About the galleries

Dear Artist, I’m wandering around the galleries of Santa Fe, New Mexico and Scottsdale, Arizona. While a few are papered over from the recent recession, plenty still exist, though traffic seems to be down. As usual, when the electronic doorbells chime, cute gallerinas jump to their feet, walk toward me and say something like, “This is the new Joe Bloggs we just got in. It’s the first one where he’s included buffaloes. Wonderful, isn’t it?” Others, unable to tune into my sophistication, open up with a cheerful “Welcome,” and “Have you ever been in an art gallery before?”

Julia Koscova

Subtle changes have taken place in these two markets since the last time I visited. Sculpture is bigger. Giclées are hardly mentioned. Landscapes are holding their own. Cowboys are a bit down and abstracts are a bit up. Pueblos are still in. Like natural gas, it looks like figurative is about to uptick and explode. But it’s subjective from gallery to gallery. One young woman tells me “Nobody wants florals these days,” while the girl next door tells me, “We do very well with these florals.” As usual there are dealers with good eyes and others with poor ones. A fellow with garish and uninformed work on his walls was too busy to say hello. He flipped a “Back in ten minutes” sign on his door and screamed away in his yellow Ferrari.

oil painting, 60 x 80 cm
by Julia Koscova

The rise of the one-artist gallery continues. The artist, when alive, can often be found sitting behind a computer with his wife or current girlfriend. The dead soloists are often in the hands of capitalist descendants with ideals and a bit to learn. The Russian connection is still strong. The main reason is that many of these hard-working painters have arisen from a vast talent pool and have had excellent training. Further, the Southwest has a tradition of Russian émigrés: Nicolai Fechin, Sergei Bongart and others have paved the way. The current work of many younger Russians and Russian-trained Americans just knocks your socks off. FYI, we’ve put a selection of some remarkable American-sold Russian painters at the bottom of this letter. There’s not a lot of evidence of an imminent Chinese invasion, but I can feel it coming. Perhaps the Chinese themselves have done themselves in for the time being by having their work over at Wal-Mart.

Victoria Karaichi at a Denis Sarazhin workshop

Best regards, Robert PS: “American collectorship of Russian painters is maturing. Big collectors from Russia and China are buying here as well.” (Russian art dealer in Scottsdale, Arizona) Esoterica: Generally speaking, the Southwest is a “pure” art market. That is, it’s largely uninfluenced by gaga media, obscene prices, the museum bandwagon and investment pressure. People actually buy art here because they want beautiful things in their homes. Further, many of the dealers exude an innocent and beguiling love, manifested in their enthusiasm for genuine quality. In good times and bad, they love their jobs. While the best job of all may be making the magic, the second best job may be the effective sharing of it.   The passionate dealers of Santa Fe by Emily Van Cleve, NM, USA  

acrylic painting
by Emily Van Cleve

Thank you for your astute commentary on the gallery scene in Santa Fe. Artists who have not visited Santa Fe in a while will get a better understanding of what’s happening here by reading this letter. I especially liked your thoughts expressed in the Esoterica section. I always appreciate the genuine enthusiasm exuded by many dealers, who love their art and are passionate about sharing it with others. Santa Fe is a special place. Even those of us who create abstract work are deeply affected by its charm!       There are 2 comments for The passionate dealers of Santa Fe by Emily Van Cleve
From: Loretta West — Mar 29, 2011

Love this painting!

From: Emily Van Cleve — Mar 29, 2011

Thank you, Loretta!

