Brandon Brown is an art dealer at LewAllen galleries in Santa Fe. We met last summer on Canyon Road and I thought he’d be a great podcast guest to share a gallerist’s perspective.
In this episode, we discuss the role of art galleries, working with artists and collectors, and answer listeners’ questions, most notably, “How do I get to show my work in a gallery?“
Moses and Lee both have shows up at LewAllen for the next several weeks.
0:02:11 A day in the life of an art dealer
0:10:11 Brandon’s favorite artists
0:12:44 What makes a good art gallery?
0:16:25 What is the role of art galleries today?
0:21:52 What makes a good art collector?
0:25:49 What makes a good artist to work with?
0:31:00 How do I find gallery representation?
0:34:30 Artist studio visits
0:37:45 Life in Santa Fe
0:39:52 Collector demographics
0:42:07 Why is art important?
Thank you for listening! If you liked this episode, please subscribe to “Horizons by Western Gallery” and rate and review wherever you listen to podcasts.
Interview with Brandon Brown, Art Dealer
George: So how did you get into doing what you’re doing?
Brandon: So about five years ago, five years ago last month, I actually came to Santa Fe on vacation, and at the time I was an antiques dealer in Dallas. We were primarily importing architectural antiques from India, Western Africa, Central Asia, and textiles. I came to visit and I fell in love with the city, and realized I could work pretty quickly, so I just stuck around. I’m recently new to LewAllen in December, and prior to that I was the director of Victory Contemporary—was McLarry Modern—where we met, actually.
Then I worked at Shidoni, the art foundry here in Tesuque, for probably about six months just to get my feet wet, and then slowed moved up in the business.
George: So can you kind of walk me through a typical day for yourself?
Brandon: Yeah, we generally get in about 10:00 in the morning, return emails, and just do housekeeping sort of things, followed by a sales meeting generally once a week, where we discuss our upcoming shows, any artist that we feel like we’re a little lacking knowledge on. We just sit in a circle and talk to each other, and go over the work; historical aspects of it, the visual aspects of it, the importance of the artist and the work as a relationship to art as a whole. It’s a great experience because you’re working with seasoned sales people and unique individuals that each have a different perspective on the work itself or the artist itself.
George: Yeah, that’s cool. That sounds like a nice way to have some built in art history and relevance into your life.
Brandon: Absolutely. It’s invaluable resource, and then we bounce ideas off of each other. We talk about what’s going on as far as pending sales, clients that we’re working with, projects that we’re on, and then we just go out onto the floor and either educate our walk-in clients, work with our long distance clients … So it’s basically juggling as many balls in the air as you can, and seeing if you can get those balls in the right place.
George: So forgetting … To keep going with that metaphor, to get the balls in the right place, what’s your approach of matching collectors or would be collectors with pieces?
Brandon: Yeah, it’s definitely a personalized approach. Each situation, each client is a unique challenge. People who are looking for a certain look, a certain size, a certain artist, and it’s our goal to find them the right piece; not just any piece, but the right piece that works for their collection, to help mature their collection. We’re not a fly by night company, we’re here for a long term relationship, and sometimes finding that right piece does take time and quite a bit of energy if we don’t have it in the inventory, whether it be secondary market, acquisitions, or even commissions for some of our artists. Sometimes we do have it in the inventory and it just works out easily, most of the time not. Sometimes I get fortunate enough; somebody will walk in and just fall in love with a piece, and it’s an easy deal. It’s almost an impulse buy which I like, because it’s an automatic response to artwork. That’s always amazing to see.
George: Is most of the clientele that comes through would you classify as tourism?
Brandon: Yeah, I think we are a destination for art purchasing. I’ve been told that we’re the second or third largest market outside of New York depending on who you ask, as far as sales go, and I definitely do believe that. I think there’s a population that just comes to Santa Fe to shop for art.
George: That’s right, yeah, so it’s different than people just going on vacation and being like, “Oh, let’s get a painting.” A lot of the people that come to Santa Fe come with the intention of looking at art and purchasing-
Brandon: Correct, I would say most do. We do get those people that do come and fall in love with the city, and want to have a reminder of that trip and the memories made with that. I think art is a totally reasonable purchase to sort of keep that in the mind of the collector.
