Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How It All Works

The single most common question people ask about the gallery is "How do you find your artists?"

It's all about serendipity and filters. That magical chance encounter with the artist and falling in love with the art is the beginning; then comes the longer filtering process. It usually takes a year from the first artist meeting to the arrival of the art shipment at the gallery. And short-cutting the filtering process is a surefire road map for disaster because it's like a divorce when artist and gallerist part company. It's a personal and intense experience for both - the artist invests so deeply in the exploration and puts it all on the line; the gallerist champions for the artist - an evangelist.

But first, serendipity. In the Summer of 2003 I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Halifax, Nova Scotia, doing what Canadians do really well - drinking, talking and laughing which quite often leads to business. Just don't approach the social activity with that as the end goal, and you'll be fine. My cousin Fred is losing a game of "who can identify the most people walking down the street" with his buddy Dave who seems to know everyone and is very quick on the draw. Dave just happens to be a stand-up comic as well as a postal carrier, so it's really not fair anyway. Between the best dog attack story and his running commentary on the state of the world, we can hardly breathe let alone blurt out "Joe!" "Sally!" "David!".

My cousin gains a point - "Aron!" Who is Aron? Oh, his mother is an artist, you gotta meet him. I immediately think lobster pots, lighthouses and seascapes and dismiss this as not quite the sort of art that I represent in San Francisco. And it's time to return to California so I don't get to meet Aron's mother yet. Back in San Francisco I look at her web site and let out a whistle. Large scale abstract paintings in luscious colors and what a resume. We talk on the phone, she sends me some tiny paintings and then enough work to do a Solo show for her in 2004.

Her name is Leya Evelyn. Her home and studio sit on the shore of a spectacular lake near Halifax. She teaches at the famous Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, has international galleries and leads an artist's life that should be the envy of many. A serious painter who works hard creating complex abstract imagery that hides personal pictures and writings beneath the surfaces of the paintings.

She keeps passing through the filters that are important to me as I review new artists: spiritual depth; intellectual capital; professionalism; consistently strong and beautiful work that keeps evolving; and strong resonance with my collectors.

This Christmas I visited a long-term friend, also Linda, in Halifax. She is restoring an exquisite colonial home on a hill overlooking the Northwest Arm of the Halifax Harbor. Looking for a dramatic touch for the new house, she jumped at the chance to make her first studio visit to see Leya's work. It just happened to be a full moon so we didn't need headlights as we drove through the forest to the silver lake - a mystical night for an adventure.

Linda has natural style and despite her insistence that she was "inexperienced" with high-end art, I noticed she quickly and instinctively chose one of the finest examples of Leya's new body of work - a brilliant orange canvas with a shocking red slash through the middle of the image, erotic and exciting and setting a new direction for the artist. Linda's aesthetic sense is matched only by her contractor and partner who loved her choice for the new dining room. He kept remarking "I was wanting squares in this house, there weren't enough squares!!!"

Gallerist, artist and collector all choosing each other to create a series of magic moments.