Interview with Bobby Beals
How did you get involved in the art scene and specifically art curation?
"I spent most of my college days holding a video camera and documenting everyday life. I wanted to be a film maker. My professor always talked about how art influenced film but I never really cared much for the genre of fine art. Part of fulfilling my general education was to visit local museums. I could barely afford the gas money to get to the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and then spent my last dollars on parking and was so happy for the free 'college ID' entry. I spent the whole day in the museum in shock. The Roman marble sculptures that lined the entry way, the huge paintings of impressionist masters and the people watching filled my head with so many thoughts. I observed people looking at art and thought 'Why are they so interested?'. 'What brings tons of people to this museum?'.
I returned to the museum every week for months. I discovered the book store and read about Hieronymus Bosch and was fascinated, as any young person would be. I ended up ditching school a lot and roamed the museum corridors and rooms. I went to other museums around the area and around Orange County. To me, the art wasn't a tangible thing, it was something that already happened... not something that is happening now, which I found out later.
A couple years later, I moved back to Santa Fe to take care of my grandma. I was a waiter at Julian's restaurant. The gallery owner across the street used to come in and celebrate with artists after closing a sale. I would convince the chef to send out some oysters or champagne to congratulate them. The gallery owner offered me a job at the gallery during the day so for awhile, I worked from 9am to 4pm at the gallery, then 4:30pm to midnight at the restaurant. I loved it. I also would clean artist studios and help artists wire their paintings, ship artwork and whatever they needed to just be able to create. I feel that I learned much of the business from the ground up... much like a dishwasher would become head chef. I worked for several galleries before I owned my own."
When people think of fine art activity in the US, the coasts come to mind—especially Los Angeles and New York. What made you decide on New Mexico?
"I am a fifth generation Santa Fean. So, it had to be here. Although, I later found out that many artists have made Santa Fe the art destination it is today. I read that a lot of artists, writers and actors fled the large congested cities to come to Santa Fe, following doctors orders to escape Tuberculosis in the 1920's, and embrace the crisp high mountain air. A lot of them stayed. I also read that the Spanish conquistadors wrote back to Spain in the 1600's that their was nothing here but 'mud huts and brown dirt'... yet, they must of loved it as they stayed. I would like to think that they wrote those things to keep other people away from this beautiful place. Artists like Agnes Martin and Georgia O'Keeffe, brought attention to this beautiful country. The Taos Seven and the Cinco Pintores solidified the art scene here. The Institute of American Indian Arts heavily influenced contemporary painters in New Mexico.
Plenty of statistics have been released announcing that Santa Fe is in the top 3 art markets in the world. You visit Los Angeles and most waiters are actors, in Austin they are musicians and in Santa Fe, they are artists. I'm proud to be from Santa Fe, proud to be a part of the art scene and feel a responsibility to represent my New Mexico in the art world. Although, my business has brought me to Los Angeles and New York City, I get to share what Santa Fe is doing in the art market and most people know already."
How does your interaction with an artist evolve from your initial encounter with their work, to studio visit, and then to signing them to your roster of artists?
"Most of the time, I will see an artist's work at an art show, in a magazine, or from a submission to be represented. I tend to be overly picky when choosing an artist with which to work. I always look for something different in artwork that is unique, done with attention to detail, completed with quality and has promise of consistency. I always enjoy visiting with the artist, and like any relationship, there has to be a good personal connection. I look for artists with positive energy and for relationship building that will last a lifetime. There are artists that I have worked with for a long time that mean a lot to me. Artists like Frank Gonzales that has stuck by my side through a great deal and Upton Greyshoes Ethelbah who believed in me when I was just starting out.
I feel I am a young art dealer, so it is advantageous to grow with an artist in our careers. I look for trustworthiness, thats very important, just like in a relationship. Once an artist and I start working together, we’ll know right away if it is something we want to pursue. Part of it is on-the-job training with each other.