George: So I was going to ask you about comparing Santa Fe to other gallery experiences, but I guess since you were doing antiques in Dallas I don’t know if that applies.
Brandon: We were definitely in the design district so we were in the area where there were art galleries, and our actual business was set up as a showroom and as a high end display. Essentially it was a gallery, but that market was different in that it was not quite a destination for arts, it was more custom home building, interior design, trade work. Not to say we don’t do that here, ;cause we do work with the buyers quite a bit, but that was more focused in the Dallas business.
George: Gotcha, okay. How big of a gallery … I know physically, LewAllen is a big place between there and the rail yard. What size gallery would you say it is, like-
Brandon: I would say that we are one of the largest in New Mexico, most definitely. We carry probably 25 living artists on our roster but handle estates of some prominent artists as well. I think we’re one of the big dogs.
Brandon: LewAllen is actually a really interesting business in that we’re probably one of the oldest galleries in Santa Fe in particular. We started out as the Elaine Horwitch gallery many, many years ago, and have kept that tradition going of contemporary Western, contemporary art in general. Now our focus is what I would consider to be on classic contemporary; there’s a long history here.
George: How would you describe classic contemporary?
Brandon: Classical contemporary would be a timeless aesthetic of living artists, of new work, and I don’t want to pigeon hole our philosophy into it but we want to embrace that thread of classic art conveyed in new ways, conveyed in a contemporary setting. Materials-
George: Mostly in relation to medium, like painting, sculptures-
Brandon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
George: -installation, video, performance …
Brandon: We have not burgeoned into that market yet, I’m not sure if we will ’cause we do want to maintain that classic aspect of … Which I think can be achieved, it just takes a really particular artist that maybe we haven’t found yet.
George: Okay, interesting.
Brandon: We do have an amazing year coming up as far as programming here. This next week we’re going to be having a 50 year survey by the New Mexican artist Forrest Moses; long time leader in New Mexican artwork, and he would be one of the artists that I would definitely consider classic contemporary. We’re going to be celebrating his 85th birthday which is most amazing, and Forrest is a really interesting character. He moved out of here in 1969, sort of when that first wave of mid-century artists that moved out here. Obviously, feel in love with the environment, the landscape, the atmosphere, the color. The light was very important to him. Even though he traveled and painted across the United States, this was definitely his home which you could see throughout his paintings of his 50 year career.
George: Yeah, I love his stuff. My dad turned me on to him-
Brandon: Same, actually. My dad was a big Forrest Moses fan and still is to this day. Unfortunately, Moses hasn’t painted a full show since 2012, so this show is going to be supplemented. We’re honored for it to be supplemented by Forrest’s lifelong friend, the former director of the Santa Fe opera, Charles MacKay. It’s going to span the entire body of work that he’s produced, whether it be monotypes that he was famous for in the 90s all the way up to this last movement that he had in the early ’10s, 2012 in particular.
George: That would be really cool.
Brandon: Yeah, it should be a fun show, and he is a very big name out here so it should be a great turnout. We’re excited for it. I’m not sure … you are familiar with his work so I don’t have to tell you, but I would say that he’s one of the most important living landscape painters in the United States coming from that realm of Monet, and even some elements of Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell … He was very influenced by all these major ab-ex movements in the 50s. It retains that landscape aesthetic.
George: Yeah, you can see it being like an abstract expressionist landscape, just a perfect mix.
George: That’ll be a great show. That’s the 26th of April through-
Brandon: It’ll run through June 15th.
George: June 15th, cool. So talking about Forrest Moses and artists that we like, who are some of your favorite artists? Not necessarily constrained to artists that you’re helping to represent at LewAllen.
Brandon: Sure, sure. I’m personally a fan of the ab-ex movement in art as well. New York in the 50s was really an interesting time for me personally, where that switch that was flipped from more traditional painting to … being far out, at the time of the …
George: I wanted to clarify ’cause we don’t have video here that … The way you said that made it sound like you were alive then.
George: I don’t think that was the case.
