By Ed Goldman
To hear the experts tell it, this may be the best and worst time for you to open that art gallery you’ve always dreamed of owning.
At a recent panel discussion on the future of the Capitol Region arts scene, four gallery owners spoke about the state of collecting and buying art. But it came to light that only one of the owners on the panel still had her gallery. The others’ had closed—and for once, Covid-19 wasn’t the sole culprit. The market has simply stalled.
Beth Jones and Linda Jolley, co-owners of the splendid JAYJAY Gallery for two decades, closed their iconic exhibition space in 2021 after a 20-year run. Mima Begovic also closed her gallery, ArtSpace 1616. That left D. Neath, owner-founder of Archival Gallery, as the panel’s last owner standing—something she attributed in part to her having a successful on-site framing shop “that paid the rent when sales were slow,” as she put it.
The discussion, which drew an appreciative afternoon crowd to the Crocker Art Museum’s auditorium, was moderated by Scott Heckes, vice-chair of the Kingsley Art Club‘s outreach committee, the event’s organizers. Attendees included artists, collectors and, to hear some of the questions, brand-new or wanna be gallery owners.
Among the topics, the panelists offered solid advice to artists and exhibitors on how to price their art. “Stick to your pricing schedule,” Neath advised. “Don’t jack up your prices or deeply discount them suddenly. Nobody wants to buy a jacket at Nordstrom for full price one day, then see it on sale for half-off the next time they go into the store.”
Jones said that in this age of social media, “Don’t show a gallery owner everything you’re capable of all at once.” She advised that artists pick out a specialty and concentrate on that while they’re looking for representation. “It’s better to choose what you do best,” she said.
As for owning a gallery, Begovic said when she started out—she’d moved here from Bosnia-Herzegovina and had been in love with art since she was a child—weeks and months sometimes went by without her selling a single piece. She said that an owner can’t be in this business solely for the money.
Asked about how a gallery owner decides on what to carry, Jolley said that she and Jones always had an informal rule between them: “Would either of us buy the piece we were considering” for their own collection?
Consumers can also follow that rule, Neath said. “If you’re just starting to collect, go slowly. Don’t buy everything you see.” Instead, buy the one that, if you don’t, you’ll regret not having done so.
All of the panelists had high praise for the late Michael Himovitz, who owned successful galleries in downtown Sacramento, Del Paso Heights and even for a brief time, in the upscale Pavilions Shopping Center. They also encouraged those who want to go into the business to do so—whether they’re gallerists or artists, whether they rent space or end up hosting shows in their own homes or studios.
“There are still not enough venues (to sell art) in Sacramento,” said Begovic. “This is an untapped community.”