notes from the director

My Five Favorite Art-Related Stories to Spring Out of the Pandemic

Banksy via instagram | image curtesy of the artist.

by Justin Kouri, director | may 30, 2020

To reference an earlier note (Art in Crisis) I wrote pertaining to art’s role during times of crisis, it’s apparent that art has lifted the spirits of people all around the world through challenges, public art and absolutely absurd situations. Here are my top five art-related stories and trends to spring out of the pandemic:

5. Banksy’s Bathroom

We’ve come to expect the unexpected from street artist Banksy. But his time in quarantine surpasses my expectations. Employing his iconic rat figures to run amok in his bathroom definitely provides a tongue-in-cheek approach to working from home. Read more: “How Is Banksy Spending Quarantine? By Turning His Bathroom Into a Work of Art”

4. Artful PSA’s 

Masterpieces are timeless for a reason. They remain applicable and relevant in a multitude of manners. It’s been a pleasure seeing adjusted famous works cropping up in advertisements, on magazine covers and PSA’s all around the globe. 

Read more: “The Art of the Quarantine” 

3. Street Art to the Rescue

Street artists never waste a crisis, producing poignant murals with heavy handed cultural commentary. The resulting works during the Covid-19 pandemic have been extraordinarily uplifting and inclusive, proving that art does unite all people. 

Read more: “Street Art Confronts the Pandemic”

image: “The Lovers,” by the Norwegian artist Pobel, in Bryne, Norway. Credit: Pobel.

2. Life Imitating Art

It’s a ubiquitous trend on every art lover’s social media feeds and it always manages to conjure a smile. If you’re like me, when an unfamiliar scene appears, I spend the next 20 minutes researching the reference.  

Read more: “How People Imitating Masterful Paintings Launched a Sweeping Trend From Italy to Iceland” 

image: Instagram, Edward Hopper, Morning Sun. Credit @quarantinart

1. Penguins Admiring Art

Hands down, my personal favorite. Humboldt Penguins spend a leisurely morning strolling through the Nelson-Atkins Museum. In one fell swoop, the museum along with the Kansas City Zoo uplifted everyone’s spirit and struck marketing gold. Apparently the penguins are fans of Caravaggio. 

Read more: “Missouri Penguins Enjoy ‘Morning Of Fine Art’ At Local Museum"

Cultivating The Next Generation

GRAVITY'S CRAWL, 2018 | Jeff Krueger | midrange ceramic | 8 x 14 x 15.5 in. | $2,800

by Justin Kouri, director | may 23, 2020

With arts funding in public schools continuing to plummet, it’s the art community’s responsibility to ignite appreciation and fill the void. With museums, galleries and other arts institutions closed, this call to action is all the more urgent. Luckily, various non-profits have augmented their digital programming free of charge in order to keep the arts surviving. But we can always do more.

I have two nephews, one of whom celebrates his first birthday on Sunday. As someone in the industry, I am deeply invested in their arts education. So, starting with their first birthdays, I gift them art. I plan to continue doing this until they turn 18 years old. My intention is to instill a sense of wonder through color, form and medium. Although they are unable to play with these gifts, they inspire stories of imaginative times and places. 

Annually bestowing art on younger family members is also an investment in their future. Think about it: at 18, they will already have a substantial art collection, which may prompt them to continue cultivating. Conversely, they are welcome to place the work on the secondary market. Regardless, learning from a young age that art has monetary, visual and social value is a hands-on lesson in the art market.   

I would like to think that at a certain age, my nephews will want to participate in the acquisition of their gifts. I am inspired by a long-time client who brings her grandchildren to the gallery and tells them that they have a theoretical amount to spend on a work of art. She sends them off to find that special piece, and once they decide on their favorite, they must explain their decision. 

Molding a child’s eye to appreciate art and understand their own taste is a lasting gift that builds confidence and ensures that the arts will survive -- and thrive. 

Art In Crisis

IGNORANCE=FEAR, 1989 | Keith Haring | poster | image courtesy of Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris

by Justin Kouri, director | published may 16, 2020

Art keeps going no matter the global circumstances. Edvard Munch famously produced SELF PORTRAIT AFTER THE SPANISH FLU in 1919; Pablo Picasso painted GUERNICA in response to the bombing of Guernica, Spain in 1937; and Keith Haring created countless works to combat prejudice against people with AIDS, and the inadequate government funding for research and prevention during the late 1980s. The list is endless.

The role of art in critical times is multifaceted. Art serves as an escape, offering a distraction from our daily stresses and anxieties. It furthers a societal conversation when it feels like we don’t have a voice. Art can also be that sliver of hope, reassuring us that beauty and honesty will continue to exist.

During the current pandemic, art institutions, museums, galleries and non-profits have offered alternative methods to digest art. When it was imperative that we close the gallery to the public in early March, I felt a fundamental sense of responsibility to continue the arts conversation. I wanted to provide an outlet, albeit momentarily, to our fellow art lovers. As a result, galleryFRITZ has been producing candid storytelling vignettes with our artists, where we delve into a source of inspiration which often derives from personal experiences. The outpouring of support and subsequent press are clear indicators that we’ve succeed in bringing art into the community, even amidst social distancing and economic restrictions. 

Likewise, these stories are intended to spark hope. Thomas Christopher Haag’s ever present motif of transformation after enduring hardship currently resonates with our struggle to reopen. Jen Pack’s soft palette evoking sunshine and comforting femininity reminds us that tomorrow can be better. And recently, Amanda Banker’s references to nature’s ability to rebirth and recharge are testaments to our resilience.  

Art is certainly living up to its purpose during the Covid-19 outbreak. And it will continue with the support of patrons, institutions and a robust love within our local communities. With that in mind, I welcome you to share how art has affected you during these difficult and crazy times. Stay safe. 

Email me your stories:

First-Time Collectors

IN THE HELIOSPHERE, 2019 | Laura Wait | acrylic on panel | 30 x 60 in. | $7,200

by Justin Kouri, director | published may 9, 2020

As gallerists, we answer a multitude of questions, often about collecting art and supporting local arts communities. In these unprecedented times, guiding seasoned and first-time collectors through the marketplace has become an increasingly important component of our role.

Last month, I was advising a young couple who recently became parents and remodeled a 1920s bungalow into a stunning minimalist home with clean lines and streamlined color palette. This was their first foray into buying fine art. Naturally, they asked a question that I address almost daily with collectors and friends alike—why should they buy art? Because they like something? Because art has an intrinsic ability to retain (and ideally increase in) value? Because they're in the process of decorating a new home and you need something above the sofa? My answer may surprise you.

The answer is all of the above. First and foremost, you have to enjoy the work you're considering. Art should prompt a visceral reaction and infect your everyday life. Different works will provide this in a variety of ways that are unique to every collector. Regarding art as an investment, I firmly believe that if the gallery cultivates its artists, the market reacts accordingly, ultimately ensuring that your work should augment in value. With that in mind, collectors also play a pivotal role in the development of an artist's career by attending openings and fairs where the artist is showing. This raises the artist's profile and the demand for the work they've invested in. Lastly, you will be living with this piece. It needs to fit into your home physically and visually. 

I personally acquire art based on a specific aesthetic. I might have an idea where a piece will be displayed in my home, but I reserve that decision until the work is on site. This usually means that I need to rearrange my existing collection, but that's part of the thrill of buying original art.  

Bottom line: you'll know it when you see it. 

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