Brandon: Sometimes I feel like I was, but no I was not. Historically through reading, and just by the visual image. I was fortunate enough to be at The Met last week, and just walking into that modern wing blew me away, just blew me away. What’s great about being at the Met is you go from a very traditional gallery directly into this modern movement, and you can see the actual shift of thought behind the art quite rapidly. It’s almost a dichotomy that exists between the work.
Brandon: That’s stuff that I’m personally fond of, but I do love contemporary Western quite a bit. I love Fritz Scholder’s work and I think he was an incredible artist. He was the first one to cast out that image of the Native American as a noble savage and sort of portrayed them in a light of their real world, which up until that point I wasn’t aware of anybody who was making that statement. We’re also fortunate enough to handle the estates of Fritz Scholder, so I’m privy to quite a bit of work that even hasn’t come to market. We’ll be actually having a show for him August 30th as well; sort of a retrospective of unseen work form the estate and secondary market work as well.
George: I like his stuff, my sister is a big fan of his. I’ll tell her about that, cool.
Brandon: Then I personally collect a little bit of Scholder. I like Jean Smith as well, I own a couple of pieces by her, so definitely contemporary Native American artists. Being in Santa Fe is such a mecca for that type of work as well so I consider myself fortunate to be exposed to it, not only at work but just being around town. The museums are filled with it here, and I feel lucky to get to encounter it in my daily life.
George: It seems like it’s just ever present, kind of, in Santa Fe.
Brandon: It is, it is.
George: Okay, so we’ve been talking about shows at the gallery too. In your opinion, what makes a good art gallery? I realize it’s kind of a big question, but-
Brandon: That’s a great question. I think having a roster of artists that are relevant and important is the first step. I think having a space where you can show that work in the correct manner … We’re lucky here at LewAllen to have a rather large gallery and it gives the work a chance to breathe, to speak by itself essentially. Even though you’re surrounded in a large room by other works, we do have it set up to where you can engage that in more of an intimate way, without the distractions that some of the other galleries have.
Brandon: I think a sales staff is very important; you want a sales person who is going to educate and nurture that relationship. We offer a very personalized service here, whether it be going to help install what they currently have, or help them sell their work on the secondary market. We act as a facilitator in many different aspects, not just selling the art. We do a large amount of research for our clients; if they’re looking at a piece that’s being sold at auction, giving them auction records, how the market trends have been doing. We do consider ourselves a full service sales team, not just for selling but for curating collections. Gearing our clients in what we feel is the right direction, and ultimately selling them to be happy, to find their happiness and find that piece that they’ve been wanting for their collection.
Brandon: We are so fortunate enough to have a wonderful advertising marketing department, which makes everything run smoothly. We have a great prepare tour as well to where our logistics get managed correctly … Sorry. There’s nothing worse than selling a piece to have it be lost in transit. We really strive to have a positive experience from the moment they contact us, whether it be on the floor or through digital means, all the way until that piece is in their home and for years to come. We want them to enjoy that work for a lifetime, so I think that’s definitely important. I think having a good ownership is important, somebody who nurtures not only the artist that they represent or we represent, but being an employee here, I think it’s important that there’s ownership that understand the needs and how to nurture that relationship; of the sales team, of the marketing team, of the executive team, all of those.
Brandon: I think that Ken and Bob have done a great job here; that’s Ken Marvel and Bob Gardener. They really foster a really wonderful environment here, they support creativity on the business end, and they’re not afraid to experiment which I think is very important for a gallery today, especially with all the change that’s happening in the art market. With Meow Wolf here, in particular, it’s turning into an immersion experience, so we want our gallery to be an experience as well; a feast for the eyes, a feast for the brain, and a feast for the soul.
George: Wow, that was a good answer.
Brandon: Don’t know where that one came from, to be honest with you.
George: Well, it sounded like you were just describing where you work, and you like it there.
Brandon: Oh, I love it, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. It’s a beautiful city, I’m surrounded by beautiful works of art and beautiful people that I get to work with.