  Thoughtful treatment in Scottsdale by Maureen O’Keefe West, Calgary, AB, Canada  

“Burst of Red Tulips”
watercolour painting
by Maureen O’Keefe West

I, too, recently walked and viewed the galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona. After looking at numerous art galleries, I paused and entered an antique gallery. A woman came up to me in the shop and presented me with a glass of wine, which is the custom, in these here parts! I slowly walked around looking at all the charming antiques when I spotted a Napoleon clock high on a shelf. I have always loved these clocks so I went in for closer examination. It was made of wood, in the shape of Napoleon’s hat, and in the middle there was a round metal clock with a tab sticking out of it. Curiously, I pulled the tab and the clock fell out and plopped right dead centre in my glass of wine with splashes all around. The noise attracted the two women sales persons in the back with one shouting “Get her a towel.” A woman came running toward me with the towel but unceremoniously plucked up the clock with her bare fingers out of my wine glass and started drying it off with the towel! Meanwhile, the other woman came running toward me and threw me another towel, apologizing profusely and saying to the clock wiper, “Not the clock, the customer, the customer.” I was even offered another glass of wine, which I declined, and waltzed out of the shop just a little non-plussed! Just another day walking the gallery route in Scottsdale!!   Red dots related to house prices by Gary Storey, Saskatchewan, Canada   In Scottsdale for the Thursday night art walk on Main Street, not quite as busy as usual, but not bad. I spent quite a bit of time in Overland Gallery. They represent Ed Mell, who you would know is likely one of the best established SW landscape artists here. His annual March show opened here on March 17. He has more cubist paintings than usual. I don’t think he is doing as well as other years — my casual observation. Gary Smith shows there as well, but not much action there with him. Overland has Russian and Ukraine artists and they seem overpriced — always have been in my opinion. A friend of mine opened Mainview Gallery and he says he is doing well. Not a big gallery but he usually has a live artist working on Thursday nights — attracts interest. He used to manage Charles Pabst gallery but now has his own. Legacy was dead tonight. Could not see any sold red dots on Michael Coleman’s, etc. Not much action in Scottsdale Fine Art either. My assessment? There is no new house construction in the greater Phoenix area and house prices are at rock bottom.   Dumbing down of America by Rose Moon, Sedona, Arizona, USA  

“Mixed presence”
original painting
by Rose Moon

I’ve lived around the Southwest for 30 years so I’ve seen lots of changes in artists and galleries. In the ’70s it was rockin’ with names like Fritz Shoulders and TC Cannon! and of course Georgia O’Keeffe. I now reside in Sedona, Arizona not far from Scottsdale. I know many excellent artists in the area and only a couple who are in local galleries. A lot of the artists in the galleries are not from the area. Most of us have been rejected enough not to bother trying anymore, and what we see in the galleries are well done decorative pieces that are a big part of the dumbing down of America. A lot of the gallery owners actually know very little about art. The really creative art that is being done goes somewhere else. The galleries show technically well done work that says very little and always stays the same. The museums are another story. Phoenix Museum and Tucson are fun. First Friday, with the new trendy Pop Up galleries in Phoenix and Scottsdale can be very exciting and inspirational. There are 2 comments for Dumbing down of America by Rose Moon
From: Anonymous — Mar 29, 2011

great painting. It tells us a true story. I agree about the gentrification of art, but how would we recognize the real good stuff if we didn’t have the bad stuff? Why do they sell giant markers and spray paint right at the front of the art supply stores?…life expressed by the young.

From: shannon — Mar 30, 2011

I am observing the same phenomena in another “creative” city in America. The gentrification of neighborhoods as well as moving where the “artists” move often means that we find repetition of the same kind of art over and over. Personally I have removed myself from the gallery scene and the show competitions and have made my work available to show in the homes of friends as they entertain. It has resulted in sales as well as people who have appreciated the work.

  A Canadian-Russian dynasty by Carol Suggitt, Vancouver, BC, Canada   I agree with your assessment about the Russian immigrants’ artistic skills. I was reminded of another earlier immigrant artist, Nicolas de Grandmaison, who was a master trained in Russia and who escaped to Canada via Britain before 1920 and the Russian Revolution. Nicolas was mostly well known for his pastel portraits of our Native Indians, mainly in Alberta. It was an honour for me to sell many of his works. I’m happy to have the trade book of his achievements. Nicolas married another Russian lady, Sonia Sr., artist, who sculpted Sir John A. Macdonald that resides in Victory Park in Regina, Saskatchewan. Two of his five children became fine artists and his daughter Sonia, (my friend) was a well known art dealer/curator of her father’s art works. There is 1 comment for A Canadian-Russian dynasty by Carol Suggitt
From: Anonymous — Mar 29, 2011

