Friday Tips: Local Hero?

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All right, why do you suppose I’ve worked so hard to help my artists get accepted by galleries in other cities?  Why have I worked to help them get press in national magazines?  Because I realized long ago that local collectors are impressed when a local artist has a success in some distant place, such as Chicago, Santa Fe or Carmel (a greatly overrated scene, by the way). 

Again, because my gallery is located in Kansas City, I can’t count on hordes of tourists to acquire work.  My apologies to the metro boosters, but KC just ain’t a tourist mecca.  These other cities are.  They’re also held in greater esteem by local collectors.  So if several of my artists are routinely having successful shows in these locations, I can point out that fact.  Believe me, that eventually results in more work sold at home.

This is the case in all provincial cities.  Hell, it’s sometimes even the case in NY and LA, where I’ve heard artists complain about the same malaise.  It isn’t that any of these collectors are evil; this is just human nature.  Once you accept that, and decide how to work with it, it will cease to be frustrating and instead will bring ample rewards.

So if you want to be a local hero in the arts, become highly regarded in a different city first, and you likely will be. 

The Central Coast / Henry Miller / Art Scene in Big Sur

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Top shot is along Highway 1, where we spent the day driving and hiking from San Simeon north.  I gave the boys a choice: they could either see some warped old dude’s castle, or the aquarium at Monterey, but not both.  They wisely chose the latter.  This sparked a discussion of Orson Wells and Randolph Hearst, but that’s a different topic.

Bottom shot is at Nepenthe in Big Sur, where we always stop for tea.  If you’ve been there, you know the view is insane. 

We passed the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, but didn’t have time to go in.  I stayed there one night in 1990, when I’d met the caretaker in town.  He’d spotted me working on a book, asked what it was about, and the next thing you knew, offered to put me up.  Since I was camping at the time, that was fine by me.

It was a great night.  He fixed one helluva meal, then we went to Esalen to soak in the hot springs, then back to the bar to drink beer until closing.  I’ve never seen him since, but he was pure laid-back California hospitality.

I told this story to the boys, as well as the story of Henry Miller’s life–one of the first Big Sur rebels.  They all were engrossed, so I got my oldest a copy of Tropic of Cancer.  Since he just finished a Cormac McCarthy novel, it looks like Miller will provide diversion for the rest of the trip.

The art scene in Big Sur?  Plenty of painters, but this ain’t gallery country.  That’s in Carmel and San Francisco.

Timothy Leary’s Alive

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As we left LA, and wound up the coast on Highway 1, I was reminded of all the stories of Timothy Leary: his years at Harvard, his recipes for acid, his long stint in San Francisco, his brief stint in prison in San Luis Obispo, breaking out, going on the lam overseas, finally getting busted again, doing more time, turning informant to get out early, with Ken Kesey and everyone else turning against him, then his last hoorah in the Hollywood Hills, and his new crowd of followers, including Johnny Depp and Susan Sarandon.  Then the way he embraced death, documenting how the cancer took him, toying with cryonic suspension, and finally his ashes blasted into outer space in 1997.

Whether you admired or despised him, the dude led quite a life.  Was he a philosopher, or a just a wasted fool who struggled with heroin addiction, among other things?  Here’s what one of the pioneers of the era, Owsley Stanley, had to say about that:

“Leary was a fool. Drunk with ‘celebrity-hood’ and his own ego, he became a media clown- and was arguably the single most damaging actor involved in the destruction of the evanescent social movement of the ’60’s. Tim, with his very public exhortations to the kids to ‘tune in, turn on and drop out’, is the inspiration for all the current draconian US drug laws against psychedelics. He would not listen to any of us when we asked him to please cool it, he loved the lime-light and relished his notoriety… I was not a fan of his.” 
I’m inclined to agree with Stanley.  Either way, Leary was undoubtedly brilliant, certainly charming, and damn well had an impact on the course of history.  Hard to believe he was the same age as my father.

