Monday, April 27, 2009

Best of 2005

Since I'm on the road with little time for blogging... below is a reprint (or is it repost?) from one of the most emailed-about posts in this blog... originally posted in 2005...

Waste of Time

Since we opened our first gallery in 1996, we have rarely worked with "art consultants" or "interior decorators."

Overall, the experience (in the very few times that we've worked with them) has been quite a waste of time (such as the time that we wasted months dealing with Sen. Hillary Clinton's Georgetown-based interior designers to select a work by New York painter David FeBland.

Because the focus of our galleries is contemporary representational work ("realism with a bite"), it seldom agrees with the bland, "cannot afford to insult anyone," art selection process of most major corporate and business buyers (and public art projects).

But yesterday I bit again, and delivered work by several of our artists that had been selected by a very major law firm's art consultant to possibly hang in their new meeting room in a beautiful building in downtown DC. Come in, get a badge, drive to the loading dock and start delivering work to the 9th floor. As soon as I got there I knew that our chances were slim to none, as I saw a lot of this stuff.

And the very nice and professional art consultant was horrified to see that I had brought this piece by artist Javier Gil.

"Get that out of here before anyone sees it," she advised. "Nothing like that can even be considered and it may poison their minds about the rest."

Her favorite from our four artist selection was the work of our best-selling artist David FeBland. I explained that David's works have been selling very well, especially since the Europeans have discovered his work. Since his prices have been skyrocketing (law of supply and demand), we both doubted that they'd be interested in his work, since he was by far the most expensive artist in what was being presented.

But I schlepped all the work over, including a massive, framed Maxwell MacKenzie photo.

After a few trips I return to the gallery van, which had been parked in the loading dock, as directed, to find it blocked by a truck delivering paper supplies. I ask the guy nicely if he can please move a foot so that I can leave. He cusses me out.

I then waste 10 minutes of cussing and yelling and threatening the very large truck driver, near to a fist fight with a guy who looks like George Foreman, before another huge guy comes in and breaks up the argument... all that before I can leave, now in a total black mood.

Return to DC around 3:30PM to pick up the work. Back up into the tiny loading dock, where I manage to put a huge gouge on the left side of the new gallery van (less than 800 miles on it). Then I get a large smear of grease from one of the dumpsters on the back of my new suit, which I had naturally just worn for the first time this morning. Things are going great uh?

Up to the 9th floor, which for some strange reason, in this building is actually a few steps below the 7th floor.

Not too surprisingly, none of our work had been picked. And what was picked can best be summarized as "big, bold, large abstract art," mostly by names I had never heard of.

I can't say that I blame corporate art buyers, especially in selecting work for their public meeting spaces. We're at a juncture in our history where anything that could remotely be offensive to anyone, is not part of the PC art process. When was it the last time that you saw a nude in an American airport?

On one of the trips I run into a very tall woman who had been (I think) the head of the "art pickers" from the law firm; she sees me packing the David FeBland. "That was our favorite among all the artists," she says.

"He's our best-selling painter," I replied, too tired to inquire as to why he wasn't selected (I already know: price). On the massive table I see the work selected; around 20-30 pieces of mostly abstract, large, work.

Waste of my time; scratch on my new van; possibly a ruined suit; and near fist fight with a huge burly truckdriver... another day in the life of an art dealer.


On the road for a few days, but will keep up... meanwhile Craftweek in DC was a huge success last week as the collecting craft world big names descended upon the capital.

I've heard about the great talk at WPA on the distinctions of and issues raised by definitions of Craft vs Art - I am told that the moderator, my good friend Jeffrey Cudlin, a terrific artist and curator, and a superb critic who can be a bit of an egghead on art theory in my plebeian opinion, delivered quite a funny and thoughtful panel.

The tug o' war afterwards? The winner of the tug-o-war was craft.

On Thursday one of the events was the Smithsonian Journeys tour through the various artists' studio - bringing a national group of collectors to see our area artists.

Friday's demos of work by the artists in the Mt Rainier studios along the tracks went well and the gala - Venetian Carnivale - went very well - actually was quite a bit of fun I am told. Highlights included the full on, three-act, choreographed fire spinning performance (don't know the name of the local group of fire people) and having the party crashed by Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles (not too often do you get your party crashed by the local Hizzoner).

My sources tell me that members of the James Renwick Alliance said that the event was the most fun they had in the 15 years that they have gone to these annual galas. They loved the interaction with the artist studios - the work, the spaces - it was all fun and fresh.

The heart and soul of a working artist, standing on the shoulders of giants can best be told by the exchange with an ubercollector and a DC area artist. The artist tells me that the collector

"had bought a piece of mine a year or so ago, and was telling me about where it was located in her home. She said that she put it next to the work of a 'famous sculptor' - but could not remember his name. Someone very famous... deceased... but could not remember his name. She was a bit flummoxed and tried to remember other things to jog her memory - he was Asian... but still could not remember. So I tossed out the most unlikely name I could think of - Noguchi?

That was it - Isamu Noguchi.

Talk about being gobsmacked. My work next to a Noguchi. I thought you being a Frida-phile would appreciate the story.
There's something simple and innocent and appreciative in that story that makes me proud to know such artists.