Thursday, July 31, 2014

"In order to get big money you've gotta be a jerk like me and everybody else."
-Mr. S

Today the gallery was visited both by a younger (2nd?) cousin of Mr. S as well as the grandson of Jean-Pierre Serrier, a French Artist who loved coming to New Orleans in the 1970s and a good friend of Mr. S's family.  Neither knows the other but both happen to be visiting at the same time.  The painter's grandson is 19 and very shy and has some trouble speaking English, though in the two weeks that he has been here in the US he seems to have shown great improvement.  None the less, I pity him trying to understand Mr. S's Austrian/old codger accent.  All around he was a good kid, just a bit quiet and I believe that his inexperience with our language caused him to be even more reserved.

Mr. S's cousin, on the other hand, is very outgoing and confident.  Mr. S calls him "the hippie," and so Hippie will be the name that he goes by in this blog.  Aside from his long hair I'm not sure what about him makes him a hippie, but I like going with Mr. S's vocabulary on this because its funny and silly.  He's slightly older than myself and grew up in Australia, having an obvious accent from the region.  He works in advertising and with the ties between ad and art we hit it off almost immediately and I expect that we will keep in touch.  Mr. S was genuinely happy to see him and enjoyed talking about old family stories.  I'm not sure if he totally knows what to make of the ad work that Hippie does, but he seems interested.

The quote today doesn't have much to do with the post, but hey, he said something funny, so I figured I'd go with it.  I guess this one of those examples where I hope he isn't right.  In the off chance that he is, I've got to wonder if it isn't better to just be happy with small money.  I hope that I never have to change my mind about that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"You can't fire family"
-Mr. S

From what I understand this business was started by Mr. S's grandfather in Vienna.  Slightly after the 2nd World War, Mr. S and his father brought the business here to New Orleans.  Mr. S has a huge family, scattered around the world.  His grand daughter (I'll call her Kiddo, as Mr. S often refers to her as "Kid") does a lot of the work around the gallery.  He has no idea how much she actually does to keep the doors of this place open, because he can't even understand how much is involved in running a business today.  From what I can tell, if anyone of his descendants knows how to oversee and keep this business going once Mr. S retires (or, God forbid, passes away) it would be her.

However, I get the distinct feeling that Mr. S's abrasive attitude does very little to make Kiddo want to keep this gallery running after he is no longer in charge.  As a result the work that she does here is a chore done out of responsibility to family rather than desire to see the place prosper, and all he sees is her attitude as she puts up with him. He seems to think that professionally there isn't much more to her than that.  At the same time I can tell that he loves her as his grand daughter and as the mother of his great grandchildren.  He loves her as family, but can't seem to recognize that she does so much for the business.

I have to say that it would be a shame if Mr. S's family decided that the legacy would end with him and this gallery were to close its doors.  I couldn't blame them if they did, but it would be a shame nonetheless.  In the back we have walls full of photos of what I can only assume were its glory days, attracting the high society of New Orleans.  Openings for artists who, 30, 40, 50 years ago, were the upcoming international stars of the art world, rubbing elbows with the aristocracy of the city.  New Orleans needs this once again, a commingling of class and culture and art.  Not to say that this doesn't exist in this city, but that what happened here at this gallery was something unique, and it deserves to be reborn.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"I always have the last word with my wife: 'yes dear'."
-Mr. S

Today and last night have been a bit hectic in my personal life, but not so much in the gallery.  My girlfriend Elsa had a miserable day yesterday, and usually when she has a bad day I get an ear-full in the evening after we both get home.  In this case she lost her keys, ran into some difficulties while she was trying to take care of our power bill, and found out that her evil taskmaster of a boss would be observing her at work today and passing judgement.  While my main modus operandi is driven by a sense of duty and action, whether that duty be to my art or responsibilities as an employee or as a boyfriend, I believe she is driven much more by her emotions and empathy.  That is not to say that I lack emotions or that she lacks a sense of action or responsibility, but only that for each of us one is more primary and the other is more secondary in importance.

So, with her as the more emotional of the two of us the stress of the situation for her created a mess.  I've learned a bit better since we first got together how to handle these situations.  In the past I was usually at a total loss; I had no clue what I was supposed to do, and making suggestions about how to  fix things or how to handle events differently in the future (the only sensible thing in my mind) was met with cold annoyance about how I was insensitive and critical of her actions.  As it turns out, what an person with their own personality based in empathy wants is empathy in return.  In other words; if the individual is upset, shut up, nod a lot, agree with everything, and unless the thoughts are reaffirming don't share any thoughts or suggestions on the subject until the individual is no longer being emotional.  Remember that honesty is only the best policy if what you honestly think is what the other person wants to hear.

My Sister, Katy, stopped by today.  She is visiting from out of town with friends for a bachelorette party.  Mr. S. made comments to the nature of her being more boisterous than I am.  I think that around him I am more quiet than usual.  The fact is that I'm trying to be patient and polite.

Work today consisted of digging through antiquated records and other books, trying to find information about a specific Japanese artist who lived in France.  Mr. S wants the information about this artist because there is a painting hanging in his wife's office that he painted.  His wife, (we'll call her Mrs. S) does not want the painting sold.  I have no clue how they will work this out, but I suppose that is none of my business.  None-the-less, it is my job to research and write up information on artists, so onward I go with the search for info.

