Thursday, September 15, 2011

Visiting Gallerist Jane Sauer on Artists & Collecting

Guest blogger: Beth Downing
Gallerist Jane Sauer
Renowned Santa Fe gallerist Jane Sauer will be visiting Tulsa in early October - the Brady Craft Alliance is bringing her to Oklahoma for a set of events covering art, craft, and collecting. The events will take place on October 1st and 2nd (see below for details).

I was fortunate to talk to Jane in advance of her trip to Tulsa about some of her experiences in the art world - she has more than 30 years of experience as a highly recognized professional in art. She is known nationally by museum curators and collectors for her work as an innovative studio artist, and is often requested to serve as guest judge or curator for exhibitions. Artists and collectors throughout the country continue to seek her advice and remember her for her continuous activism in promotion of the arts.

Q: You have been both an artist and a gallerist - what would you go back and tell your artist self about working with a gallery?
A: I am surprised at how irresponsible I had been as an artist in not getting things done one time and fulfilling my responsibilities. I actually called my old dealer and asked "how did you put up with me?" Selling art in a gallery is business; there are no two ways about it. People are not purchasing art on a whim; they are much more cautious and thoughtful about what they like. The fact is, artists have to be a partner in the business of art.

The art world has changed dramatically in the last few years and images are everything. Artists have to provide the gallery with materials to sell their work and everyone wants to see good, high-quality images while they are considering a purchase.

Q: What made you decided to leap over the line from being an artist to owning a gallery?
A: I have always been interested in the business of art, but I really got my feet wet while I was Chair of the American Craft Council from 1997 to 2000. That was my training ground to understanding the bigger picture of the art world.

Q: Are artists becoming more business savvy?
A: Unfortunately, the university setting does not prepare you for the business of art. Graduates come out green and this has been true for a long time. People find different ways of living the creative life and there are many more avenues to that life because of the internet. Artists that have survived the last five years have learned to become good business partners with their galleries and their dealers.

Marketing the work is key - the days of people just walking into a gallery and choosing pieces they like is over. They do much more research.

Q: What advice would you give to an art enthusiast who wants to start purchasing and/or collecting artwork?
A: Do a lot of looking and establish what kind of work you like. Set some money aside and take time to key in on what type of work you are interested in and where you might put a piece. It's a really good thing to look before you buy and understand who carries the kind of work you like. Collecting is infectious because once you have that level of sophistication and not want to possess artwork.

Buy the piece you love. Go to local galleries and fairs and just begin. And remember that artwork can be bartered for - I know a dentist that loves are and he has put together a beautiful collection for traded services. It's a pleasure to go to his office (which is unusual for the dentist!)

Q: Do you have any memorable purchases from you began collecting? What work is on your walls now?
A: I have traded for many, many pieces of art so I have the work of my friends. I love folk art even though I don't sell it - in fact, that's one of the reasons why I collect it. I decided not to purchase any of the work from my own gallery because it can make each show less important if the gallerist continually has access to the best piece in the show. I also didn't want to show preference for one artist over another.

Q: The age-old art vs. craft argument - what is your thought?
A: If it's good art, it doesn't really matter what it's made out of. Craft is talking about process and materials and that becomes a superficial discussion - we don't argue about oil vs. acrylic. This is an argument that raises its ugly head in every generation, photography is one recent example. How artists declare themselves is how they end up situated in the art world. Painting is a craft too, it's just how you use and apply it.

Ultimately, it's not an essential debate. If it's good, it's good.

To hear more words of wisdom from Jane Sauer, be sure to see her in Tulsa on October 1st & 2nd!

October 1st
"Living With Craft"
Lecture and Cocktail Reception, 4-7 PM
Gilcrease Museum
Free and open to the public
This event will give the public an opportunity to learn all about fine craft – its definition, how modern artists are interpreting craft materials, and craft’s relationship to fine art. Jane has a unique perspective on this given her lengthy history and breadth of experience in the art world. This talk will appeal to fine craft newcomers as well as collectors wanting to learn from Jane’s expertise in the field.

October 2nd
Conversation and Brunch with Jane
Philbrook Museum, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Brady Craft Alliance Members and Donors
(to join the BCA, go to

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