Good Morning Carol. Nicolas de Grandmaison became friends with my late father in law, Col. Fred Tilston VC. Fred had a large collection of Nick’s pastels. Fred would relate stories of Nick visiting him in Toronto and they would have dinner at the King Edward Hotel (circa 1966).They would order dinner and when it came to Nick’s choice he ordered “cream of wheat” the waiter would not bat an eyelid and bring everyone their Roast Beef dinner and yorkshire pud and Nick would have his cream of wheat. Nick had no concept of time. When the phone rang at 3 a.m. they would know it was Nick looking to chat to Fred. So many beautiful stories about a wonderful man. Helen Tilston

  The Russian-Chinese connection by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

original painting
by Rick Rotante

The Chinese “method” is deeply rooted in the Russian traditions. The Chinese basically adopted the Russian method of painting. Before that, they had no “modern” style. What makes the Chinese unique is the intense training they receive. Most American students wouldn’t be able to stand the training method the Chinese endure. This is why they excel today. To turn a phrase from the movie, A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in art.” We Americans always seem to embrace other nationalities more than we do our own artists. This probably says more about our art institutions in general. They leave much to be desired. Furthermore, it explains why so many Americans in the thirties and forties went to France to study art. Without sounding politically incorrect, the Chinese don’t see Wal-Mart as a bad thing. It’s a venue where many Americans do their shipping and the Chinese know about selling. They don’t have their head in the clouds thinking art is anything more than commerce. As for the galleries, they will always be esoteric, egocentric, myopic, centrist, out of touch and in control of what is art. There is 1 comment for The Russian-Chinese connection by Rick Rotante
From: LD Tennessee — Mar 30, 2011

Well said. Great point about the Chinese/art is…commerce!

  Inspiration of Nicolai Fechin by Carolynn Wagler, Gresham, OR, USA  

watercolour painting
by Carolynn Wagler

My husband and I went to Santa Fe and Taos in ’08. I loved the galleries and the quality there.  But I especially got the ‘flavor’ of what is going on today from your article. We just happened to get to see Nicolai Fechin’s drawings in his home/museum. They have inspired me to no end. I am an intermediate getting to advanced artist. I teach at the community level for the city of Portland, Oregon and it has really helped me to grow fast as an artist. Thanks again for your great writing posts. I don’t want to miss any of them!   There is 1 comment for Inspiration of Nicolai Fechin by Carolynn Wagler
From: Coffey — Mar 28, 2011

Love your painting of roses….

  Finger shopping for inexpensive art by Alex Nodopaka, Lake Forest, CA, USA  

Manipulated photography
by Alex Nodopaka

I’ve concentrated myself on ‘discovering’ new art talent preferably not exceeding $19.99 by shopping on eBay art auctions. I avoid the $.99 cents done by Chinese artists but realize that they are in ‘school’ and if they sell their copy-masterpieces at that price, plus a shipping & handling compensation, they’ve earned better than a day’s wages by their standards while the Western artist still starves at not even minimum wages. Of course we are glutted by art still in museum vaults dating back to the previous to the last century. My walls are filling up with miniature art called ACEO (American Card, Editions & Originals.) When often enough winning a bid, to boot I receive a great thank you note for supporting the arts. What I mean is that I’m a contributor to the expanding savvy of auction art. In my finger shopping I have stumbled on many Russian art websites and to my dismay their prices are in inflated contemporary dollars and no longer in Rubles… where each painting is worth the equivalent of a week’s wages here in the USA. I admit that their technical level of execution is more often than not masterful. (RG note) Thanks, Alex. What if everybody did this? There are 2 comments for Finger shopping for inexpensive art by Alex Nodopaka
From: Kate Beetle — Mar 29, 2011

Hi, Alex, Robert, I’m confused by this. A living wage in the US is $13/hr, $520/wk — especially for a self-employed person who must pay social security, medical (or go without), materials costs, and allow for non-productive but necessary business time. At $19.99 some one would need to produce and sell 26 pieces per week, every week, times 52 (who gets vacation time?) =1,352 pieces a year in order to survive. Four or five pieces a day. At $19.99. I must be missing something — how exactly is this supporting the arts? I just paid a couple of 20-somethings $30/hr each to shovel my roof. A woman balked at, I think I offered to sell at $350, a good oil of a snow scene. She said it reminded her of a spot they went snowmobiling near. Later I thought, how much real time will she ever spend on a loud, polluting machine that cost thousands upon thousands of dollars plus gas and maintenance, and will be scrap when my painting is still on the wall? Sorry, it’s late, something’s not computing here, maybe it’s me?

