Greg Michalson, Unbridled Books and Thoroughbreds

Drove out to Columbia last week with Brown Eyes to spend a day with Greg Michalson and his wife.  Greg’s formerly editor of the legendary Missouri Review, but for a decade has been at the helm of Unbridled Books, a sophisticated press that specializes in literary fiction.  Year after year, he and his staff place major books on the bestseller lists–after they’ve been praised in the NY Times.  I frankly don’t know how he does it.  Will he ever publish my fiction?  Well, we may discuss that if ever it’s relevant, but right now I’m focused on other stuff, and he has plenty of writers to choose from anyway.

horse.jpg Greg also raises thoroughbreds for the track, and at any given time has 5-8 horses on his farm.  Beautiful creatures.  I offered to ride one for him in the Belmont Stakes, but he confessed he didn’t want to see me get killed.  Well, me either.

Stephen Johnson’s Abstract Alphabet

Great book.  Great artist.  Happens to live in Lawrence, so of course I’m a bit prejudiced.  Book’s available at Rainy Day Books, one of Kansas City’s best independents.  Where would authors like me be without stores like that?  Nowhere.  In fact I’ll be dropping by later this week to buy a few books meself.

Opening for Lincoln Prep and SME Artists, II


Shots from the opening. 


What a bunch of punks–but very talented ones.  Note pride.  That pleases me greatly, not to mention how they feel about it.


This marks the last field trip, and last student show, of the year.  Good, I’m ready for an easy summer.  Does that exist in a recession?  Sure, if you live it well.

Tips for Artists: Surviving the Recession?


Depression Mother, Dorothea Lange 

OK.  I’m not here to kid you any more than you are me, so let’s be straight up.

Has the recession been tough for my gallery?  Hell yes.  As tough as I thought it would be a year ago?  No.  Then I thought we might be headed for a depression.  What we got was bad enough,  but it’s not 25% unemployment and the market didn’t lose 80% of its value, as in the 1930s.

Am I pissed?  Very, especially over how the middle class is stuck with paying such enormous taxes relative to our income–and hence paying off this burden–while the upper class has, since the time of Reagan, received tax breaks that would never even be considered in Europe.  But then handguns are illegal there too, they have universal health care, and their educational standards make ours look laughable–along with tuition rates that are actually affordable.

I digress.  Is my gallery going to fail because of this recession?  Hell no, if only because failure is not an option.  Success has meant grindingly long hours and burnout so severe I’m crosseyed, but so what?  It beats the alternative.

What are our strategies?  Well I can’t go into that online, but I will tell you this: clients are looking for discounts of anywhere from 10% to 20% these days.  Now you can either sit tight and sell nothing, or you can swallow the discount.  I’ve discussed this with our artists, and they’ve agreed we need to sell work.  So we’re negotiating as I never have before.  You may have to do the same thing.

Now some art career coaches will advise you to never mark down your work.  These are normally people who, by the by, have never run a gallery.  Accepting discounts is a personal choice; I’m just telling you what’s become expected by collectors, and what you may have to do to survive financially.

So is the economy, and hence the art market, improving?  Yes, but very slowly.  So much damage has been done, especially from the incredible stupidity, selfishness and greed of the last eight years, that we’ll be a long time rebuilding.  It’s unfortunate how no prison  terms will be handed out for the people who legislated our livelihoods away, and into their back pockets, but those guys normally do get off–at least for now.

Bon Chance

Lyman Whitaker’s Work Arrives


We received a shipment of 50 pieces from Lyman Whitaker this week.


He’s a renowned kinetic sculptor who works in copper, and whose sculptures my crew had a blast installing.  Well, I think they did anyway.  That’s Lyman’s studio manager, Mike, in the foreground.


Some of the pieces are modest in scale and some are mammoth, meaning up to 50′ tall.  That’s Lyman in the cap, overseeing final details.


 My clients love the work.  So do I.