MarinArts has launched its first ever Holiday Art Directory to showcase local organizations and artists, and inspire Marin residents to buy and collect local artwork, … and maybe even start this shopping holiday season.
To help our readers demystify art buying and collecting process, I sat down with Sarah Shepard from Sarah Shepard Gallery in Larkspur Landing to discuss how a gallery works with clients who are starting an art collection.
What inspired you to open this gallery?
As a Marin resident and someone that started their career in the art world in New York, I saw an opportunity to bring artists and art choices to this community that wasn’t already here. With a background in photography at auction houses and art fairs, I knew I wanted that medium to be a part of the program and to exist within the context of contemporary art at large. My goal was to create an inviting space to look at art and be inspired. It’s so rewarding for me when someone stops in and tells me how much they like the programming and look forward to seeing what is coming next.
What is your approach to selecting artists to show?
I look for artists who are creating something unique to their practice that is compelling visually and conceptually. I like to have a balance between Bay Area artists and artists from elsewhere. Between the first conversation with an artist and the resulting exhibition, there are often many months and discussions that occur along the way, creating a relationship that I value greatly. To me, it is a big part of the joy that goes into this business. Some of the artists I work with are friends with one another, creating an even more dynamic community. Since starting the gallery, I have collaborated with people who, in some cases, I’ve known for a long time, and that has led to new, exciting introductions and building things up with people I trust.
How do you work with buyers?
Most of the buyers I work with end up becoming longer-term clients or at least continue to engage with the gallery or program after their first purchase. I work with a mix of new buyers and more experienced ones. In addition to the art hanging on the walls during an exhibition, I always have inventory to show people and offer art advisory services, which helps buyers find pieces that I might not show but can access through my relationships. It can take months to decide on a piece of art that is just right, so I try to provide information and support in making those decisions.
What would you recommend to a buyer who is just starting to buy art?
Look at everything and begin to figure out what moves you emotionally and visually. Follow your instincts and buy what you love. People always say that, but it’s true. Your artwork will become a part of your history and story.
What resources do you use to help educate your buyers, and guide them to select art that is appropriate for their spaces or interests?
Follow all of the museums, artists, and galleries that appeal to you. Get on the lists for art fair updates, collector previews, and follow art media via social media/newsletters. Getting involved with art non-profits and benefit auctions is a great way to connect with your local art community. Here in Marin, the Headlands Center for the Arts and Bolinas Museum both have wonderful yearly benefit auctions and educational programming throughout the year, and the Commonwealth Club has hosted some fantastic art panels. Through these efforts, you will learn about interesting conversations that will lead to new discoveries and continuing education.
Who are some of your favorite Marin-based artists?
There are so many! To name a few – Will Rogan, Thomas Jackson, Tjasa Owen, Ido Yoshimoto, Nellie King Solomon, Lauren Bartone, and as I just read on MarinArts, now Clare Rojas lives in Marin. The ICB Building and Marinship Studios are full of great artists who come from all over to make their artwork in Marin.
Jennifer Wechsler is Curator for FAULTline Art Shows promoting and exhibiting emerging and established artists in unique spaces. She serves as an Art & Cultural Commissioner for Marin County and serves on boards at UCLA ARTS and The Oxbow School in Napa.