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A CONVERSATION WITH THE SAINT LOUIS GALLERIST BY The Philip Slein Gallery, which Slein runs with co-owner Tom Bussmann, associate Jim Schmidt, and director Gwen Unger, has received numerous accolades and was most recently voted Best Art Gallery by Riverfront Times readers in 2014. The gallery represents local and national artists with a focus on painters. Slein met with Moog for a behind-the-scenes interview during installation for the exhibitions Structured: New Work by Ann Pibal and Todd Chilton and Katharine Kuharic: A Masque of Mercy, which were on view from October 2-31. Molly Moog: When did you open the gallery? Philip Slein: We opened in 2003 in a warehouse on Washington Avenue and we were there for two years before moving to a nearby street-level space. Artists were working and living downtown and the dynamic of the art economy was changing. Some major old-line galleries were closing and we saw an opportunity to open up a gallery. In 2012 we moved to the Central West End. We thought it would be better for the business to be in a cluster of other shops and galleries. The move has been very positive for us. I want to be clear though, I love downtown! I have lived downtown for fifteen years and I still live there. MM: What is the benefit of owning a gallery here versus in a bigger city? PS: St. Louis has provided a lot of opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have in a city like Chicago, New York, or L.A. When we go to New York, we go to these beautiful galleries in Chelsea. They look not unlike this, maybe even on a grander scale, but their


rent is $40,000 to $50,000 a month. In the early days on Washington Avenue, we could start a gallery just on our own moxy and do a lot of the sweat equity to build it up. MM: Considering the rise of online art sale platforms, what is the benefit of having a brick and mortar gallery? PS: The benefit is that these galleries are incubators for artists and ideas. We have a kind of “salon” in here. People come in throughout the day. They sit down and we just talk, not necessarily even trying to sell anything. MM: What characterizes the collecting community in St. Louis? PS: People here tend to come to collecting a little bit later. One myth I would like to dispel is that you have to be extremely wealthy to be a collector. I’m not particularly wealthy and I collect ravenously. Collecting opens up new avenues of learning and can be a means of personal growth. There’s this idea that if you’re a collector you’re a kind of Thurston Howell III [millionaire from the ‘60s tv series Gilligan’s Island]. However, it’s not necessarily the case. MM: Can you tell me about the shows that you are currently installing? PS: We are doing a two-person show of the work of Ann Pibal and Todd Chilton. Ann is a New York-based artist working in geometric abstraction. We are juxtaposing her with Chicago-based artist Todd Chilton, who is also doing geometric work. His work is thickly painted; whereas, Ann’s work is very thinly painted, but they have a really wonderful dialogue together. The special projects space will


BY Standing in his St. Louis office holding a small study by Thomas Hart Benton, John Horseman considers the limited available space between an enchanting tempera painting by American Magic Realist painter Roger Medearis and a large, brooding oil painting by renowned Cleveland artist Carl Gaertner. “We’re running out of room,” he says, “but I guess that’s part of the disease.” St. Louis investment manager John Horseman is a passionate collector of 20th century American art, and the ideal person to elucidate the beguiling relationship between art and money. Although Horseman’s background lies in political science and economics, a love of art impelled him to become a collector. For Horseman, collecting is


altogether separate from investing: “I wasn’t purchasing art to make money. I hope that if I ever needed to sell a painting, I would break even, with the return on those paintings being my enjoyment of having them and the satisfaction of building a collection from individual pieces into a cohesive whole.” The collection is indeed cohesive, comprised of over 200 paintings narrating the multi-faceted story of early to mid-20th century painting in America. Artists Horseman collects range from the familiar, such as Thomas Hart Benton and Marsden Hartley, to artists important during their time but less recognizable today, like Honoré Sharrer and Jared French. ARTIST INTERVIEWS

feature the work of New York-based artist Katharine Kuharic, who is known for her realist paintings, often with a social message. These particular works are nature-based She has drawn and painted these incredibly detailed canvases with an all-over patterning of leaves, flowers, vines, birds, and butterflies. MM: What qualities do you look for in the work of an artist that you would like to represent? PS: It’s really on a case-by-case basis. I’ve always been relatively confident in what I like. I think it comes from having looked at so much art in my life. Jim, Tom, and I work as a team and we’re broad-based in the style of work we select. We love landscape. We love figure painting. Currently, we are exhibiting mostly abstract painting, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love all different sorts of things. I’m also into craftsmanship. Even if the painting is very gestural, I want to know that it’s well-constructed. How does the back look? Does it lay flat to the wall? That kind of thing is really important. MM: I know lots of young artists in St. Louis trying to reach a broader audience. Are there any pitfalls young artists should avoid? PS: My advice for young artists is to really take time to hone their craft. Don’t be too desperate to get into a gallery. The galleries will fall into line when the work is ready. One mistake I see a lot of artists making is trying to put the cart before the horse. They’re trying to get the gallery but the work isn’t ready yet. It’s hard to know this when you’re young, because you’ve only ever been young. Artists also have to understand that it’s not about becoming famous or rich. You have to enjoy solitude. There has to be a fulfillment in just making work. You love the smell of oil paint, for example. You like making the thing. Every artist wants attention and if it comes, great, but attention can also be fleeting. There is this sort of skewed thing on “young artists, get’em right out of grad school!” Well, you can’t say painting without saying pain. You’ve got to have some life experiences.

Horseman has a particular interest in artists—many working during the Great Depression or in response to the world wars—who use the styles of social realism and magic realism to address issues of economic and social unrest. Considering these specific themes, I asked Horseman’s opinion about the broader relationship between the realms of investing and art. His answer was swift and simple: “You can’t equate art and money.” Horseman said that compared to the stock market, the art market remains impossible to predict. “You have to buy what you love. Art is a matter of personal taste, so you have to assume that you might be the last person who ever owns a work.” “Mistakes in collecting can be costly,” said Horseman, who counts a network of dealers, gallerists, and museum curators amongst his most valuable collecting resources. However, he recommends that even new collectors seek out knowledgeable professionals, noting that “most people like to help others with their knowledge and expertise,” adding, “If I had it to do all over again I WINTER 2015 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 12

All the Art, Winter 2015  

The Visual Art Quarterly of St. Louis

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