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.

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