George: So you were talking about Ken and Bob being open to change and the market changing a little bit, being more experiential for example. I asked some of the Instagram followers to send me some questions for you, and all of them had one question in common which I’ll ask you later. @veiloftherose asked me, or wanted to ask you, “What is the main purpose of a gallery these days?” Then his question got kind of cut off or something, but I think what he was asking was what is the main purpose of a gallery these days when so much can happen through the internet?
Brandon: Sure, that’s a great question and a great challenge that we face every day. I think a good gallery is going to give you education, a personalized experience. Art is a tactile business for the most part. We do have the rare opportunities to sell online, but I think that we do better when we are face to face with the clientele.
George: And also to agree with you there, even if the whole transaction occurs online, if it’s a physical piece of art, it’s tactile upon receipt and installation. That’s the ultimate experience., right?
Brandon: Absolutely. We do see our sales increasing online, but we are generally heavy in a personalized service. I’ll call it face to face. You can actually go up and get as close to the painting as you want, to feel the texture if you want, just to experience that connection to a piece. I think online is great and I think it’s great for exposure, but nothing is going to replace that experience of you being with the piece in person. It’s a different industry in that … I think more people are reluctant to buy $50,000 painting with sight unseen. It does happen, it really does quite often actually, and it sort of amazes me, but nothing is going to compete with that experience of seeing that piece in person.
Brandon: So what we do is we are heavy on marketing, so it’s our job to get these artists’ work in front of eyes and do it in a way where it elicits a positive response. We are heavy on internet marketing, we have a comprehensive website that we do run a business off of. We are on one of the art marketplaces; we don’t sell through it, I think it’s artnet … Yeah, that’s a great way of getting the work in front of eyes.
Brandon: Another thing about the in person sales process is you get an education by talking with a human being. We’re having a conversation right now, and a lot of the times it’s just a conversation about art is our method to sell. Using what we know and listening to our clients, their needs and their wants, and curating that down for them; not only just the artwork itself, but curating that experience, curating answers to their questions, and solutions to their problems.
George: Earlier you were talking about helping a client to build their collection. How’s that happen? Do you get to … For example, with a client you haven’t worked with before, do you go and kind of look at the art they have, take that back and research, and then bring some different directions to them?
Brandon: We do, and that’s also a learning experience for us. Listening to what they have, what catches their eye, finding these common themes whether it be visually or aesthetically through the feeling of a painting, what sort of images attract their eye; it’s basically that. We’re educating each other; we’re educating them on the artist that we represent, they’re educating us on what their wants and needs are. It’s sort of a combination of those two things which creates that relationship, and our end goal is wanting to be trusted by our clients. We want them to have the strongest collection, and as far as what makes a good collection I think it’s pretty easy. It’s whatever makes our clients respond. This is a soulful experience, it’s a soulful purchase. These items are going to be living in their homes for probably a lifetime, and some of them will be passed on to their kids, to their children. These things should be things that our clients love and want to share with their family and their friends in the most important place in their life, and that’s generally their homes.
George: Yeah, that’s something that has always stood out to me, is how much … When you put a painting on your wall, right, and you see it every day, that’s just a lot of attention that you’re giving something over the number of years that you’re going to be doing that.
Brandon: It’s a commitment, it really is. We want them to have the best that they can have, so they continue to enjoy it, continue to see new things, to be continually stimulated by that work.
George: Yeah, and there’s no reason people can’t, and I’m sure they do, change out what they’re looking at regularly, but especially I think for a lot of middle market people, they’re going to have the sort of expensive painting that’s not going to get switched out a whole lot.
Brandon: Right. It’s nice to have a well rounded collection, I think anyway, and that focus is usually around a particular artist, a particular style, particular genre. But you can find clients who are wiling to experiment, to try something new, which is always fun. It keeps everything fresh and exciting, not only for us but for the client themselves, and may turn them on to an artist that they had never heard of who does non-traditional work, that maybe they haven’t seen before or experienced before. Watching them fall in love, make that commitment to purchase, and having it in their collection is one of the best feelings that you can have as an art sales person.
George: That’s cool. Okay, so we’ve been talking about what makes a good collection. What makes a good collector?
