Ask the Gallery Owner
Edited by Lisa Roche, 2004
The Smart Collector is honored to present its readers collector advice from the experts! Who better to advise the aspiring art collector than the art dealer? The Smart Collector posed ten questions to various local gallery owners/art dealers and we are thrilled to publish the first three responses for you from the following prominent San Diego based art dealers:
- Filippo M. Floridia D'Altavilla - Galerie D'Art International, Solana Beach, CA. Italian born, Filippo Floridia is the Curator and Art Director for Galerie D’Art International, which opened in its current location in February of 2003, after being relocated from Carlsbad. The Galerie maintains a commitment to support the most outstanding established and emerging artists from the international art world. In addition to private collectors, Galerie D'Art International has also developed an international network of government and corporate collectors. They have extensive backgrounds in the publishing of Art Books, and Limited Editions of Portfolios including Poetry and Prints. Filippo Floridia has been the Coordinator and Curator of more than 250 Exhibitions worldwide.
- Roy Johnson, Sumner & Dene Creations in Art Gallery, San Diego, CA – Roy Johnson is the Owner and Director of Sumner & Dene Art Gallery in San Diego, a gallery that showcases contemporary and traditional paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, tapestries and jewelry. He has also owned galleries in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico .
- Abe Ordover – Ordover Gallery, Solana Beach, CA. Abe Ordover came to us from Atlanta to start a gallery in the Cedros Design District. He is first a professional photographer who specializes in nature. But he also had a mediation business and putting works on the walls of his company showed him the great power that art work has to help people in their day to day lives.
Our thanks to these wonderful individuals for providing us with their opinions and insights! Please visit their website, email them or go to their galleries. Enjoy!
- In your opinion, how does an art collector differ from an art buyer?
I believe that there exists a great difference between the “art collector” and the “art buyer”. The “art buyer” can be any person with little to large interest in art and a basic education of art. He can buy for many reasons, mostly because he loves a particular piece, knows the artist, or to decorate his home or office. On the other hand, the “art collector” and his attributes are described in my answer to Question #2.
I think it was the great art dealer, Duveen, who was the first true art dealer in this country, who said that to be a collector of an artist you have to have 3 or more of their works. Otherwise you just own one work by Jasper John or own two but if you have three, you collect his work.
An Art Collector buys as an investment in a particular trend or a body of work by a particular artist. An art buyer acquires for a particular personal need.
- What do you believe is the single most important factor for the art collector to contemplate? Can you talk about the importance of authenticity, quality, value, and/or the artist’s past history/provenance in evaluating a piece for purchase?
The “art collector” is similar to the art dealer. He will buy art for knowledge, love, or an investment. For him, when he buys “art”, he considers: the history of the artist, the biography; he believes in the importance of the artist. He strives to understand the artist’s past, present and future. He knows the market price and carefully examines the provenience and authenticity of each piece; certainly the quality and the year of the artwork influence the value.
I think people should buy for what they like not whether there is some importance of value, history, etc. If you are buying for investment, that is different. If you have that type of money it’s like buying real estate for investment purposes. There is not a lot of soul in it; it’s just a commodity. But if you are buying for investment, buy 'dead art', as it’s called, by artists who are already dead and already have established a market and strong value base. If you are buying contemporary artists, then I really feel that you should buy from your gut and buy what you like as you are going to live with it.
The Art Collector has to define what his/her needs are and should be forth coming about those needs to the art gallery staff. It is then the job of the gallery to supply all information. The gallery needs to be able to talk about the authenticity, quality, value, provenance of all its artists and art works. An art buyer might be overwhelmed by all this and needs aid but the true collector will know what information s/he needs
- How do gallery owners help the art collectors meet and maintain a relationship with the artist? And, how can the art collector help San Diego galleries improve efforts in this area?
The most important engagement and commitment of the gallery owner is to explore the art world, constantly, carefully, and with knowledge, to find the most significant artists (consolidated- known or emergent), and to propose them to his own collectors. As time passes, this relationship becomes one of trust, and is very confidential; between the gallery owner, collector, and artist.
The best way for art collectors to help the galleries, everywhere, including San Diego, is to improve this search. This task and this cultural obligation for the community is to acquire “art” from the gallery and to spread this information and these finds; the names of these artists and the galleries, to other collectors.
By keeping them informed to what the artist is doing. By stimulating the artist to keep producing and by stimulating the buyer to keep buying.
We make sure that the artists are always present at our receptions. We think that this makes the experience more personal and the more personal we can make it, the more likely it is that the collector will be pleased with his/her purchase.
- Do you ever ask your collector buyers for recommendation on artists?
Part of this beautiful, confidential relationship between the gallery owner and the collector is to have a continual exchange of information about the happenings in the contemporary art world and the recommendations of new artists.
