notes from the director

Director's Favorite

by Justin Kouri, director | july 25, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an accelerant for change — how we live, how we do business, and in the case of galleryFRITZ, how we experience art. In mid-March when it was apparent that the magnitude of the shutdown would loom larger than expected, I packed my schedule with studio visits and gallery interviews with our artists and guest curators. With my iPhone fixed on a tripod, I posed questions, and in return, our artists offered honest and genuine responses. The initial intent was to chronicle our artists’ processes and journeys to finished works, but I didn’t envision the overall impact of galleryFRITZ | stories. The volume of thirty episodes over three-and-a-half months sustained the need for routine and our community’s appetite for distraction. Who knew three-minute clips of art and conversation could spark such interest.

Every sitting left me awe-inspired and eager to share the endless entertainment of an artistic crew with diverse personalities. So, which video strikes the strongest chord with me? Episode 7 with Thomas Christopher Haag. Here’s why…

Riding high from a successful trip to New York City for the annual Art on Paper show, Deborah and I returned to Santa Fe ready to promote the first solo show I commissioned as new director of galleryFRITZ. Solid buzz in the press and among clients anticipating new work from this artist was sure to set the tone for the summer.

I recorded Thomas in his tiny studio. (There’s barely room for his work, let along a ring light, tripod, and his bigger-than-life personality.) Thomas is lighthearted, humorously gesticulating and noting obscure references throughout. The video was meant to complement a show of twelve works but instead stands on its own as a time capsule of our shared coronavirus experience. Entitled PILGRIMAGE, we explore one of the anchor works, ONE LONG ASS PILGRIMAGE. Thomas’ correlation of repeating figures in search of some form of personal growth to the current political and health related atmosphere was succinct and perfectly timed to the pandemic. 

I consider the episode a turning point in the gallery’s ability to offer collectors a richer perspective of our artists’ inspirations and processes — accelerated by our circumstances, a timeless treasure for all of us.

I’d love to hear which episode is your favorite and why. Send me an email at  

Political Art: Timeless or Trendy?

Edgar Heap Of Birds' Installation, 2019 | monoprints, ink on paper | 22 x 15 in. (each) | $4,000 (each)

by Justin Kouri, director | june 26, 2020

Politics have become increasingly pervasive in every facet of society, including art. I hear from clients all the time who wonder whether a politically charged body of work can stand the test of time. Can something that is poignant now remain relevant next week, next year or next century? It depends on several factors.

Political beliefs have a tendency to divide. For an artist to take a side, they inherently disenfranchise some of their audience, and even for clients who align with their particular way of thinking, the artist is betting that their tribalism will sell the artwork. But, as easy as politics can further a widening gyre, political art can unite us if it coalesces around a movement. The trick is that the movement must have a deeply rooted energy that evokes cinematic themes. If art instead reflects the snapshot of a moment, it quickly feels dusty and dated.

To capture a movement, an artist often begins with a depiction of specific events or persons - figurative or abstract. Then, the artist links that emerging reaction to an overarching theme or school of thought, challenging the viewer to mentally engage with the subject before them. If there is no visceral connection, the work remains topical, serving today’s needs, but will ultimately be forgotten.

 Authenticity is also key. In times of crises and upheaval, I believe artists have a social responsibility to provide a variety of viewpoints and subtly guide us to broader concepts, but only if it convinces the viewer that the themes have a profound impact on humanity and the artist. For example, artist Karen Hampton’s work stems from anthropological research of her ancestors’ stories. Her embrace of their struggle is genuine, and in doing so, she seamlessly depicts the conflicts of an entire race of Americans. 

The final component in the longevity of political art is aesthetics. I’ve seen art high in shock value, but the buzz wears off as the image becomes more accepted. Another aesthetic theme is hardship, which can be illustrated in several ways. Geared to conjure a feeling, these depictions should convey a visual and conceptual beauty. It’s not enough to point out an issue; the artist must submit a solution. 

Political art may not be a theme in your collection, but understanding its inherent place in human society increases our notion of art as a whole. Share your opinions or buying experiences on political art. Email me at

New Beginnings

HOW THE WEST WAS JUAN 5, 2020 | John Yoyogi Fortes | ink on book cover | 8.50 x 5.50 in. | $400

by Justin Kouri, director | June 20, 2020

The longest day of the year is tomorrow, marking the first day of summer. If your life has been anything like mine, you have been cooped up, working from home for the past three months. As we move into what would be Santa Fe’s tourist season (thanks Covid-19), I’m looking forward to new beginnings.  

Sitting at my makeshift work station, I occasionally find myself looking at the white walls and lusting after new art. When I become wrapped up in these moments, I log into Artsy and embark on a journey to discover new artists and works that I personally would like to acquire, which in part resembles what hangs on the gallery walls. This often results in a rabbit hole of one work of art leading to another, a click here, a click there, and periodic welcomed surprises of artists’ ingenuity. 

