Kris Gebhardt, mixed-media, impressionist painter is adrenalized because he and abstract artist, Angela, Kris’s business partner and wife, are front row spectators as the stale over-sanctioned industry of last century and the vibrating new way to buy and sell art collide, each posturing to take on a new identity in the twenty-first century. Like today’s authors who write and move books without publishers, or tomorrow’s rock icons who are making it without a record label, painters and sculptors are going solo — and saying goodbye to the traditional gallery matrix.
First they have to correspond with collectors, designers and art magazines, post lots of pictures on social media, and fill out countless forms online to add pieces to art websites. You’d think after all that marketing artists and former gallery owners’ work would be done. Au contraire! In this brave new frontier of show, tell and sell, the sweat investment is just the beginning. The Gebhardts pour over their vast inventory to decide what to pack. Nestled among the climate controlled walls of their warehouse are hundreds, maybe thousands, of paintings that range in size from two to three feet tall and every bit as wide, to seven feet tall and more than eight feet wide. Decisions, decisions, only a few will be selected to exhibit.
Choosing a handful of the most relevant pieces, Gebhardt hauls them to the local fine art shipper to make certain they reach their destination safely and in plenty of time. In the middle of August or the dead of winter, this is no easy task given the size and the weight of the works that he and Angela create.
As former brick and mortar gallery owners, the Gebhardts were used to doing a lot of the heavy lifting to make sure their art hangs in all the right places. But they traded gallery ownership for a life of entrepreneurship. To perpetuate their brand, they work a lot harder, taking their catalog to international collectors at art shows in Miami, New York and California, rather than hoping a collector from China will happen to walk through their door in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. What they have learned is that painting is the easy part. To succeed in today’s ever-changing art arena, they must do marketing, social media, wield hammers, string lights and display the pieces in strategically selected areas of exhibit halls all over the country.
Virtual galleries and schlepping pieces alone aren’t enough, artists are turning their talent into lucrative small businesses. Maybe getting noticed happens in their spare time, and some are even successful enough that they can quit their day jobs, but the bottom line is the old business of art is dying. Long live the new art sector! This self-serving cottage industry of sorts is creating jobs and contributing to the economy, in a way that dealing with galleries never allowed them to do. More channels for distribution means more art is making its way to the market place and into the hands of collectors to be enjoyed, rather than being cloistered in the bowels of galleries which are existing on life support at best. Creators are breaking the system, providing customers freedom, better service, and more choices. This makes Kris and Angela enthusiastic for what the future of the art world will bring.
At these international art shows, the Gebhardts meet with tens of thousands of enthusiasts and patrons — would-be buyers — who they never would have had access to in the previous incarnation of the industry. Buyers file through the building’s maze of eclectic, sophisticated, signature and classic pieces. They meet the artists and schmooze all the while starting, or adding to, their collections with a purchase directly from the artist. It’s a little like buying opera tickets from Pavarotti, ballet seats from Baryshnikov or purchasing a Ferrari directly from Enzo.