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.