Brandon: That’s a great question. I think there’s all sorts of types of collectors. I would try not to label them as good or bad, but some of the collectors we see would be somebody looking to have the best collection of a certain type of work, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. I’m really looking for, in a relationship with my clients, is one where there is true joy; joy happening through the collecting process, people who really do engage in that work every time they see it.
Brandon: It’s so much easier when people are having that positive response, and I feel that’s the most rewarding for me as well. I don’t necessarily want the guy who will stop at anything … every piece done by a certain artist or a certain period. I like working with that middle market that you spoke of earlier, helping them with their … Newer collectors I like to work with as well; walking them through the process, and again extending that education further.
Brandon: But in the end, I think a collector who really engages with the work, really understands the work, and who responds to the work is going to be the best collector. That usually makes up the best collection; buying what you love, not for a monetary value. We can’t predict what’s going to happen in the market, we don’t know, so I think it’s people that buy because they love the piece, that I enjoy working with the most.
George: I always think that’s the reason that people need to buy a piece, right?
Brandon: For sure.
George: I mean, there’s definitely a monetary aspect to it in thinking about buying a piece because it may appreciate. I think that’s obviously not a good way to … Don’t consider it an investment.
Brandon: It’s only a small percentage that appreciates at a rate anyway, but I really like working with the people who value the work through joy.
George: Oh, definitely. I was just thinking that there is a financial point that does come into play, which is as an artist is emerging and their work is appreciating, it kind of creates the urgency because the painting that you can now afford to buy and have in your collection, next summer you might not be able to.
Brandon: For sure, and that does happen. One of the oldest stories I hear working on the floor, is I’ll have a couple come in or a person come in and they’ll see the price tag on an artist that they’ve been following for X amount of years. Their comment is, “Oh, I should have bought this back in such-and-such.” One of the most common things that I hear being on the sales floor, and I think there is an actual urgency to that in some situations. Prime example for us; our youngest artist on roster is a wonderful plain air painter named Jivan Lee. Watching his prices move this last year is quite amazing and I think well deserved for him. He’s a very, very, very strong artist and is continuing to experiment, expand in his work, and so it’s nice to see an artist’s price go up. That shows that the work is continually good, and sells. There is a monetary aspect; we’re here to make money as well, we have to keep-
George: Yeah, got to keep the lights on, got to feed families, and continue to promote the art of artists you feel need to be promoted.
Brandon: It’s a really amazing business. This business is built on relationships; relationships that we have with our clients, the relationships that we have with our artists. There’s mutual trust that’s involved in both of those relationships, which is really a fun thing to be working in, to develop those relationships and continue relationships.
George: So kind of along the lines of the last question, what makes a good artist to work with?
Brandon: I mean, I’m truly fortunate to have had a wonderful experience with every single artist we represent here, and I think that’s probably by design from ownership. I think being invested in the relationship that we’re in is important. We want to have new work, we want to have enough work for a strong show. We want to have trust from our artists that we’re going to do right by them to promote them, to market them, to get that work in front of the public’s eyes, in front of the collectors’ eyes. You know, ego is something that does exist in the art market-
George: You don’t say?
Brandon: Yeah, I know, shocker. But being open to having a balanced relationship, I think is something that makes a good artist to work with. The relationship between gallery and artist is a long one, and one that was filled with goods and bads. It goes back to one of the questions … It was your question regarding why take the gallery route instead of a self-run internet business, or why be involved a gallery to begin with. There’s positives from both ends of those relationships. We’re going to be able to maintain a destination where people are going to come specifically to look at art, and we do it in such a manner … I think we do a great job of displaying, presenting the work, showing how important it is by our environment.
Brandon: A lot of artists that I’ve known personally didn’t realize how much work it takes to sell a painting. They may be a phenomenal artist, but they don’t have necessarily the business acumen to make sure that their works get seen by the correct people in order to maintain that career. You can be an amazing artist, you can show it on Instagram, but if you don’t know how to run a business behind it you’re going to have problems down the road. I think it almost legitimizes some of the work as well; to be included in our really strong roster, which I feel like we have here, gives a credibility to the work in some cases. I think it’s an interesting relationship between galleries and artists. It may be a source of contention to where the artist thinks that they can sell it by themselves, but in my experience we offer services for both artists and collectors that an artist can’t do by themselves.