From: Alex Nodopaka — Mar 30, 2011

Kate, Thanks for reading my banter. It was not meant to be taken literally except for my personal commitment. The thank you notes I received may have been filled with virtual sarcasm also. I loved your arithmetical corollaries deriving from pricing art. My cynical commentaries aside, your math is correct. I contend that art made nowadays haphazardly must be made for the sake of art and personal aesthetic gratification. If on the other hand art is destined to be one’s income then it should be done on a commissioned basis. In that manner all critique of art price falls away. Basically because art today is overabundant, in fact the world is glutted with art going back more than a century, it is not only priced accordingly but also critiqued or promoted as grocery goods. Also the art buyer is unfortunately uneducated & ignorant. No matter how perfected the modern bicycle is I prefer to drive a modern automobile so what I mean is the contemporary buyer prefers to ride their ass. Speaking of $19.99 let me add that in my opinion by the time one has reached that glorious figures one is an expert professional artist. Should I lol at this moment? Reasonably speaking there are tons of artwork today out on auctions that would buy mouth dropping art. The problem that the artists face is that they expect the same buyers to buy the same paintings over & over and the problem with that is space availability on the walls or access to fresh buyers. After all not many people may want more than one Nodopaka on their wall… lol

  Galleries — the good, better, and best by Anonymous   I am represented by what I consider a ‘good’ gallery. It is a local gallery that has managed to stay afloat and weather the art market since 1995, has many excellent artists from all over the country whose works they carry, and who give regular opportunity for us to have solo shows (about every 18 months – 2 years). These owners are also very nice people and highly support the ongoing development in the artists whose work they carry. They pay up front when works sell, and they are not demanding in any way at all. The gallery recently had a group showing to celebrate an important anniversary for them. I had been previously asked if I could bring in something new for it and to be in attendance at the reception. I was delighted to be there (and always am!) and the afternoon when the reception took place was packed with people the entire time. It was wonderful. I was able to finally meet and get acquainted with some of the other artists present. Of course, it was also interesting to observe people coming in and commenting on the art. During the afternoon, a good friend of mine came along with his partner whom I knew but hadn’t seen for a long time. My friend is a well-known, successful artist, represented nationally in many galleries around Canada. He is also a popular artist, quite personable and a very humble one at that. At one point during the reception I had a chat with my friend and his partner. My friend was quite complementary about my work and the overall showing as well. There were also some other artists represented in this gallery who were their friends and as we walked around, we located some of them to chat with as well. As my friend went off with one of the other artists to look at their work I continued conversing with his partner. The partner said to me, “This isn’t a ‘good’ gallery like the one my partner is in.” I was quite astounded really that someone would say this, especially during an opening reception and particularly when the few of us who are their friends regularly show and do well in this gallery. I felt it was a rather uppity position and an unwarranted rude comment. I realize that there are other galleries that are in another range that carry the works of long-time, well-established artists. My friend is in one of those galleries, but he has worked very hard to get there. This particular gallery is well-known and has been able to offer opportunities for good artists to get into the gallery scene first-time along with carrying the works of more seasoned artists, many whom have gone on further and have become more recognized nationally and even internationally. This gallery is discerning as to what they accept as I’m sure most galleries are, and the work they carry shows this. So Robert, what is a ‘good’ gallery? I recognize that the comments made to me are probably just a case of ‘sour grapes,’ and I’m not taking them personally. However, are there distinctions made that signify ‘gooder’ galleries among ‘good’ galleries? Or is this kind of designation just subjective? (RG note) Thanks, Anonymous. Some galleries are considered more prestigious than others. While prestige is nice to have, it doesn’t necessarily mean much in the long run and you can’t eat it. Often a “good” gallery is simply one that is enthusiastic and honourable. One of my top galleries (and most joyful gallery relationships) is a one-person frame shop that doesn’t even have a Web presence. But she loves my work and has steadily over about thirty years built a significant collector base for me. I think her clientele pick up on her straightforward lack of pretense.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for About the galleries

From: Anonymous — Mar 24, 2011

It’s a miracle that art dealers can actually go broke. Bad art may be a contributing factor, but don’t count on it. Some dealers are just not cut out for the business and should never have tried it in the first place. The miracle of the art business, unlike practically no other business, is that dealers don’t have to pay for their inventory until after it’s sold. Often well after. When I see a guy putting soap on his windows and selling his Ferrari, I’m generally looking at a guy who got behind in paying his artists.