Anyway, I told this story to my sons as we drove up the coast.  They were enthralled.  Good, so long as that doesn’t take the form of following in his footsteps.

When we hit Big Sur I’ll tell them about Henry Miller, and the time I spent the night in his library.

 

City of Angels / The Galleries in Beverly Hills

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LA from the Hollywood Hills

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Touring The Getty

Our stay in LA was, like many things there, both beautiful and weird.  On Saturday night I took my sons for a walk along Hollywood Boulevard: break dancers, a faux Michael Jackson, Graumman’s Chinese Theater, and prostitutes.  They’d never seen anything like it, but then you don’t unless you come here.  I walked them around the city until they couldn’t walk anymore: the Boulevard, The Strip, and the odd quiet little streets of bungalows where so much desperate seeking for fame both lived and died.

The following day we dug on Laurel Canyon, Jim Morrison’s old shack, the General Store, and the Hollywood Hills.  A lot cinematic and rock-n-roll history in those hills, which yet has something sad about them.  The boys learned a lot just by walking them.

Later I checked out the galleries on Rodeo Drive and in Beverly Hills, again to place Arlie Regier’s work.  But I chose not to make the approach now.  It’s going to take more research, and time, to find the right one in LA.  I’m not going to hurry it.  Just like I did in Vegas, I’ll set up the approach carefully, then close the deal.  He deserves that.

Will I find the right gallery for him here?  I believe so, probably by Sept.  It’s time.  Will blog about it when it happens.

Later we went to The Getty, and after that swimming at Santa Monica.  A great day. 

On to the Central Coast, then San Francisco.  My wife is waiting for us there.

Done Deal in Vegas

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I closed the deal with the Vegas gallery this morning.  It’s owned by a dealer from LA.  The gallery’s located in Caesar’s Palace.  They seem anxious to get the Regier work in.  Think it will go very well.  I can tell they’re people of integrity. 

Did I walk into their space cold?  Of course not.  I’ve been preparing them for several weeks for my visit, gradually building credibility, until this morning was little more than an espresso and a handshake.  In fact they asked me to stick around and meet a few people, but I was in a hurry to get my family from the Luxor, and get down to the Mojave to do some serious hiking.  What?  Leave a town of tinsel and fantasy to go hike among sand, rock and Gila Monsters in 105 degree heat?  You bet.

LA and Rodeo Drive next.  My kids haven’t seen LA since they were 9 and 11.  This will be an education, especially since they’re now mature enough to appreciate the city at a deeper level–both the sleek aspects, and the warts beneath the surface.

Top photo: the fountains at The Bellagio, just like the end of Ocean’s 11.  Bottom photo: some dufus at The Luxor. 

Friday Tips: The Importance of Getting Into Galleries in Other Cities

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When the sculptor Arlie Regier first came to me in 1994, he was as unknown as an artist as I was in the gallery world.  But I instinctively realized that his works in stainless steel, some of them composed of 5000 pieces of stainless–like the one above– would likely find a broad audience if I could just succeed at promoting him.  Man, did that take years of hard work for both him and me.  A new artist (he was 64 at the time) is always slow to be recognized.  But if you believe in the work and artist, you stay with it no matter how many times you hear the word “No.”  We heard it literally thousands of times.

Nonetheless I continued promoting him, deciding that the only way his career would broaden would be through placing the work in tourist meccas.  I mean I might have a well respected gallery in Kansas City, but KC ain’t no tourist destination.  So I put him with a gallery in San Francisco; they moved nothing.  Then I put him with a gallery in Aspen; they moved nothing.  Then I convinced Khourde Fine Art in Santa Fe to take him.  That was the right fit.  Over the years, they began outselling my gallery–which takes some doing.  In fact they have a show for Arlie and Dave next Friday. 

Eventually I placed Arlie with a gallery in Carmel, then another in Vail.  Finally, this year, The Museum of Fine Art, Boston, acquired one of his works for their permanent collection.  With the enormous credibility that gives him, I can now place him with galleries virtually anywhere I choose.

