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.


  1. So true Mark.....
    Umesh U V
    Art Consultant

  2. Technology really is a bonus for all of us. From an artist's point of view I fully appreciate digital images. So much better than the old slide routine and quite often the slides were damaged in transit or were never returned.

    I also love the portability of having a mini portfolio on my cellphone so I can show my work under any circumstances -- even on vacation (need to upgrade to a Smartphone soon).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!