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June 24, 2021 - By Joy Reed Belt

Orange Crush by Aidan Danels

Among the gifts of the summer are art festivals. One of these highly anticipated events started this week in downtown Oklahoma City. Having canceled last year’s festival due to Covid, the Oklahoma City Arts Council is expecting a great turnout this year. Art Festivals and Art Fairs are  popular, non threatening venues for purchasing art. Among their advantages, one can see a huge variety of work in a walkable space and  meet the artists. According to a recent New York Times article a friend sent me on “How to Buy Art,” most people feel alienated or intimidated when they walk into a Gallery. I can identify with that feeling as sometimes when visiting galleries around the world, I have felt intimidated. For instance, after not being greeted when I entered a New York City mega gallery outpost in Los Angeles, an employee of the Gallery walked up behind me and asked me the names of some of the artists in my personal collection. Gulp!  Over the years, as a Gallery owner, I have given a lot of thought to how to make people comfortable in our space while not overwhelming them with our presence. Typically we greet the visitor, ask if they have been to the Gallery before, if not, we make them familiar with the layout of our building and ask them to let me know when they have any questions. It’s the art that’s important, not us. When we see customers returning to a certain work of art or work of a certain artist, then we will start a conversation. When visitors come to my Gallery I want them to explore, to enjoy the art. I love it when people ask questions. Remember most gallerists are not professional salespeople, they are people who love art.


Paseo Arts Festival

So how do you identify art that you like? Where and how do you find it? And how do you actually buy it? The editor of the aforementioned “Times” article surveyed art advisors, gallery owners, directors, artists, collectors, art dealers as well as art advisory professionals by asking them, “How do you buy a work of art? Ann Schaffer, an art patron and collector, gave a one word answer, “exposure.” She said that you have to visit a lot of galleries and museum shows and meet with artists. Schaffer cautioned that you should never limit yourself to art that you think you are going to like. She believes that exposure helps one develop “an eye.” James Fuentes, a gallery owner on Delancey Street in New York, pointed out that in today’s world one doesn’t just have to pound the pavement. His gallery, like many others has a website as well as On-Line viewing rooms (O.V.R.) I can attest to the fact that it is no longer necessary to only count your customers as people who actually walk into the Gallery. Every week we sell art to customers in other cities, states, and/or countries. Thankfully, I foresee that trend continuing to grow. But when you, the buyer, have the opportunity to see the work in person...go see it! That personal connection with the actual work of art makes all the difference. When asked by the “Times” editor, “How To Buy Art,” Eleanor Cayre, an art advisor, debunks the theory I have used in my own personal collecting, “buy what you love.” She says “If you love an artist or artwork the first time, it’s probably because it reminds you of something you can’t afford.” Fuentes disagrees, “If you purchase something you love and it brings you joy, then you’ve won.” If you are having trouble identifying the art you love, or, you are totally intimidated at the thought of filling a new home with art, or, at this particular time in your life you don’t have time to visit museums and galleries, buy the time of an Interior Designer or Decorator. One of the reasons they are so knowledgeable is that they have been looking and thinking about and living with art throughout their career. Decorators can be a valuable resource and are qualified to present options for purchasing all kinds of art. Gallerists often can also fill that function. I routinely visit corporate offices and homes to gather information about the space and its occupants and make recommendations for the purchase and installation of art


Midsommar's Psychosis by Claire Dabney

There are people who feel they cannot afford to buy the art they love, so they just buy what Jerry Saltz, a prominent art critic, refers to as “Zombie Art.” You can google his article which talks against buying diluted, not very original, art that is becoming very popular. If, instead after deciding to develop your eye by seeking exposure to all kinds of art, you become interested in a particular artist whose work is not in your budget, buy their drawings or prints for the time being. Photographs make wonderful art collections and are generally less expensive than oil paintings. And don’t forget all the emerging artists out there. A few of them will be considered great artists someday. University MFA student art shows can be a revelation. In fact, next month, along with the works from Kansas City artists: Laura Nugent and Mark Hennick, our Gallery, JRB Art at The Elms is hosting an exhibit, “From Myrtle to Elm,’ by an emerging artist, Aidan Danels. That show opens on First Friday, July 2, 2021. She is currently enrolled at the Pratt Institute of Design in New York City. Aidan, who graduated from a high school in Edmond, won a scholarship to Pratt, but took Covid gap year and has been working in our Gallery for the past several months. We are going to miss when she leaves in August. Another emerging artist on the Galley’s radar is Claire Dabney who attended Oklahoma State University and just received a Student Fellowship Award from the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC).


Ed Ruscha's Exhibition at Oklahoma Contemporary

There is a lot of art to be seen this summer in Oklahoma City. Local artist, Paul Medina, is having a solo show at “Untitled,’ in downtown Oklahoma City. An excellent exhibition of one of America’s most important contemporary artists, Ed Rusha, is on view at Oklahoma Contemporary. There is a show of abstract paintings by Fritz Scholder at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Not wild about contemporary art? Head out to the Western Heritage Museum and take in this year’s Prix de West Exhibition. You can also take a “staycation” at 21 C on Film Row and experience living with interesting art from all over the world. Also, Oklahoma City is populated with many art galleries and they welcome and need your support. Remember to attend the downtown Arts Festival this week as well as the 44th annual Paseo Arts Festival, which will be held this year on September 4,5, and 6th. 

My best advice for developing an “eye” and integrating art into your life? Make it a priority. Take time to explore all the options of appreciating and acquiring art. Although art doesn’t feed the stomach, it certainly does feed and restore the soul.  

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