Found some information on the artist, Foussa Itaya, in a volume from the Benezit artists encyclopedia.  It is all in French.  Old dusty books are about to meet Google translate.

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Everyone who works here comes back to visit; even with my screaming at them and calling them idiots they had a good time"
-Mr. S.

So, starting week two.

Reading through my last entry I sound like a pretentious git.  Oh well, maybe I'll go through and edit it later.  Then again, maybe not; I've realized that a lot of this journal is going to be following the antics of the people around this gallery.  If I'm going to be poking some fun at them once in a while then its only fair that I not try and hide my own faults.

My employer, (I'll call him Mr. S, as I have not gotten permission to write about this from anyone involved) is a 92 year old Austrian who inherited this family business from his father.  For his age Mr. S is amazingly healthy.  Of course, part of why I say that is that I imagine that when I reach that age I'll be doing pretty darn well if I'm not in a pine box 6' under.  He still is able to walk (though relies heavily on a walker and sometimes needs help getting out of his chair) and comes to work every day except for Sundays.  His age does take its toll, but that has to be expected from someone who has seen most of a century.

Sometimes I think that those who live the longest are those with the most fight in them, and Mr. S is more full of piss and vinegar than anyone I've ever met.  He is very demanding.  Usually, though, with the combination of his German/Austrian accent, slight slurring due to age, and confused vocabulary for anything that requires a modern understanding, exactly what it is that he is demanding is a total mystery to me.  He can be cantankerous, pedantic, belittling... and he knows that at his age he can get away with it.  I want to say that I like him despite these traits, but to be completely honest sometimes one has to like him BECAUSE of these traits.

Having earned my BFA degree from one of the top art schools on the West Coast I had to take classes in art history.  Personally, with my own interest in both art theory and history it's a subject that I love.  As a result I know a decent amount about the evolving trends that have shaped the art that we've seen over the past few centuries.  I wouldn't say that I'm an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I know more than the average individual pulled off the street.

Mr. S approaches the the subject from a slightly less academic perspective; he knows art as a business and has made that business his life's work.  As a result he can recite the information about every specific painting in his gallery from memory, though what he finds important to recite may be details about the subject matter while I'm far more absorbed in how the piece fits into the social trends of the art institutions of the times.  I'm trying to learn to mimic his technique though, repeating what I've heard him tell customers, as he insists that this is what sells paintings.

I've realized though that I also need to try to find my own style for sales.  I can tell that when Mr. S uses his technique of reciting information to make sales it is incredibly effective; impressing customers with how his mind is like a steel trap.  However, I fear that at my younger age if I assault a customer with information about every piece of art on the wall it will seem like I'm talking down to them or pushing information on them to impress them of the painting's value and pressure them into buying.  If the customers are anything like I am then they hate feeling pressured, and the last thing I want is to drive them away.  I need to remember that in business the main thing that matters about a painting, is that the customer likes what they like.  If the customer doesn't like landscapes then no amount of information and history lessons is going to make them want to buy a landscape.  The piece might be a Monet worth millions and being offered for a minute fraction of its value... but if the customer doesn't want it then to them it isn't worth a red cent.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Every bad story has a good story"

-Mr. S

I like to think that everyone has a reason for writing, though perhaps when writing about oneself there is always a measure of narcissism.  Today we hear those around us saying that "someone could make a TV show about my life" thinking that something about the life that they live is dramatic and interesting enough that the rest of the world might care.  Those of us who have the brain cells to see this for the vanity which it is might pass it off as a product of our selfish modern era, but I like to think that the same self obsession may have had something to do with those people in the past who thought that their own lives were worth writing books about.  I know I'm not the first to notice it, but I'm entirely certain that some aspects of culture may change, but human nature always remains the same.  With that said, I have to recognize that in writing about some aspect of my own life I must be a narcissist and as long as I'm writing about myself I might as well be honest about the subject matter.

So, with that stated, this narcissist hasn't yet done much to brag about.  I was born in '85 and until I graduated from college in late '07 I thought I was a product of the '90s.  However, after graduating I have realized that my life has been defined more by the recession that has plagued our nation over the past 10 years or so.  After graduating from Art Center I thought that I was headed along a path leading to a great career as an artist, and at times it seemed I was right.  I created art for video games and amusement parks, and loved it, but apparently I could never hold onto those jobs and I was tired of moving around the country.  So after being laid off from the last of those jobs I found myself unemployed in New Orleans and decided to stay for a while, but I needed a job and there aren't many openings for a concept artist or illustrator in the Big Easy.

So now, after a year of unemployment (well, pseudo-unemployment; I've done a few bits of freelance here and there) I've finally gotten a job... though not quite the type of job I was hoping for.  Rather than getting paid to make art myself I work at an art gallery in New Orleans selling art.  Its not my ideal, and I have to admit that as an artist it is a slight blow to my ego.  I don't have much experience in sales, and while through my schooling I was taught a decent amount of knowledge about art history and instilled a great love of the subject I know very little about how to sell these historical paintings.

I wrote above about a narcissism inherent in autobiographical writing, but part of the reason I am writing this is for my own benefit.  I hope that I'll be able to track my progression, as well as keeping notes to assist in understanding what I'm supposed to be doing around here.  And maybe, just maybe, there will be some entertainment to be gained reading through my day to day stream of consciousness.  As I write this I am ending off my first week at the gallery.  I'm sure that there will be more to write in the weeks and months to come.