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"The Independent Artist"
Issue IV, October 2008

The Art of Everyday Joe

Collectors Forum: An Interview with Ann Clark Priftis
Ann Clark Priftis is President of Clark Priftis Art LLC. Shes an art dealer who resides in New York City and Baltimore, Maryland. Her career includes stints at private galleries in Manhattan, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. . . . I had a great email chat with her. Here it is . . .

MICHAEL: First of all, I remember when we first met during your days at the Agora Gallery in New York City. One of the reasons why I love that gallery is because it really focuses on emerging artists from around the world. Do you also love emerging art or do you prefer some other genre?

ANN: While I deal in a wide variety of workeverything from Barye to Picasso, emerging artists can be the most exciting genre to work with. I think every art dealer and collector dreams of finding the next big thingthat artist whose work is discovered in a random warehouse somewhere, still selling for $500. With the advent of the internet and sites like myspace [MySpace.com], truly undiscovered talent is becoming increasingly scarce. If an artist has not been discovered by someone in the industry yet, they simply set up their own website and introduce themselves to the community. What I loe about emerging artists is the freshness they bring to their work . . . the different ways in which up-and-coming artists attempt to push the boundaries of art, the creative methods of using different mediums and the unique interpretations of old subject matter. Emerging artists challenge us to re-visit familiar topics and themes, but to view them with fresh eyes. In this way, they serve an important purposeto keep us thinking, on our toes, and visually challenged. They break us of our visual complacency that easily sets in in this world where we are bombarded by visual imagery.

MICHAEL: Thats so true. How did you become an art dealer? Was it something you dreamed of growing up?

ANN: Not at all. Both my parents were graphic designers in Manhattanthe pre-computer era of graphic design. My fathers cubicle mate was Romare Bearden and his former boss was Arthur Sackler . . . so I guess you can say I grew up in the art environment. I loved to draw, but never considered myself good enough to make a living at it. I always wanted to be a filmmaker or a doctor! When I took an art history course my senior year in high school, it dawned on me that theres a whole other side to fine art besides creating it yourself. When I went to college, I was introduced to the business aspect of art and loved it even more. Between the history and the business, I realized there was something I could do professionally with art where I would not have to be an artist myself. Ever since that first class, Ive been fascinated with the art economy, auctions, movements and periods in art . . . it all ties into being an art dealer and appraiser.

MICHAEL: As an art dealer, how are you coping with the internet? As you know, lots of artists are now bypassing gallery representation and maketing themselves through their own websites.

ANN: While the internet has made artwork more accessible to the mainstream, it hasnt replaced the role of the art dealer as a trusted advisor to both artists and collectors. There seems to be a price limit on what collectors will spend on a piece they purchase online. While some feel comfortable enough to purchase a low- to moderately-priced piece here or there, true collectors are hesitant and the pieces they are looking for are usually unknown to the or unavailable via websites. There is still no substitute for seeing a piece in person. Remember, with the increased use of the internet, people have become creative with Photoshop and other programs that can drastically change the look of an artwork. From the artists standpoint, a website is a good supplemental toolit is an additional portfolio in a way for clients who may be too far away to visit or for pieces that are too large to easily transport. However, the artist still needs to secure these clients first. Simply having one of a million artist-created websites does not give you much of an advantage in

the sale of the actual work. It is only if that website is leveraged as a marketing tool that the site can contribute to the artists success.

MICHAEL: Ann, Ive talked with some seasoned collectors who say they continue to be somewhat intimidated by galleries and the whole gallery atmosphere. Lets face it, many people think that art is only for the rich. The snobbish reputation among some in the art world doesnt help. What can galleries do to address this issue?

ANN: You bring up a good point here Michael, and heres the issue: the world likes to maintain a certain air of mystery about it. Insiders want fine art to remain mysterious, highbrow, and elitist. At the same time, smart galleries and dealers know that the art world must be accessible to people in order to insure its future. My philosophy on this is to educate the masses. The
art to remain mysterious, highbrow, and elitist. At the same time, smart galleries and dealers know that the art world must be accessible to people in order to insure its future. My philosophy on this is to educate the masses. The more educated a client or potential client is, the more valuable an assett they are to the dealer . . . and of course, the client feels more at ease with his/her decision. People need to know more about how to collect art, where to look for art, and what to look for in a quality piece. Teaching people is not giving away trade secrets, its simply giving them the basics to reach a comfort level where they will consider purchasing. I teach classes as often as I can on basics of art collecting, appraisals, and artist representation. These classes work to my advantage because the consumer starts to understand what not to look for in so-called art professionals. In regards to snobbish gallery employees and owners . . . I tell my clients this: Ive yet to meet a gallerist who does not enjoy talking about him/herself or his artwork. Ask them questions. If for some reason they do not speak with you frankly, I would be suspicious of their merchandise and opposed to giving them my business.

MICHAEL: Okay Ann, heres a tricky question. It seems to me that with every new generation, society should grow wiser, and for lack of a better word, better. Do you think living artists today are better than their predecessors? Assuming that they dont directly copy the past, todays artists really do have a great foundation to build upon.

ANN: I think that artists living today have different resources at their disposal than artists of other generations. If they are smart and creative, they will use some of these resources to push the boundaries of their art. What I think is interesting about the question you posed is the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Amazing similarities exist between modern artists and their predecessors. Every time an archaeologist discovers a new cave painting or a piece of a Grecian vase, we are taken aback by the artists level of sophistication and the similarities of form and design. I do not think living artists are better, just different. What I wonder about is years from now, what will this generation of artists be known for, who will be the real stand-out artists and what will this era in art be responsible for conceiving, idea-wise? Are there really any art movements happening? Any ground-breaking ideas or styles?

MICHAEL: Along those lines, where do you think art is going? With all of the resources out there for art, it still has never had the competition that it has today with the media, entertainment, the internet, etc. Im concerned that it really may only be available to the higbrow crowd. I mean, look at Art Basel Miami Beach!

ANN: I think, just like everything else, when art reaches the point of absurdity, it is forced to change. In the 80s, fine art reached an all-time high . . . people were borrowing money to purchase pieces. Then the bubble burst. Art fairs like Basel developed as a way to consolidate galleries and provide a condensed experience for viewers. Now, during the week of Art Basel Miami, there are so many satellite shows in other venues around the Miami area, that people barely have the time to see them. Fine art, as it always has been, is something that interested people seek out. Unfortunately, its rarely presented on a platter to the average person. Therefore, art automatically attracts the kind of person

continued on page 15

Art Fair SourceBook
Art Fair SourceBook
Art Fair SourceBook

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