The art of relationships: art fairs, appraisal services, museum curators at Debra Force Fine Art
DEVELOPING A DIALOGUE WITH MUSEUM CURATORS AND MUSEUM BOARDS AND PLACING WORKS IN INSTITUTIONAL VENUES IS ONE OF THE GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF ONLY A HANDFUL OF GALLERIES. IT REPRESENTS AN INVESTMENT OF TIME AND SCHOLARSHIP AS WELL AS ONE OF NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS. SEVERAL CONTEMPORARY GALLERIES HAVE DIRECTORS WHO FOCUS SOLELY ON CULTIVATING MUSEUM RELATIONSHIPS FOR THEIR ARTISTS, TRAVELING ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO NEGOTIATE EXHIBITIONS AND MEETING WITH BOARDS OF MUSEUMS AND CURATORS TO PRESENT WORKS BY ARTISTS THEY REPRESENT. IT IS AN ART FORM IN AND OF ITSELF.
AS THE CHICAGO APPRAISERS ASSOCIATION NOTES:
The trick to selling to museums whether it be a large institution like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or your local historical society is scholarly research, provenance and a lot of patience. Nothing moves fast with museums. They do not have to necessarily operate on at a yearly profit, so they move at their own maddening slow pace.
IT IS A MARK OF THE QUALITY OF THE WORK AND THE EXPERTISE OF THE DEALER THAT DEBRA FORCE HAS SUCH GREAT SUCCESS IN PLACING ART WORKS IN VERY PRESTIGIOUS MUSEUMS.
TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG CONTINUES ITS DIALOG WITH DEBRA TO LEARN ABOUT THIS ASPECT OF THE ART BUSINESS.
DEBRA, THE GALLERY HAS AN EXTREMELY ACTIVE AND IMPRESSIVE TRACK RECORD OF STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH NUMEROUS MUSEUMS. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
I started out more in the museum field and have an academic background, so have always felt a special affinity for institutions. Throughout my career, I have made a point of visiting the curator or director of the art museum wherever I am traveling and have welcomed them to the gallery. At times, we’ve organized small events for museum collecting groups and patrons, including special Saturday visits to discuss American art, using our inventory as visuals. I have also spoken at various institutions and to their collecting groups, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the High Museum, etc.
I have always attempted to match works of art with the right institution and find it rewarding to do so. Museums to which we have sold works in recent times include: Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vero Beach Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Montclair Art Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among many others.
WHAT WOULD YOU DEFINE AS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SALE TO A COLLECTOR AND A SALE TO A MUSEUM?
Both are rewarding, especially if helping a client build a collection; there is a sense of pride in coming up with a theme or plan and finding works to illustrate the goal. From the museum standpoint, it is so exciting to place a work in an institution where it will be studied and admired for posterity. It is less interesting to work with clients who are mostly buying art for decorative purposes, but it can be challenging just the same.
THE GALLERY IS A REGULAR EXHIBITOR AND PARTICIPANT IN SOME VERY PRESTIGIOUS ART FAIRS. WHICH ONES DO YOU FIND THE MOST PRODUCTIVE AND WHY, IN TERMS OF ATTENDANCE, SALES AND INTRODUCING NEW COLLECTORS TO THE GALLERY?
We do a variety of art fairs to reach different audiences. The best one for traditional American art is the one called The American Art Fair (TAAF) which takes place every Nov. at the same time as the major American Paintings auctions. We have sold major works there, including ones by Martin Johnson Heade, Thomas LeClear, Thomas Hart Benton, and Oscar Bluemner. It is the only fair that extols traditional American art; no works by living artists are allowed.
Of late, because of the emphasis on art from the second half of the 20th Century and 21st Century, we have exhibited at the Seattle Art Fair in August and Art Miami in December. In both cases, we have focused upon Post-War era works as well as Modernism. These fairs give us a chance to meet new clients and to exhibit works that we do not feature in the gallery on a regular basis. We might also show works by living artists such as Wolf Kahn, Wayne Thiebaud, or Jamie Wyeth.
The Art Fair, sponsored by the ADAA in New York in March, is a favorite of ours. It also allows us to promote our 20th-century material, generally with a thematic approach such as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Armory Show of 1913, social commentary, or urban/rural landscape. We have consistently sold well at this fair, selling works by Marsden Hartley, Walt Kuhn, Charles Sheeler, Max Weber, Charles Burchfield, John Marin, and Alice Neel, among others.
We have also tried fairs in Palm Beach and Chicago as well as others in New York, always experimenting with new venues to determine where we best fit.
THE GALLERY ALSO PROVIDES LICENSED APPRAISAL SERVICES. WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL AND WHAT DO YOU PROVIDE?
I have been doing appraisals for over 30 years, beginning when I was at Christie’s. We presently provide formal insurance valuations for both private collectors and museums and assist the latter with insurance figures for exhibition loans. Over the years, we have appraised entire museum collections. We do not presently do gift tax or estate appraisals, but we do offer consultation and recommendations for clients in need of either.
THE GALLERY TAKES WORKS ON CONSIGNMENT ON OCCASION. WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA WHEN CONSIDERING A WORK OF ART FOR RESALE?
We try to find the best quality works that we can from any period of American art, beginning in the 18th Century up to about 1980.
For example, we have portraits by Benjamin West and Thomas Sully, landscapes by Jasper Cropsey and Thomas Moran, still lifes by Heade and William Harnett, genre scenes by Eastman Johnson and Winslow Homer, Ashcan works by Robert Henri, William Glackens, and Everett Shinn, Modernist pieces by Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, and Arthur Dove, Regionalist scenes by Thomas Hart Benton, and Surrealist and Magic Realist pieces by George Tooker and O. Louis Guglielmi, among others.
We attempt to find the best of any given artist and work with pieces in a variety of price ranges to accommodate clients with varying pocketbooks. Generally, most of our inventory is on consignment; it is very difficult to buy works at auction for resale, given public access to price records on the internet.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG POST, DEBRA WILL CONTINUE TO OUTLINE THE EXTENSIVE SCOPE OF SERVICES THAT THE GALLERY PROVIDES.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF THE HIGH STANDARDS THAT THE GALLERY SETS IN PROVIDING EXPERTISE IN EVERY ASPECT OF THE BUYING, EXHIBITING AND SELLING OF AMERICA ART.
UNTIL THEN, THANK YOU ALL!
NB The works illustrated in this blog are from the gallery inventory