When I purchase works of art for my Gallery, I always look for those works which have an emotional connection to me. I bring them home, find room for them on the shelves or walls of the Gallery, and sit and admire them each morning. In almost all cases, I simply fall in love with the pieces, knowing the artists (or about the artists) and the meticulous and painstaking effort they put into each piece.
And thus the dilemma appears. If I was merely a collector of fine art, I would be able to love these pieces for the rest of time, ensuring that they travel to a reputable Museum when I pass on. However, Gallery owners don’t have that luxury. We are simply the intermediaries between the artists and the forever homes of the art. We purchase works of art from the artists, supporting their endeavors, and provide awareness of the works of art to a wide audience, hoping that someone will similarly be enthralled with an item and bring it into their home.
For the collector, it is a new, exciting member of their family. For the Gallery owner, it is a very bittersweet parting, one which I do not particularly enjoy. This was very difficult for me recently, when I sold a signed, limited edition print by one of my favorite Hopi artists, David Dewangyumptewa. I had purchased the print from David at an art show in 1988, when my mother and I were wandering about. Something about his art – the colors, the motion, the vibrancy of the figures – really caught my eye, and I immediately brought it home. For the past 27 years, it has been with me every day, when I start the day with the first cup of coffee. That is the second work by this artist I have sold this month.
Often, the artists also have this bittersweet moment when they sell one of their works of art. One and a half years ago, Michael and I were walking through a large artist fair in the city where we live, and we saw a booth set up by a Hopi bronze sculptor, Kim Seyesnem Obrzut. One of her bronzes, A Place Where the Butterflies Land, immediately touched my heart. Michael steered me over to a nearby park bench, where we sat and admired her work for an hour or so. But that one piece kept calling out to me. So, of course, I talked with Kim and her daughter Crystal, and arranged to purchase the piece
This year, when Kim returned to our art show, I purchased a much smaller piece, Spirit of Creation, but still a very beautiful and evocative one. I also saw a new, large piece she had just finished, the Matriarch. I told Kim that I would purchase the Matriarch if I could find a forever home for A Place Where the Butterflies Land, and she was astonished that I would part with the Butterflies, given that I was almost in tears when I saw it for the first time in the prior year. But I said, yes, as a Gallery owner, I have to be able to give my pieces an opportunity to go to forever homes, even if it is a painful parting.
Having said that, the Matriarch never left my mind. Later in the fall, we were in Prescott at the Phippen Museum art show, knowing that Kim would be exhibiting at that show. I made a beeline for her tent, and without any hesitation, purchased the Matriarch. Fortunately, Kim ships her items, as this one weighs in at about 70 pounds and is about 3 feet tall. So now I have three beautiful pieces by Kim, and I love all of my children, but I know some day one or more will go away to forever homes. And it will be bittersweet.
I’ve talked about this with other Gallery owners, people I respect like Al Anthony, Lyn Fox, Robert Nichols, and Mark Sublette. They each tell the same story. Gallery owners are in this business because they love the art and the artists, and their souls are enriched greatly by being able to support the artists and to temporarily be caretakers of their art. As one of my friends said recently, “It certainly isn’t for the money, as most Gallery owners are quite far from rich.” The love of the art, and the wonderful relationships I am building with the artists, are very rewarding. The art tells a story, and we just have to listen carefully to hear what it conveys. And when an artist passes on, their stories and their legacies remain. Gallery owners are custodians and caretakers of the art and the stories, seeking just the right forever home for the works of art. But it is such a bittersweet profession.