From: Martha Corkrin — Mar 24, 2011

Others, unable to tune into my sophistication, open up with a cheerful “Welcome,” and “Have you ever been in an art gallery before? Ah, Robert, you have a delightful sense of humor! Reminds me of the afternoon when I roamed through a university art fair disguised as a curious senior citizen. It was great fun to pretend ignorance of lithography and question the difference between oil and acrylic painting, but the young artist in the photography area surprised me when he came out of the dark room and asked if I would like to do another negative set-up. “Oops, did it mess up?” I questioned. “No,” he replied. “You have an excellent sense of design, and I thought you might like to rework the upper corner of the set-up. The fold in that lace caused the chopsticks to lose their definition, and I think you meant for them to create a more dynamic line.” Dear God, this young man had read my mind………and almost blew my cover! I laughed, but maintained my casual non-artist disguise as I rearranged the set-up. Then, my heart skipped a beat as he asked if I would like to go into the darkroom and watch my design develop. “Sure, I would be delighted,” I smiled as I followed him through a revolving door into the darkness……..

From: Pat — Mar 25, 2011

I have lost work when a gallery has gone bankrupt. Even though I owned it, it became treated as the property of the gallery when the receivers stepped in. This was many years ago. Now I maintain a very close connection to my work by either selling it from my studio or at a nearby artist’s collective. The time I have to donate is a pittance when I can control the final price of the work receive the majority of income to be made on the piece. Another benefit is that the work remains in a price range where more people can afford it bringing art to a larger population rather than just the elite few.

From: Lori Landis — Mar 25, 2011

Hi Robert, I’m one of those artist studio/gallery owners on Main Street in Scottsdale. I only show my own work. Sorry I missed you. Last night I had an event of non-artist women and talked about my art then took them around to other 5 artist-owned studio/galleries where the artist told them about their work. It was eye-opening for them because I told the group to take the time to stand still and really look at the artist’s work because they will feel a connection. No one can explain their work better than the artist themselves. It was a success.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Mar 25, 2011

a note to “pat”: I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost work to galleries going out of business. So far, I’ve been fortunate on that count. I’m not sure if it will make a difference should that unfortunate scenario happen, but I try to protect myself: I prepare a consignment sheet for each painting I submit to the gallery (this was a great idea, suggested by one of my galleries), with a small thumbnail image of the painting. On it, I state: “property of the artist, consigned to…gallery”. The gallery gets a copy, I keep a copy. I think that, for the most part, gallery owners are not the Ferrari-driving thieves that some artists seem to think. I believe that most have a sincere appreciation of art and the desire to share that with the public. While art dealers “don’t have to pay for their inventory” up front, artists don’t have to pay rent on the gallery wall space they use (or utilities, staff wages, etc.) — until a work sells, when the gallery earns their commission.

From: Doug Mays — Mar 25, 2011

“Giclées are hardly mentioned”. Thank you for this Robert. Maybe, just maybe a little sanity is returning to the art world.

From: Dwight — Mar 25, 2011

About bankruptcies: check the state laws involved. I’ve been victim of two. Though the bankruptcy courts are federal, I think, how consigned work is handled is different in different states. What the artist does for protection may make no difference.

From: M. Grey Darden — Mar 25, 2011

Slow sales at times are not usual with art. We at our co-op are going slowly down and down with sales. But then we get a burst of business and then the opposite. Just writing to say I am hoping that things get better for all of us. I depend on your letters because I am isolated in the mountains of WV.

From: Alan Soffer — Mar 25, 2011

How uncanny that you are writing about Santa Fe and Scottsdale. I will be shipping work to Santa Fe shortly to a gallery that became aware of my work through your letter. Not only knowledge and experience, but networking is being created. Seems like you are always on the go. Have you become a vagabond artist-writer?

From: Terry Gay Puckett — Mar 25, 2011

Thanks for the input about Santa Fe galleries. I felt as though I had walked up Canyon Road and peeked into the galleries without actually having to make the trip. Very interesting about the Russians and the Chinese. I am so glad that figurative and abstraction are coming on strong.