George: Yeah, I mean-
Brandon: They should be working, they should be painting, doing what they do, and we afford that to them where they don’t have to worry about it. We’ll take care of all of that for them so they can work.
George: Exactly, yeah. Well, I don’t know. I think for some people, maybe this is just the right storm for commercial artists to be able to manage their own DIY, Instagram business, selling prints for a while. Maybe that’s one way an emerging artist can become noticed.
Brandon: Absolutely, and I think Instagram is a great tool for that. I personally follow … I don’t know, 50, maybe 75 artists that I like to watch. It’s a great platform; I just don’t know if it’s all encompassing. Once you get to a certain point as an artist, you have to weigh your cost benefit versus time working.
George: Exactly, that’s always something that is good to pay attention to, so you aren’t just spinning your wheels.
Brandon: Exactly, we want to sell people’s work. Right now, I don’t think there’s an artist on our roster that we’re not behind 100%, and to have that support as an artist nurtures that relationship and maybe satisfies some of that need, or helps with some of the insecurities that artists sometimes have.
George: Right, it’s a very vulnerable profession.
Brandon: Very much so. Putting your soul on the line for people to view and sometimes criticize is quite an amazing thing. There’s a fragility to most of the artists that we work with because it is truly their soul being put out into the world, and you don’t know how people are going to respond, especially if it’s something new or something different, or a change. We’re there to sort of nurture them through that.
George: This kind of maybe leads into that a little bit. The question that was kind of unanimous, that the people who replied to my Instagram story … What do you look for when you’re deciding to represent an artist who’s just starting out? How does one generally get their work shown in a gallery? What advice do you have for up and coming artists to get represented for the first time, etc etc? Everybody wants to know how to get into the gallery.
Brandon: We’re in a unique position where we actually don’t take submissions. We are actually very active in scouting and watching artist as their career progresses, and I think we’re unique in that way. Some of the other galleries that I’ve worked with, I would encourage submissions all the time. My advice to an artist who is looking for representation would … Put the leather on the concrete and go find a gallery that fits your aesthetics, fits your sensibilities, a roster that supplements your work that’s in the same feel, like minded individuals. It’s going to be a working relationship but it’s a relationship nonetheless, and it has to be like any other personal relationship you have.
Brandon: I think you have to like the people that you work with, like their philosophy, and finding the right fit. I think a lot of artists will just go out and … They’ll go out and just submit their work to any old gallery, and I think that’s a fatal flaw. You want to have something that makes sense visually, personally, philosophically. That’s not to say that every artist needs to be in a gallery. I think there’s a definite space for artists that want to do art fairs. I think there’s some amazing artists out there that make a wonderful living on their own terms. There’s less of a requirement to fill a show, less of a commitment even.
Brandon: Monetarily speaking, you can take home all that money yourself. The gallery does take their share for the work that they do, and as an emerging artist I don’t know if that makes sense financially. I think there are cases that it does work quite well. That would be my advice though, to find the place that you fit in with and not to force it. If you’re not finding the right gallery, maybe explore yourself by representing yourself at an art fair or art show.
George: That’s a good idea. To figure out who-
Brandon: Yeah, the goal is to have your work viewed, and you have to find out personally which method is going to work best for you, whether it be Instagram, art shows, or in a gallery setting. With the gallery, we’re lucky because we sort of fall into all three of those categories. We have the gallery space, we have the online presence, we have social media, and on occasion we do participate in art fairs. I think that’s another reason why the galleries exist in the first place.
George: What are some of the art fairs that you all participate in sometimes?
Brandon: This last year we did Art Palm Springs. It’s a large financial commitment, and we were fortunate enough to have good success being a destination. We don’t have to make that financial risk, to go out to a fair and put that investment in. That investment is on the line, we don’t know what the market’s going to be like. In the past we’ve done several different art fairs, but it’s definitely not our main focus. Our main focus is here, and in our clients’ homes is where we do quite a bit of the selling.
George: That was a good answer, good job.
Brandon: Thank you.
George: You’re doing great. Okay, I think I went down that road all the way, pretty much. So before, we were corresponding over email. You mentioned taking some clients on a studio visit?
