Anna Bagirov: Is your current exhibition open to the public by appointment? And does it matter who the “public” is, i.e. only prospective buyers, art critics, art curators?
Luis De Jesus & Jay Wingate: Yes, both of our current exhibitions are up and open to the public (everyone) by appointment, by calling or emailing the gallery. We’re all working remotely and are very flexible with our schedule.
Are you in touch with your collectors and are they still interested in buying art or are they showing hesitation due to the stock market slump?
We’ve been in touch with some of our most important collectors and they’re doing exactly what everyone else is doing—staying home and taking care of themselves and their families. Although we are continuing to follow up with pending and confirmed sales as well as inquiries, the interest has slowed to a trickle and people are not in a rush to make decisions or purchases. We had one cancellation from a collector who got cold feet after the initial stock market plunge, however, they’ve assured us that they are still interested and will be buying at some point.
In your opinion, how long will this temporary shutdown of the LA art world last?
That’s the great mystery, isn’t it? A couple of weeks ago, I was confident that it wouldn’t go more than six or eight weeks but now things are completely up in the air. Given the worsening conditions across the country, not to mention the rest of the world, it’s very possible that the shutdown could last through mid-summer. I’m pleased with the stringent efforts that Gavin Newsome is making to halt the spread of Covid-19 in the state.
How are you overcoming the challenges we are now facing?
Like many other galleries, we are looking for ways to stay present and relevant. We recently launched our new website and we’re in the process of adding a new page that will pull together all of our artist’s video and film projects as well as links to other feeds and impromptu and intuitive content. We’re in production mode—a good thing.
How can Artillery‘s readers help galleries and artists while they are closed?
This is the perfect time to catch up with your gallery visits by checking everyone’s current exhibitions online through their websites and social media channels. Ditto for the artists that you follow. Also, remember that a lot of galleries are still open by appointment. So if you really want to see an exhibition you just need to reach out to them and set it up (between your run to the store and the hiking trail).
It’s common knowledge that most gallery pedestrian traffic doesn’t buy art, so how does the closing of your gallery affect your business? And can you see this as a trend for the future?
The biggest difference is in-person and person-to-person engagement. Unless you’re already familiar with an artist’s work, it’s very difficult to fully appreciate and understand it if you haven’t experienced it in person. Nothing compares to it. I’ve always believed that owning an art gallery serves not only our business interests but it provides a place where we can share a heightened experience of art. It raises it to a new level that’s simply not available on a screen or book. Is it possible that the art world would migrate to an exclusive online experience? Yes, it is, but it would be at a huge loss to everyone who loves art.
During the Great Recession, were people still buying art? Can that still happen again?
In fact, we opened our gallery in September of 2007 and by the following spring and summer were seeing the signs of stress on the economy and gallery sales. When Black Friday hit it all came to a full stop. There’s really no reason why we should have survived. Our sales that first and second year were almost negligible but each one was a small miracle that helped us move forward, one day and one month at a time. We were also very lucky that Jay had a solid job that allowed us to put every penny back into the gallery. Although we didn’t have any employees or salaries, and kept expenses to an absolute minimum, including turning off lights when the gallery was empty, we did participate in art fairs! We did Aqua in Miami in 2007 and 2008, and both years managed to make sales and, most importantly, meet collectors, advisors, and curators that we’re still in touch with today. So, even when things look very bleak it’s important to recognize that you’re not the only one that is crazy enough to be in this business and are trying to make it work.
Your correspondences sound cheerful. Some gallerists are keeping a positive outlook. Others are picnicking. Id love to hear more about this. Could the only silver lining of this situation be is that art fairs are now canceled? (just adding a little humor here)…Is there anything surprisingly positive you have noticed so far? Or otherwise? Or something you feel you or we all could learn from this?
I’ll let my last answer suffice.