From: Felice Willat — Mar 25, 2011

Very timely piece as I was scheduling a gallery trip to Santa Fe with my giclees! I really enjoy your letter.

From: Anonymous (2) — Mar 25, 2011

Regarding Anonymous, at the top, the real estate industry is another that does not pay the vendor until the sale is complete. At 1% to 6% commission, rates are considered high at the high end. Thirty to fifty percent commission rates for gallery sales seems outrageous. Artists can manage this injustice to some degree by merely favoring delivery of better works to lower commission galleries.

From: Patricia Cain — Mar 25, 2011

A Russian painter you might have included in your gallery is Larisa Aukon. Her beautiful emotionally charged landscapes have had great success in the Paul Scott Gallery, Scottsdale. She is not only a gifted painter, but an amazing teacher.

From: Igor Koloskovitch — Mar 25, 2011

Giclees are still going strong in the Tourist Towns. Santa Fe and Scottsdale are Serious Collector Towns.

From: Pegi Gould — Mar 25, 2011

If ou’re still in the area, you might hob nob an hour up north to our little town of Payson, AZ. We have a lot of artists tucked away in the mountains up here who come out for our two major shows each year. Also, we have two co-op art galleries on Main Street. I happen to be in Artists of the Rim, which a group of us founded over four years ago. Still holding our own despite the horrible economy, especially down here in Arizona. Always enjoy your newsletters and words of wisdom

From: Donna Lee — Mar 25, 2011

I have a very uplifting experience since January I have sold a total of 12 paintings, I have a habit of saying my prayers. I have been adding a request to sell my paintings. Today I have an appointment to firm up a commission, this is number13. Of course the gratitude is very helpful!!! I have even had 3 sell at once to the same lady.

From: Peter Kiidumae — Mar 25, 2011

Donna Lee, I guess God was so busy answering your prayers about getting your art sold that he completely missed the disaster in Japan that resulted in the horrific death of thousands of innocent children and so many others.

From: Sarah Logan. — Mar 25, 2011

In this letter you assumed that artists are men and ,”their wives and girl friends” are sitting beside them. Mistake, big mistake, huge. I like receiving your email letters …anyway.

From: H Margret — Mar 25, 2011

Your comments suggest that gallery staff are young. Correct! They are not hiring many 50-plus sales people. Younger people are often cheaper. Also, that’s true about the solo artist gallery here, with the wife or girlfriend. The female solo artist gallery is often just closed when she has other chores, because she doesn’t have the support of a partner, usually. Guess who hates sitting in galleries to keep them open? Artists, of course! When they don’t get the “action” many artists then blame the gallery.

From: Norm B. Sweatnam — Mar 25, 2011

Nice that god smiled on Donna Lee, isn’t it? I wonder if he smiles on all of us artists equally?

From: Rod Mackay — Mar 25, 2011

Here in Lunenburg County we once advertised ourselves as the “art centre of Nova Scotia.” In 1995 there was a Lunenburg Art Gallery Association with 23 members. Now there are three “art galleries” in town and two are “one-person” places.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Mar 26, 2011

To Donna Lee: congratulations and well done! I always feel that when one artist succeeds, we all succeed. Thanks for sharing your good fortune.

From: R. Redus — Mar 27, 2011

Good morning Robert Ah…Santa Fe…the proverbial diamond in the rough…after reading your article, the icing on the cake was the “Esoterica”….the facade of the “city different”…did indeed work its magic on you as it does most tourists…a stroll up Canyon Road…where high priced art abounds…”Kalopsia” is knee deep…and the only redeeming establishment serves Spanish Tapas…and wonderful beer on a Sunday afternoon…much like the obligatory visit to Fisherman’s Wharf while in San Francisco…Canyon Road is and has been like a Nehru Jacket…while the Rail yard best expresses the pulse of art in Santa Fe…I live in Albuquerque and though Santa Fe has the limelight…the high prices…gallery atmosphere…exorbitant rents and a massive selection of questionable art…the real undiscovered gems are abundant here in the shadows…Thank you…

From: Ramon Hermosillo — Mar 27, 2011

Yes, they certainly are a friendly bunch of dealers in Santa Fe, and a lot of the art is not questionable at all, but of excellent quality.

