Art in bad times

January 4, 2008

Robert Genn



Yesterday, Teri Peterson, owner of The Lakes Gallery in North
Lake, Wisconsin, USA, asked, "Do you have any thoughts for
galleries in the current poor economy? So many artists are
discouraged and art-related businesses are closing. I'm not
closing, I'm just looking for a new dial to tune in on."

Thanks, Teri. In good times and bad, galleries are always
opening and closing. It's been my experience that it's not so
much the times, but the mission of the individuals running the
galleries. For those who merely hang acceptable pictures on
walls and who wait around until people come in, a downturn in
the economy can close them. On the other hand, many dealers,
including those in out-of-the-way and depressed places, seem to
weather all storms. Here are a few current and timeless
qualities that keep them in business:

They work the Internet and/or the telephone.
They attend to the secondary market.
They feature living artists who are going somewhere.
They honour their artists and pay them promptly.
They also feature and promote dead artists.
They do not try to hard to educate people.
They know how to advertise wisely and well.
They keep long hours and stay open through thick and thin.
They have an eye for innovation as well as quality.
They do not represent work they have done themselves.
They have a natural ability to foster trust.
They create desire in otherwise uninterested folks.
They are enthusiastic believers in art and artists.
They are proactive, hard working and practical.
They see the art game as fair, fun and rewarding for all.
They use the word "investment" with respect.
They have an understanding of human nature.

At one time I had my work in a wildly successful gallery on a
busy street loaded with stock brokers and investment
counsellors. I'd still be dealing with him but the beautiful
fellow passed away. On a day when the stock market retreated
508 points (October 19, 1987), he phoned to say he had sold
five paintings of mine. I was amazed. "Yep," he said. "When
stock brokers have lots of money they collect art. And when
stock brokers have only a little money they invest in it. It's
human nature."

Best regards,