Yes, the artists Annie Lemoux and Carolyn Taylor were both recommended by local collectors. Artists (both nationally and locally) have also recommended other artists who we have then shown in the gallery.
- Do you have a specific or special group of specialized collectors to which you market, and if so, can you describe/elaborate? Please give examples.
I do not have a specific group of specialized collectors to ask information, but I am always open to listen or to analyze new proposals, especially from contemporary collectors traveling all around the world.
After selling art for in Santa Fe and Taos for 17 years, which is primarily a tourist market, it is so nice to establish a base of buyers here in my own back yard that I can call upon and take work to their home. So I market to the local. I don't deal in the high dollar art as much here in San Diego.
In Santa Fe and Taos people really were primarily buying a souvenir with a price tag. What I mean is they wanted to know who the artist was, where they were in their career, shows, museums, exhibits, their education, age and list of collectors. It was an expensive purchase and people wanted to know what they were 'investing' in. People flew in from around the country to buy art from Santa Fe and Taos. Most people wanted the artist to be a New Mexico artist as well since they were flying all the way there to purchase. People would say, “I flew all the way here to buy an artist from Santa Fe. I'm from LA.” It might have been expensive but it was a souvenir.
In San Diego, since my buyers are primarily people who just want some nice art in their home to compliment their environment it’s a different market. People are buying more for decorative purposes, works that fit in their decor, match the sofa, or go with the style of their home. The price tag is not as high so there is not as much pressure on the buyer to feel like they are making an investment in the work and the artist. Of course they want to know all about the artist but it’s not a heavy financial commitment. From a dealer's standpoint it’s nice to represent more affordable art. People buy more spontaneously since it doesn't take an arm, leg and your first born to take home a nice piece of artwork.
We specialize in mainly Nature Photography at the gallery but sell a whole range of work such as documentary and portraiture as well. We are in the midst of the digital revolution in photography. It is an unstoppable train. We are constantly educating our collectors on this ongoing technology. Also, many of our collectors previously chose only black and white art works, but we are introducing them to color and it is opening up new worlds to them.
- Who are the types of collectors you most respect and why? (Feel free to elaborate on how you might classify types of collectors.)
My respect is for all collectors; because without them, no gallery would survive. They are the greatest supporters of our profession and our activity. If pressed to clarify, my first choice is the “art lovers”. They are the ones that purchase art because they believe, and because they enjoy sharing the dream with you. They are delighted to possess one special painting or sculpture and to admire the piece daily. They have the art knowledge as well, but they do not buy, specifically, for the investment of the piece.
My favorite buyers are those who buy because they like it and figure out when they get it home where it will go, although this is not the average buyer. The other types of buyers are:
- The number one buyer buys to put over their sofa or over the fireplace.
- Next people buy because of the name of the artist.
- Some buy because their friends have one, so it’s safe and they know their peers will approve.
- Some buy to show their status in society.
Corporations buy as an image.
- And then there are those who buy as an investment.
But you got to love that buyer who walks in and falls in love with a work of art
because it touches them in a certain way!
The collector we most admire is the one who has an open mind. We love to hear a collector say, “This is the first time I have ever bought anything like this. Although a collector needs to recognize quality, it is the ability to recognize imagination that we admire.
- Entering an art gallery can sometimes be a daunting experience, and as a result, a potential collector may fail to ask the right questions or make false assumptions about doing business there. How do you overcome this in your gallery?
I try to be courteous, unsophisticated, and simple. I try to explain my philosophy, my task, the resolutions, and the programs of my gallery.
For the past 25 years I have tried to break down those walls of the elite gallery image. I think art should be accessible. Thus, we play fun music, great for people when they walk in, and we try to make ourselves as approachable as possible.
We are friendly but not intrusive. We can sense when someone wants more information and we try to supply it by entering into a conversation.
- What kinds of questions should the art collector ask the gallery owner?
The best collector questions are:
- How does the gallery owner select the artists?
- How long has the owner of the gallery been in business?
- What kind of activities, events, and exhibitions as he done in the past?
- What is the history of the gallery, or of the gallery owner?
- How did he learn his profession?
- What is the philosophy of the gallery?
- Which artists can he advise the collector to purchase?
One knows when a work of art touches them. It makes your heart beat like when you see that special person you love. Or when you see a gorgeous woman and you know you want to live with her but its going to cost you a lot of money. The only question I need to ask you is if you want to put it on a credit card and if I can deliver it to you.
We are often asked what artist is up and coming, but we think a good question to ask is “What gives this artist’s work its value?” And by value we don’t just mean monetary value. We also think the collector should ask to see a body of work by an artist to get a good grounding and to be assured that such a body of work exists.
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