From: Gary Eddington — Mar 27, 2011

In Baltimore if you want to sell to the best collectors, you have to take your work to New York. Local collectors only invest in “accredited” pieces. Once upon a time, the Baltimore Museum of Art had a sales and rental gallery in it’s lower floor and I was able to get into a major collection through it. That was probably seen as the last legitimate place for a true collector to buy here.

From: Ginger Hamilton — Mar 27, 2011

Serious collectors follow wealth and real estate. Here in New York the Bankers and Brokers are still big buyers. Go figure.

From: Trudy Bentley Rech — Mar 27, 2011

I just sent your letter to some of my former classmates (friends and fellow artists). One lives in Taos and has been successful, the other lives in the Chicago area and is doing well and then there is me…dying on the vine in Naples (NOT very artist friendly) Florida…sigh.

From: Trish Meyer — Mar 27, 2011

I live south of Santa Fe and visit Canyon Road regularly where gallery owners claim that the market ticks up when the stock market rises. I was also in Scottsdale over the New Year. The latter was far more depressed as far as I could see (I was staying with a former gallery owner who closed her gallery in the recession).

From: Sam Liberman — Mar 27, 2011

I was in Santa Fe this week also, and spent a part of the 25th walking around to galleries. If I knew what you look like, I might have seen you and introduced myself. I think it is unlikely though, because of the 6 or 7 galleries I visited that day, only one of them had any customers inside. Taos seemed even worse.

From: Gavin Logan — Mar 28, 2011

There is a great deal of rationalization of the “Gallery System” going on all over the world right now. Some areas are in a modestly steady decline, others are in free fall. As usual, a few individual dealers with chutzpa make it look like a thriving business. A lot of the changes taking place have to do with the internet and the growing power of networking. This has brought on a new honesty and integrity in the gallery world. Just as millions of democratically-inspired young Arabs are rebelling against their oppressors and dictators, and need to be encouraged, so too are artists and collectors now empowering each other.

From: Rich — Mar 28, 2011

I am a 20 plus year resident of Arizona, Having lived in Cave Creek and North Scottsdale most of that time. I have have been lucky enough to have earned a very good living as a full time professional artist for most of those years, being an independent / self representing artist, though I did occasionally show in galleries in Scottsdale and Sedona. In all those years, including the 1990’s bust of Bank / Savings & Loan, and attendant Real Estate scandals… where nearly every single AZ bank went bust and was taken over by the Feds Resolution Trust Corp. when real estate crashed both in housing AND commercial, and remained dead in the water for more than 5 years, while the galleries folded all over town. ( Many artists lost work to court appointed lease default / bankruptcy receivers with the inventory of works consigned considered to be “property owed in kind” to the lessors or to the dishonest “gallerists” who absconded with their artworks across state lines )…. I can tell you point blank, with VERY few exceptions that the Galleries in Scottsdale are in worse shape NOW, than they ever were… and our economy is much worse than stagnant…. with housing prices fallen nearly 64 % , back to about 1995 valuations in many locations of Maricopa County. As for the Fifth Avenue / Marshall Way Arts district, where once there were many good Contemporary Galleries, there are but a few left, and most of them are long term Dealers who sell National and International Artists from everywhere, to everywhere on the globe, with several dozen prime gallery spaces pad locked and vacant for 3+ years now and NO real traffic to speak of at the height of the Tourist Season…( I was there just 2 weeks ago and toured the dismal scene extensively ) What you’ll see in most Scottsdale Galleries on Main Street is purely tourist / decorator oriented “Cowboy Art” mostly representational “Western / Native American art”, and the aforementioned “Russian Academic Impressionism”….all of it still vastly overpriced in the few shops still functioning. These are primarily COMMERCIAL hard sell..close the sale… “flavor of the month” type places with little to no REAL Fine Art knowledge or conviction about what they show or sell….It’s a REAL MESS folks!

From: Marj Vetter — Mar 29, 2011

Its been years since I’ve been in New Mexico, but I remember walking down the legendary Pecos Trail going in and out of galleries. You don’t have to die to go to heaven, just go to Santa Fe. Thanks for the memory

From: Alex Nodopaka — Mar 29, 2011

Thanks for needling me Robert. Not that I meant for everybody to do it but since you mention it, it may be not such a bad idea as there’ll always be something leftover for a Cézanne for the very rich and a Robert Glenn for the less financially privileged. In that proposed manner the hunger for the arts will be gratified 3-ways: for the young or the mature artist and the buyer and dilettante and even the middleman.