George: Is that something that you guys do frequently and can you tell me what that’s like?
Brandon: Yeah we do, and it’s something I personally love to do. I love going out to the space where the work is created, and I would hedge my bets and say that every single person that purchases a piece would love an opportunity to go see where the piece was made, to meet the personality, to meet that person. Yeah, so that visit we ended up doing when I was speaking with you was a wonderful experience. We had gone out to Galisteo to do some work, and the people ended up buying probably the most important piece that this artist has produced. I think it made an experience that they’re going to remember forever, and it’s going to be a supplemental experience that is attached to that work they’re going to live with for the rest of their life. It’s fun, and that’s the name of the game is to have fun and make a little bit of money. Just having those experiences are invaluable to me.
Brandon: We love taking our clients out to meet our artists; it’s a whole new experience. Greater understanding, greater education of where that art is coming from, since artists are interesting people. Fascinating individuals and characters, unbelievable characters, unbelievable stories. Our current roster is a semblance of older demographics, so some of those stories that these older guys have are just incredible, and most of them are from this region where it was such a hub for historical art. Everybody has an Agnus Martin story, or a story about any other major artist here. Georgia O’Keeffe, whoever it might be, so it’s always fun to hear those stories firsthand and get some historical context. You know, artists are people too; they have amazing relationships, and you notice the continuation of that when we get to take them out to the space.
George: Yeah, it seems like that would be a really cool thing for collectors to be able to go visit it and see where the magic happens, all that kind of stuff.
Brandon: Absolutely, and it’s something that we will try to always make happen if somebody does show an interest in that. We’ll try our best to make it work, and our artists are so wonderful. They’ve been nothing but inviting out to our collectors, and again it’s another aspect of that relationship, of relationship to collector not just through the gallery. It’s sort of facilitated by the gallery, but it’s a true connection between the artist and the collector.
George: Are there any artists that you would not recommend going on a studio visit with them?
Brandon: Several of them. No, everybody that we have is great. Some of the artists are using materials that I wouldn’t want to hang around too long with … No, but everybody that we have here is great, and I would not hesitate, A. Having them over to my house, and vice versa. We’re all friends here. I feel so fortunate to work in an environment like that.
George: That’s cool.
Brandon: Yeah, it’s an amazing experience.
George: Awesome. That was kind of a joke question. You mentioned having artists over to your house; can you talk to me a little bit about life in Santa Fe?
Brandon: Yeah, life in Santa Fe is wonderful. If you’re a person who likes art and the outdoors, I don’t know that there’s a better place to live. It’s a beautiful little town; it is little, but it’s amazing how much cultural experience exists in a town of 80,000 or however many there are. Also keep in mind that it’s a town that doubles in size every summer.
George: Yeah, I was going to say, how many people are there in the summer? Twice as many people?
Brandon: I would guess 150,000 at any given time but it truly does double, and what makes it fun to work in a tourist or hospitality based town is you get visitors from all over the world. We’re giving them our culture and they’re giving us theirs, so a give and take. It’s a very interesting town, there’s always stuff to do. Anything that you want to do I think you can find in Santa Fe, but it is small. Coming from Dallas it’s been a transition, but I wouldn’t trade it for almost any city that I’ve previously lived in.
George: I feel like Dallas is too big.
Brandon: It’s huge, it’s a monster.
George: Lots of driving.
Brandon: Here, you know your neighbors, and the art community is a pretty tight knit one. We know people that we work with even if we don’t work with them in the same building. It is a small town, and it gives you the opportunity to feel like a really rich community.
George: Yeah, I think a smaller town like that gives you more opportunity to have just the proximity for creative community to-
Brandon: Most definitely.
George: -grow and thrive.
Brandon: It’s a town that’s known for being on the higher end of the age bracket, but I think with opportunities like Meow Wolf that it’s drawing a younger crowd which gives it some more energy. I think probably five years ago when I moved out here it was a little bit stagnant, but with the success of Meow Wolf and similar projects there’s bit sort of a shot in the arm for this younger blood, this new energy. We’re attracting a younger visitor base which is exciting for a sleepy little mountain town.