I also listen to my collectors. I have a good group of serious collectors that aren't shy about giving me feedback. Talking with the collector about their interaction with the artist is very important to me.
These are the things that value greatly as an art dealer. "
You used to own Beals & Abbate Fine Art on Canyon Road. What made you give up the brick and mortar and solely do “pop-up” shows?
"I worked in the gallery business for years, and worked my way up from administrator to gallery owner. Beals & Abbate Fine Art gallery was a dream of mine.
Owning my own gallery was really great. However, after a while on Canyon Road, it being a brick and mortar business, I began seeking ways for it to have new life. One of the ways was through social media, live musicand working with chefs at the events. I was really experimenting with marketing, and doing something that was a little different for my artists in order to achieve success in sales in a way that was unconventional. The winters in Santa Fe bring slow traffic, and if you are on Canyon Road, there aren't as many people coming in to the gallery.
I needed to think of ways to create different revenue streams, so I began contacting hotels and resorts, working on special shows, like “The Big Show”. We asked six artists to create the biggest art they have ever created and hosting it in a ballroom and doing pop up events in places like “The Library” at The Inn of the Anasazi, or having an artist in residence at The Four Seasons. This led to the resorts wanting more and more of that kind of activity. This led to what Santa Fe Exports is now. We enjoy our relationship with places like The Four Seasons, The Fairmont Heritage Place, and The Inn of the Anasazi. The General Manager, the staffand guests at these places are so excited to have artists there creating live. It has its own unique vibe, and Santa Fe locals really look forward to these events as well. The artists get out of their studios and shake hands with collectors, tell stories, and talk about their work. The interaction with the artists became a very important part of what we do. So from the gallery, it evolved into what we have with Santa Fe Exports. It led me to leave ‘the dream’ and create and discover a new dream. This adventure of working with resorts, the hospitality industry, and traveling around to cities like Scottsdale and Vail is limitless. It is leading us to places like Dubai and London. There are just so many ways we can go with this. I am really excited about this new adventure. "
Not only do you own Santa Fe Exports, you also own Beals & Co., Palace Avenue Arts and Kamagraph. Can you tell me about these companies and what you see for the future?
"Santa Fe Exports, Beals & Co. and Palace Avenue Arts are very similar, yet very different as well. Working with my team to develop the brands that we have for each company is really exciting. Beals & Co is something that consists of artists that I have worked with for a long time. Also, there are a few new artists that I am able to take chances with, try new things, and put my name behind.
Palace Avenue Arts is an exclusive brand for The Drury Plaza Hotel, in which we are looking forward to working with on projects coming up in the near future. It started with the owners of The Drury getting a lot of artist submissions for their new Downtown Santa Fe location. After about 30 prospects around town they were referred to me. We had a great meeting about the idea of Palace Avenue Arts. We are really excited about working with The Drury family.
Santa Fe Exports started with the concept of our style of curated art to a worldwide prospect like Dubai. In order to get to Dubai we really need to create a firm structure in our business in Santa Fe, Scottsdale, Vail, and Dallas. The main goal is to do what I love, but also to help the collector come closer to the artist. I feel that was something that was missing in the commercialization of art galleries in our country. This is something that I’ve seen work, I’ve seen it change lives. I’ve seen something very positive come out of the collectors, clients, and art lovers being able to have conversations with the artists. It is fun and inspirational to watch artists influence people from all walks of life.
Being in the fine art world and working with artists, I can’t help but explore other avenues of showcasing their work. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of starting the skateboard company, Kamagraph, working with Frank Gonzales, David Santiago, and A. Nigh Herndon. Being able to create art on skateboard decks, that a lot of people are really enjoying collecting, is a lot of fun and a little different then what I usually do, but equally as rewarding. It’s rounding out what the artists do and I do with the goal of sharing art with everyone. I believe art is for everyone, so doing that with Kamagraph is achieving that goal."