As I write this I’m in Las Vegas, closing a deal with a gallery on The Strip.  Vegas?  An art town?  Well, not quite yet.  As you probably know, it specializes in kitsch.  But the tourists are here, and among all those tourists are certainly collectors.  We plan to work with that market.  Yet none of this would have happened if Arlie and I hadn’t persisted.

My point?  If you’re having little success with galleries in your own region, don’t hesitate to try other regions.  You may have to try several.  But just stay with it.  Perseverance brings its own rewards.  As for approaching galleries in other cities, I cover that in Living the Artist’s Life.  No, you don’t have to go out and buy the book.  Just go to a library.  I understand it’s with a great many now.

Journey to the Southwest / Art Business in Vegas

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Though I’m due in San Francisco in 9 days, we started the trip going southwest.  First shot shows the train stopped at Raton, NM, just below the fabled Raton Pass.  Second shot shows the teenage punks in the lounge car as we approach the Painted Desert in AZ.  They’re talking, inevitiably, of romance.  Actually a romance already blossomed on this trip between the oldest one and a girl headed home.  I’ll say no more beyond that.

I’m nuts about traveling by train, especially taking the Santa Fe road out of Union Station, watching as low prairie is replaced by high prairie, then the foothills, then the mountains, then the long expanse of the desert all the way to Flagstaff.  We’re in Flag now; art business in Las Vegas tomorrow.  Yeah, it’s a vulgar town dominated by a shallow art scene–which is what I call fertile territory for art of real caliber.

Seminar at Pacific Art League

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I’ll be teaching another all-day Boot Camp for Artists on Saturday, 6/30, at the Pacific Art League.  Spoke there on the book tour.  Great people, great place.  Downtown Palo Alto, just off the main drag.  Look forward to going back, not that I ever need much of an excuse for going to San Francisco.  

Afterward, my sons and I will take surfing lessons in Santa Cruz while my wife watches from the safety of the beach (weenie).  I already know the boys will do well on the boards.  Me?  I’ll likely spend a lot of time falling off, getting back on, falling off…  Kind of like the challenges of life itself.

Linda Ganstrom’s Figures / Non-Anorexic, Non-Victoria’s Secret

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This life-size ceramic piece is by Linda Ganstrom, who  I met her in January at the Governor’s Inaugural.  I’d juried her work into the art exhibit there, and knew immediately I wanted to carry it, it was just a matter of the right time coming along.  Well the right time’s arrived.

This work is titled Standing Shannon, finished in what Linda calls a Brown Fossil Texture.  I like the way it coarsely celebrates women, avoiding the  whole bizarre thing of the Victoria’s Secret image–an impossible standard that is being set by anorexic 18-year-olds who soon enough won’t be able to meet it themselves.

Anyway, have already had a law firm inquire about it.  Didn’t expect that.

Baseball With Teenagers / Dope Counseling / Quiet Day

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This will be a good day.  Coffee alone in the morning, working on a new book that I just finished plotting last night, as my wife and I walked along Avenue of the Arts, plotting it together before going down to the Savoy for a drink.  Brunch with my family today after the writing is done. 

A baseball game later with a flock of teenagers, most of whom are in college now, all of whom are great, but a couple of them have begun drinking heavily and smoking dope.  Why do I make sure those few come to the game?  Because I respect all of them, as they respect me, and when I’m not making wise cracks between plays, they sense how I care for them.  They know I always have.  So if their conditions worsen, perhaps they’ll remember that they can always talk to me straight up, that I saw all that same crap in the 70s, and maybe learned a thing or two.  That’s one reason we’ve played so many games over the years: just so we can talk.

Afterward, Roller Blading for miles along my favorite bike path in the country, above.  It parallels the old Santa Fe.  And finally after that, a walk on The Plaza with my family sipping iced coffees.  Dinner later.  They cook; I don’t.  Man I do love Father’s Day.  Especially the finale.