Artists need art dealers. That is a simple necessity for a healthy art scene. While some artists are brilliant at self-promotion, most are better off concentrating on creating, leaving the selling to a specialist.
A good dealer is much more than a kind of high-class vacuum cleaner salesperson. The best dealers are in the business because of a genuine love of art. They do have a strong influence upon what happens in local art as they help to shape the market by what they exhibit.
Much depends on their judgement and integrity as they sometimes walk the line between what they know is good and what they know is saleable – not always the same thing. I recall one artist who works quite slowly resisting the urging of his dealer to speed up production.
There are a number of local artists who are full-time professionals, but most rely on other jobs for a living. However, they still need to sell work. To be any good at art you have to work at it continuously. A growing stack of unsold work against the studio wall is a heavy disincentive to keep going and good quality art materials are expensive.
Besides, talk is cheap. Anyone can tell you that your work is great, but when they reach for their cheque book or credit card that is probably the most sincere compliment that you can get.
Dealers will generally cater for a certain style or niche of art in their gallery and should work at building up the trust and confidence of viewers interested in that style.
Here are some of the most interesting local dealer galleries and the sort of artworks you would find in them.
Black Barn, although part of the winery complex, is a fully operating, professional gallery. It was founded with the idea of bringing work from the very best of contemporary New Zealand artists to Hawke’s Bay. Their stable of nationally known artists makes impressive reading and it includes Shane Cotton, Karl Maughan, Paul Dibble, John Reynolds, Dick Frizzell and Freeman White, as well as local artists such as Martin Poppelwell. For most of the year individual artists are exhibited each month, but over winter there are changing displays from the storeroom.
Statements in Napier has a high profile location and gets more pavement traffic than the other dealer galleries. It features mainly good middle of the road, contemporary art with glassware, ceramics, jewellery and sculpture on sale as well as paintings. Artists who show there include Piera McArthur, Geoffrey Fuller, Garry Currin, Esther Smith, Francois Aires, Brent Forbes and Rosemary Mortimer. After fourteen years in the business, Statements also has the distinction of being easily the longest operating local gallery.
For many years Judith Anderson was a leading dealer in Auckland and she uses her contacts and experience to bring some of our most interesting and challenging artists to her Maraekakaho Judith Anderson Gallery. Luise Fong, Paratene Matchitt, Peter James Smith, Derryn George, Michael Smither and James Robinson are some of the sculptors and painters who show there.
Paper works Gallery is probably the least well known of this group of galleries, but it is well worth taking the flight of stairs to its first floor rooms in Tennyson St. Napier. Its stock in trade is, as the name indicates, mainly but not exclusively, works on paper … i.e. drawings, screen prints, etchings and lithographs. For the buyers this means works by leading artists at much lower prices than you might pay for paintings by these artists. The stock list is an Aladdin’s cave of contemporary New Zealand artists: Michel Tuffery, Philip Trusttum, Eion Stevens, Matt Couper, Tony de Latour, Gary Waldrom, Bill Hammond and Philippa Blair to name a few of them. You could lose hours here just browsing.
So why buy an original art work? For investment? Forget it … unless you really know what you are doing or take very good advice. The days of buying an up and coming McCahon or Hotere for a song and then cashing up years later are largely gone. If you buy wisely though, your purchase should hold or even accrue in value, which is more than you can say for a new car. But investment is a terrible reason for buying an art work.
Much more importantly, if you buy well, you will have a friend for life on your wall. Like a good friend, it will challenge and inform you, charm and entertain you and even niggle you occasionally. It will be something distinctive and individual in your home and will reward you every time you look at it.
So, go ahead, take the plunge! Go on.