From: Alex Nodopaka — Mar 29, 2011

And in seeing in retrospect your pencil sketches I buy these also. Usually they’re very affordable when sold as separate art. Of course there’re few artists today that have such advanced studies to offer since the advent of Expressionism.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 30, 2011

Artists all over this country have storehouses full of new work and nowhere to sell it. I for one could stop painting tomorrow and have enough work to supply a gallery for a year. When you paint every day, this seems to be a problem. I’ve taken to removing canvases from stretchers and storing them for a time when things get better, which doesn’t seem to be real soon. What I feel everyone seems to be missing is galleries don’t sell “great “work, they sell what sells. Also there are several strata in “quality” galleries and works and artists thought to be “quality”. Contemporary art is the big mover and shaker today. This is what is in the eye of the storm today, contemporary galleries not traditional art galleries. Much art today has no context. At the turn of the first century when America was expanding west, landscape became king. People had never seen the land being newly discovery and were enthralled. Also America was expanding and trying to find its identity and uniqueness as a new nation. Some were getting rich quick in manufacturing, industry, railroads. They had money to burn then, especially with no taxes to speak of. These movers and shakers wanted to show their wealth by building huge homes and of course they had to fill them with furniture and Art. At first they bought European art or classical art because there was virtually no “American” art. American artists even trained in Europe. You couldn’t get arrested as an artist without having studied in Europe. When they returned they painted this new land. The landscapes they painted then had context. A reason, so to speak, for being painted. This continued through the thirties and forties. Things changed in the fifties after the War. Prosperity made more wealth for average people and our attention shifted to commercial goods, diversion, movies became the big thing, photography took a big chunk out of art making. Galleries sold photos of landscapes for those to buy for much less. Art became an item for the rich and not the common man. Needless to say there are more of us than them. And they already had all the “good” art. So Art became “common”, down to earth, made less well by lesser artists or artists with questionable training, weekend painters. Artist didn’t have to acquire a European pedigree any longer. Anyone could paint with a few lessons and the prices were made more affordable. To make this already long story shorter, Art made today has less worth and is made lesser by the fact that many buyers think anyone can do it and yes even sell it. The idea that there is “quality” art has to be manufactured in the minds of the buyers because no one can really tell you with any certainty- what good art is anymore. There is technically good work, well painted art, but art today has no context. It is just painted to fill a gap in one’s life, a diversion from retirement, release from the routine of work or the children. It’s fun to paint regardless of its quality or meaning. The idea of art has lost its seriousness, it meaning. We fill canvases and have galleries sell things that no one really has any connection to. We make pretty pictures for no apparent reason because we are “artists”. And we wonder why no one cares enough to pay $100.00 for it. I love the idea that more and more people appreciate painting and attempt to do it, but selling it is another matter. Art making is an industry, somewhat insular and egocentric and so much more is unknown about why art sells and who sells it and to whom it gets sold. It has little to do with “quality” or even pedigree any longer and has little or no context.

From: Nicholas Wood — Apr 03, 2011

Many galleries are thriving. It all depends on the owners, how hard they work and how they access modern media. Passion pays.

     Featured Workshop: Firesign Art & Design Studio
032911_robert-genn Firesign Art & Design Studio Workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

Step into My Parlor

oil painting, 40 x 40 inches by Katie Hoffman, Denver, CO, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Liz Napier of Texas, USA, who wrote, “I also noticed this change when we visited Santa Fe. Even looking through gallery public relations I saw abstract art, such a change from the twenty years ago. I’m an artist working with fiber — dyed cloth, papers and everything else I can add — paint sticks, oil pastels, pencil and stitch. I am also physically challenged with PLS — an offshoot of ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease.” And also Libby Shipman of Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico, who asked, “Robert, what do you mean by ‘museum bandwagon?’ ” (RG note) Thanks, Libby. In the big centers, dealers activate collectors by activating possible museum placement. Collectors (and dealers) who donate to museums get inflated tax receipts and are candidates for immortality. And also Cherry Lynn of Victoria, BC, Canada, who wrote, “I want to be able to paint like the Russian artists.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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