However, after an afternoon of on-line shopping for art, my bill can be rather hefty. Since I tend to lead towards emerging and mid-career artists, more often than not artists provide smaller works at reasonable prices - something I encourage the artists we represent to explore. If I get hooked on a smaller work and decide to continue supporting an artist, I might spring for the larger work next time. Becoming a loyal patron can be a rewarding relationship with artists and their gallerist. 

When we were in New York at Art on Paper earlier this year, Jen Pack’s small works on vellum were a hit with fair goers and the press. It goes without saying, that those works were quickly acquired and now new pieces are available. In our two most recent online shows, Thomas Christopher Haag and John Yoyogi Fortes have offered smaller pieces, and despite sounding like a used-car salesman, they’re a steal.  

With that and my earlier hopeful anticipation of new beginnings in mind, I encourage you to find new artists and to support the arts. Start small or go big. You won’t regret it. 

Steering Art Through a Slow Recovery

THERE IS NO INFINITY, 2019 | Paula Castillo | cold rolled steel | 58 x 109 x 8.5 in. | $15,500

by Justin Kouri, director | june 13, 2020

The Santa Fe art community relies heavily on tourism to drive the market. Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, several crowd generating festivals and events have been cancelled this year. As a result, local galleries are at a loss for the additional foot traffic we rely on to survive.

If you’ve paid any attention to how galleries and institutions are dealing with smaller crowds and health restrictions, it’s clear that digital content is becoming more crucial. For example, the major auction houses are commanding new highs with online auctions, and virtual art fairs are touting tremendous sales despite purists claiming that it’s not the same. 

Well, it isn’t the same. Very few people prefer online galleries and digital shows over viewing art in person, but we have to pivot to maintain safety and to stay afloat. Here’s what galleryFRITZ has been doing to weather the pandemic:

galleryFRITZ | stories

Our wildly successful storytelling series focusing on artists and a particular body of work has proven to be an impressive tool to introduce artists to our clients and supporters. Without the ability to host artist receptions and talks in the gallery, this series provides a glimpse into the artists’ psyche, process and personality. Click here to catch up on the stories you’ve missed: galleryFRITZ | stories

Weekly Newsletter

There’s a considerable amount going on in the world and most of it has an effect on the art market. Our weekly newsletters are meant to provide commentary and perhaps alternative perspectives to the issues we’re encountering, be it a pandemic, social unrest, or volatility in financial markets. We also intend our notes to serve as a temporary distraction. As I’ve mentioned time and time again, art has a unique ability to offer an ephemeral escape from whatever it is that consumes us. Click here if you or someone you know would like to subscribe to our newsletter: #artkeepsgoing

Digital Shows

Curating an online show versus a gallery show are two entirely different tasks. Our digital shows, which we present on various platforms, offer the ability to reach a broader audience. Although they lack the physical liveliness that hanging new work generates, there’s a different energy manifesting in the increased viewership. View our current digital shows here: exhibitions

Don’t get me wrong, I miss being in the gallery everyday, talking with you and sharing art that I think is important and special. However, I’m thankful for the tools that we’ve been forced to develop and will continue utilizing them even when some sort of normalcy is restored. 

It's Time We Listen To Our Artists

INVISIBLE CHILD, 1996 | Karen Hampton | cotton double weave, painted warp dyed, discharge, image transfer | 16 x 69 in. | $12,000

by Justin Kouri, director | june 6, 2020

galleryFRITZ stands on the side of social justice. We believe that art inspires change, and as socially responsible members of our local and national arts communities, we proudly raise up our artists who spark that initiative. The ongoing protests are evidence of our collective need to educate ourselves and one another of the systemic racial inequities in our country. Art has a unique ability to tap into these poignant moments providing words and visuals to the deeply rooted emotions we can’t vocalize. 

For example, African American textile artist Karen Hampton takes a socio-anthropological look at her family’s lives as slaves, amplifying her ancestors’ hardships, which are not too different from the current situation. By using vintage cloth and weaving her own ceremonial textiles, Hampton embraces her heritage while deeply informing the viewer of America’s missteps. Meanwhile, John Yoyogi Fortes’ new body of work explores identity, much of which stems from the stereotypes and roles we encounter before birth. Fortes, a Filipino American, coyly approaches his often mistaken heritage with blurred symbols and historical context to point out the inherent discrepancies of pinning supposed cultural attributes to each other. 

Over the course of generations, artists scream of the atrocities our communities are forced to incur. For instance, Edgar Heap of Birds’ text-based installations have pointed to government overreach for decades and blatantly call for change. Racial oppression can be traced through America's history. It’s time to listen to our artists; it’s time we change. 

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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