by Nicole Beckley
Photographs by Wynn Myers
When it comes to buying and selling art, there can be a lot to learn. From a gallery owner with over three decades of experience to an artist with a newly launched site built on bartering, here we get some insight on the creative ways to acquire new art.
At the helm of Art Palace Gallery for the past 12 years, first in Austin, until 2009, and now in Houston, Arturo Palacios has focused on building communities and offering continued support to a roster of artists who can develop in their careers, including Austin-based Deborah Roberts and Barry Stone. “Usually before I start working with any artist, I’m watching that artist’s work for quite a while before that artist even knows I’m curious,” Palacios says.
While he attends art fairs, typically recommendations come to Palacios from friends or colleagues. “Something I really enjoy about the business is helping someone get started; getting them their first art purchase, that’s really fun.” On the buyer side Palacios has a perspective-driven view. “Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid. Remember that collecting art is over time a diary of your life,” Palacios says. “Your tastes change, your experiences change, you grow. Things that you bought 10 years ago would not be the things you’d buy today, but that doesn’t make them bad or less in any way, just different. That’s where you were in your life.”
“I think that art advisors are a good group of people to bounce ideas off and help solidify what you want to collect and the direction you want to go,” Margo Tate says. Since starting Tate Art Advisory three years ago, Tate has helped buyers find the perfect pieces for both residential and commercial spaces.
“My mom is an artist, and I’ve grown up surrounded by her friends that are collectors and artists,” Tate says. Moving into art advising seemed like a natural fit. Tate works with clients to discover the artists they connect with and the right pieces for their space, frequenting Austin galleries like Lora Reynolds and art fairs, including Miami’s Art Basel and New York’s Frieze. “Sometimes I go for a specific exhibit, sometimes I just like to pop in and see what I can discover,” Tate says. Other times a space calls for a completely custom work, such as the installation piece “Origin/Migration,” which Beili Liu built from thousands of pieces of hand-coiled ribbon for the Domain 8 lobby. “Every time I leave the space, I’m like, ‘Nothing else could have worked but this piece,’” Tate says.
“Twyla was founded on the concept of trying to build an art business for the next generation of art consumers and collectors,” says Brian Sharples, CEO of the online art marketplace. Officially launched in October 2016, the company sprang from the want to cut through the perceived mysticism of the art-purchasing world — offering transparent pricing, high-quality art, and easy shipping — and making it fully accessible online.
“We find that a lot of our buyers are people who’ve bought new houses or they’re remodeling houses or rooms and they love art, but they have to make a choice between buying an original for $10,000 and buying five big stunning pieces from us for the same amount of money or less,” Sharples says.
To build its contemporary-focused collection, Twyla enlisted a team of curators to recruit the 130-plus artists who create the limited-edition works, including sculptural artist Miya Ando and textile artist Travis Boyer. Each piece is produced as an archival print that gets framed and shipped with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. Austin residents can also view some of the works in-person, as Twyla’s turned part of its downtown office into a gallery space.
“I have been doing drawing and painting since I was a little kid and I’ve never really done anything with it, so I had all this stuff that I’d collected and I didn’t have any place to put it,” Jeffrey Butterworth explains. This dilemma begged for a creative solution, and at the end of August, Butterworth launched Arter Barter, an online marketplace built on the idea of exchanging art and goods with no cash involved.
The bartering system keeps things interesting, with Butterworth trading his bold pop art-style paintings (a style he describes as sitting “somewhere between Raymond Pettibon and The Far Side”) for items like new tennis shoes, a telescope, and even a gourmet meal. “A friend took a week-long cooking class in Italy, and she asked how much pasta it would take to barter, and I said, ‘I don’t know, a lot.’ She showed up with a lot of pasta,” Butterworth says.
While by day Butterworth works as a creative director at GSD&M, by night he paints and makes trades — with collectors and causal art lovers. “If you can connect those kinds of communities, it opens up another door to people who may really enjoy art but feel like they don’t have any access to it,” Butterworth says.
“When I first started the gallery, we sold fine-art posters. We would get the collections from the Louvre or the Met,” Wally Workman says. While on-trend in 1980, a few years later Wally Workman Gallery transitioned to selling all original work, as the Austin art market evolved. “Most of what we sold [then] was up to $1,000. Now our average sale is closer to $3,000,” Workman says.
Today, with 57 artists in its stable, the Wally Workman Gallery opens a new show each month in its two-story West Sixth Street space, highlighting contemporary painters like Will Klemm and Mallory Page and figurative work like this month’s Patrick Puckett exhibition. “Unlike other retailers, I think galleries have a unique position in that art is something most people would like to see before they want to make a purchase, unless someone’s familiar with the artist and the surfaces and the texture and so forth,” Workman says. And after 37 years she’s still excited to present new work. “This is the best job in the world. I just love it,” Workman says.
Sometimes there’s an aha moment that sets you down a certain path. For Lauren Greenberg, that moment came at a restaurant in New Orleans when she spotted a painting by Leroy Miranda Jr. “I just inquired about it, and we ended up going to his house and seeing all his work,” Greenberg says.
While she’s been collecting art for the past five years, last year Greenberg began representing Miranda, including hosting an art show in her home during South by Southwest. She also took on Barcelona-based sculptor Diego Cabezas after originally spotting a piece of his through a fashion brand’s blog she follows on Instagram. “I like to diversify what I’m representing,” Greenberg says, noting that Instagram is her go-to source for discovering new talent.
After shipping a container of Cabezas’s work from Spain to the U.S., and selling it almost faster than she could post photos, Greenberg’s arranged for the artist to come to Austin for six weeks and sculpt. Followers to her @Work.in.progress.gallery account, of which there are 10,000, can get the latest updates. For art admirers, Greenberg offers this advice: “Buy something you love or invest in a piece that makes you feel happy, that draws that out of you.”
Read more from the Arts Issue | November 2017