There are common assumptions about gallery owners: They are trust-funders, are spawn of collectors, their parents were dealers, they have rich husbands paying for the gallery, they have to have a degree in Art History, they are not artists...
I found a recent article on ACME Gallery owner & director Robert Gunderman to be very exciting. I love hearing about the lives of other gallery dealers & the diverse avenues from where they all come. The different reasons why they get into art, etc. Here are some points about Gunderman & personal comparisons to share.
Gunderman's first gallery was funded by his parents, who were collectors. I find this endearing, as I think it is a parents' underlying responsibility to back their kids' endeavors - whether financially or just spiritually. Of course, like many grown-ups, its appeared that they were disappointed to see the unsellable installation that Gunderman installed, rather than a nice poster store with frame shop in back - something that would most likely make them back their initial investment. He notes that it was a tax-write off for his parents.
Some people feel is that the worst business to go into is art. Lucky for everyone who is involved & working so hard at it, be it artist or gallerist knows that it is a business, & there is money to be made. And just like any other business, there is plenty to claim & write off.
No one collects art in my family, but they all make things as a hobby. The first Revisited opened with $600 and was location was funded by sales and a little bit of income I had left over from working in the film industry as a set decorator. Our first year we ended flat. The second year we increased sales 15% with little investment to cover new costs. Our third year has just begun, still debt free...knock on wood!
Gunderman was in the military. His second gallery had a back room with stacks of art magazines & gun magazines. I first learned how to use guns in the film industry. Everyone should have an understanding of what has the potential to kill them. I still need to get to the range & practice - I've only shot a 35mm revolver and a few cop guns that were props.
Gunderman went to art school and is a painter. He had a show at ACME under the pseudonym, Floyd Claypool. Some people feel that artist run galleries are suspect. But there are so many kinds of galleries that you have to break it down a little more. And definitely, it is not so admired to have a vanity show of your own work at your gallery without creating some sort of angle like Gunderman did, in order to make a new statement about his own work as a painter vs. a dealer.
Gunderman feels that being an artist has given him an edge in understanding what artists mentally struggle with. It also gives him an edge in that he understands how work is made & what it entails.
No matter what business you go into, you should know about the product you are selling and the people who create them. If your personal skill is not there to make & sell the product yourself, but at least doing the research & meeting with people & visiting facilities is a must. In this case, studio visits.
Being an artist myself, I feel that I have a bit of edge as well. I have an understanding of what the work entails in terms of time & supplies as well as an understanding of how artists feel about their work & how it is represented. It helps me sell the work because I understand the mystery & can convey information to the collectors. It helps me think about the artists' needs easily because I am one of them.
The article about Robert Gunderman was from LA Times,
January 22, 2006. Online, CalendarLive. (link now broken 6/2011)