Sunday, October 3, 2010

ART DEALERS - The Good, the Bad, and the Rare.

"Lipstick & Rhinestones"
©JLicsko oil on canvas 12"x9"

Part 1:   In this post, and the next, I will share with you a few observations and tips culled from nearly forty years experience dealing with dealers. I have worked with a large number of galleries that have represented my work, my husbands work, or both. A few of these relationships have been exceptionally beneficial and enjoyable. 

My definition of an art dealer for the purpose of this writing is an artist's representative, either an independent person with no public viewing space, or a gallery owner who is the active commander of a gallery that exists to sell art to the public.

An art dealer has his feet in two buckets. He must be able to work with strong artistic personalities, speak their language, know where they are coming from, and understand their psychology. Equally important, he must be able to win the trust of collectors. Ideally charismatic, a dealer must be a strong sales force to be effective. It is rare to be fluent in both these worlds, and then add to that, to possess the head for responsible, intelligent, and creative business.

Most dealers own or manage an art gallery in a good location where walk-in traffic is essential. This gallery becomes the headquarters for exhibitions, openings, and day to day sales. This dealer must be proficient at developing a following of collectors, the less glamorous job of maintaining a physical retail space, managing both artists, and a sales staff made up of quirky individuals ranging from those with a seriously admirable arts background, to those who would be equally comfortable selling refrigerators.

I will share with you examples of polar opposites of independent art dealers. The first looks very much like a traveling sales man who will literally knock on doors. He will use one sale to direct him to the next. "Mrs. Jones down the road just bought a piece from you, she thought you might want to see the others I have in the car". (I'm serious). At the other end, is a sophisticated individual, usually with a good arts education, maybe some family connections, perhaps a sexy foreign accent, and the equivalent of a plush condo in New York or Palm Desert. This dealer often has worked out how to live well surrounded by extravagant art. Working at home, with a lower overhead, he is able to write off major portions of his home and elegant lifestyle as business costs.

If your are very lucky, as we once were, you may find the rarest of all, the art dealer who loves art and artists so much that he buys what he loves for his gallery. He sees his role as the conduit. He delights in being able to nurture and support his artists. His personality will have a strong influence on the art exhibited both because his personal taste permeates the gallery, and his choices may effect the artist's work. He will bring out the best in all his artists. If you find one, treat him very very well.

Next post: Part 2


  1. i find this painting inviting and comforting: i can smell the lipstick, even taste it, the lighting and colours soft, touching... an immensely sensual piece!
    i also enjoyed reading your thoughts on art dealers: it sounds like a tough area as artists need to rely totally on the dealer to let them get on with their art and now worry about paying bills and whether the art dealer is really doing her/his job honestly. and understanding the psychology of artists i would say is probably the most important part...

  2. Rahina, thank you for your description that is so pleasing to my ears. I invite anyone reading this to check out Rahina's new portrait. It's special.

  3. Exquisite piece-the detail of the reflections is exceptional, and I like the juxtaposition of textural surfaces.
    I wish I had come across your thoughts sooner, your experience in the matter of dealership would have proved invaluable to me, but I fear I am learning the hard way.

  4. David, we all learn the hard way in the art world. Thank you for your kind comments. I found your blog and website filled with interesting and provocative works.

  5. Wow! What an amazing shine in that lipstick tube!!!! Again, the placement of the objects is perfect and sets a wonderful atmosphere.
    Not sure I would have been brave enough to try all those reflections Joanne ;-)
    How about a world collective of artists who sell their own stuff through a special web site and stop supplying dealers altogether ;-)

  6. Paul - Knowing your work, I am confidant you could paint the reflections or anything else you want most successfully. I think most artists have been tempted by the idea of doing without dealers altogether, but in fact they provide a much needed service, and some take artists to much greater heights than they would have reached on their own. Good to hear from you.

  7. Here here Joanne. Lot of artists walk in to todays on line galleries and believe that they need no one but their art. When an artist walks up to me asking why am I here each first friday of the month socializing and showing the work; have one sentence that either makes them walk away quickly or stay a while. My Art Director (Christy) continues giving me the opportunity each month to come out and meet folks like you.

    (ps over the top on reflections in the tube)!

  8. Thank you Mary Sonya, the tube was fun. What you describe should always be seen as a blessed opportunity. Long ago, we used to dream of someone who would take over the business side and leave us to the more noble creation. Experience has taught that there is no substitute for getting one' hands "dirty" in the business of art. Love your new painting

  9. Your work is spectacular, and a very interesting read...

  10. Hi again Joanne!... I can really identify with the rep characters that you describe so wonderfully! Finding the "rare bird" is indeed a gift from the Universe... to be served with respect and loyalty! I have a few in my thirty odd year career... we are still friends and mutual supporters!

    Your work is as unique... creative and beautifully fluid as is your writng! I enjoy my visits and always leave with an uplifted spirit! Thank "You" ... for sharing your gifts!

    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,

    PS Happy Thanksgiving!