. Google’s Art Project is an ambitious and worthwhile effort that will give me one more reason not to sell art but simply enjoy it. Here’s the beef: Where is the beef?, or for that matter the cowboy or the Indian? If you want Native American imagery you are much more likely to see an actual Indian painting which is not Native American. The reason for this oversight is the views of those at Google seem to be that real art is either east coast or from one of the major European museums, not western.

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.

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

Artist Representaion:Finding the Right Gallery

Artist Representation: Finding the Right Gallery or any Gallery….

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 and

ArtUFind is great because the site takes no commissions and you can list art with a simple Basic Membership, which costs $15/month. 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. 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.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Native American Art Dealers Ahead of the Pack

The New York Times Sunday edition has a wonderful article on the Denver Art Museum and their forward thinking by recognizing early Native American Artists in their newly renovated Native Arts floor.

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

An Art Dealer's Diary

Why an art dealer diary? If you are looking for inner secrets of life as an art dealer perhaps you will get a glimpse; I have never kept a diary, much less a blog, so I don’t know what to expect. What I do hope to accomplish is to share my world: what I feel and experience during my daily routine as an art dealer along with interesting articles, websites, and updates that peak my curiosity.
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….

Strategies For The Beginning Art Collecter Part 1