George: That reminds me, I was going to ask about demographics of collectors. Do you see younger collectors coming in?
Brandon: I wouldn’t hesitate saying that the market is changing with millennials and their purchasing habits, and that is going to be a very, very important challenge that the gallery has to address. What I’ve seen, and maybe I’m even part of it, but we’re looking at a demographic that is more experience driven. They want to pay for an experience, not necessarily a material object. But that being said, on the flip side we had a Picasso show this last month and one of the collectors was a 30 year old making his first art purchases. There were two Picassos, so I would say that’s few and far between. But it shows that there are people that are still interested in collecting, that are of that younger age. It’s going to be the gallery’s job to nurture that demographic, and to educate them on not only the art itself but the importance of having a collection. It is actually an experience, just in a different way.
George: Right, and you were mentioning that … We’re describing buying art as a tactile experience; that’s the key word there, is experience. That’s something that’s really interesting to me, I guess, is how the industry is changing to adapt to that and wondering if the younger demographic does find the same kind of value in the physical piece that an artist has poured their soul into, or if they just want to download it and then change it every day.
Brandon: Right. I’m guilty of doing both, I’m on both sides of that. I do have a collection and I probably wouldn’t if I wasn’t in the business, due to the extent that I do currently have. But I take joy from the pieces that I own, and that’s an experience to me. If I can convey that experience to another young collector, I’m doing my job because it really is not only purchasing the art, but learning about the artist, meeting the artist at a studio visit. Those are the experiences, and then seeing that piece and engaging that piece every day is also an experience, and an important one at that.
George: Right, and … All right, I have my ideas about how that’s important, but can you expound on that for me? How is a … Here’s a huge question; how is having a relationship with art an important experience?
Brandon: That is an enormous question. We want to have full, rich lives, right?
George: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brandon: As a culture right now, we’re so engaged in the electronic medium, our cell phones. I do feel like, as a culture, we are losing a little bit of that richness by focusing so much on these technologies, and not to this old fashioned trade of somebody putting their soul onto a canvas. I do feel like it is an important thing to experience to have a full, rich, well rounded life. I don’t know if that answers the question, but those are a couple of thoughts on it, anyway.
George: It is a big question, and I think that … What made me think of that question is thinking about how is me staring at a painting … How does that improve my life, or make me relate to the world better, or how does that benefit humanity, kind of thing?
Brandon: Who would be one of your favorite artists?
George: Oh, let’s go with Jivan Lee, I really enjoy his work.
Brandon: Okay, so I think … Let’s see, let’s take Jivan’s work. I think understanding the process in itself, and to see somebody going outside to paint and interpreting that world of nature, so art can go back to nature in that aspect. Nature is so important for a human being, and if you can’t be in New Mexico and have the ability to go up to the mountain, you can experience nature and that harmony with nature by looking at the painting.
George: That’s the case for me, that’s one of the reasons I really enjoy it right now. Living in suburban Dallas is … There’s not a lot to look at.
Brandon: There’s not, so that goes back to that experience thing. Whether it be travel and if you’re limited in your ability to travel, this is kind of a way to experience that just by looking at a painting, which is quite incredible.
George: Another thing that occurred to me as you were talking about Jivan, his obvious dedication to standing out there in a snowstorm. Putting it down on a four foot by eight foot canvas, or group of canvases, is just crazy.
Brandon: It’s incredible.
George: But it’s inspiring to see somebody have that kind of dedication to doing that.
Brandon: Absolutely, and it’s very enriching for us to see him have the success that he’s had, because it’s great to see it come to somebody who is deserving. To have that dedication like you said, it is amazing. He’s a young man too; he could just as easily stay at home and play on his cell phone or whatever it is, but he’s out there in the elements experiencing nature, and documenting nature for the enjoyment of others which is a noble profession, in my opinion.
George: Yeah. All right Brandon, I know you’ve got some calls to return.
Brandon: I do. George, thank you so much. This has been fun.
George: Yeah, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Brandon: Good to see you.
George: You too, enjoy it.
Brandon: All right, bye-bye.
George: All right, bye-bye.