My journey in pictures

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rebekah Jacob's Gallery

I've spent many a day walking around Charleston, SC going in and out of every art gallery that I could find. I don't pretend to know anything about art but I have ALWAYS loved going in Rebekah Jacob's Gallery on King St.. For it's size and focus it is definitely my favorite, focusing on art and photography of the American South. It's pretty much one clean and light rectangular room with great art. I thought what the hell, maybe Rebekah wouldn't mind talking to a hilly billy from Nashville. I imagined that it could be the visual arts version of a great small boutique music publishing house. She sat down and talked with me on a day that seemed really busy for her while she ate her 4:00 sandwich/lunch.
From the outset I was a little worried that she would look at me like "what the hell does this guys know?" (which is nothing) and that the whole world of gallary owners could be a little.... well condescending to people who know nothing about it (i.e., me).  Guess I was the prejudiced one. She was incredibly kind, sweet and genuine.
Here it went:
Me: So where are you from?
Rebekah: I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, Clarksdale, Mississippi. I grew up (pretty much) a tone’s throw behind the courthouse on Clark Street.
Me: WOW, that's some serious "stuff" (OK I said shit but she didn't flinch/I think she'd heard it before). Clarksdale, for those that haven't followed along, is the birthplace of the Blues and damn near "Rock and Roll" which for the most part grew outta the blues.
Me: How'd you get from there to here then:
Rebekah: As a child, I was always creative, I loved art class but I never wanted to be an artist. It just wasn't in me. I went to Ole' Miss majoring in English (with aspirations of becoming a lawyer), journeyed to DC to work for a congressman (Chip Pickering) and there I found legislation to be boring and recycled and I despised the conservative dress code.  I then went back to school getting my M.A. in Art History....started working in a gallery in Grad School (@ Oxford, Ms) and "just never got off the train". My father was an entrepreneur so I always knew that I wanted to own my own gallery. Becoming an art dealer is a long process, an apprenticeship. I've worked with some really good dealers and without them there's no way I could have had the success that I’ve had.  And they have provided encouragement, which is so important.
Me: How do you decide who you're going to work with?
Rebekah: It's like you I'm sure, first off I have to like the person, I have to like their work and develop a level of trust. I always find it odd when artists call and want me to show their work without meeting me. They may not like my style, the daily rhythm of the gallery, my intensity, etc.  I’ll then make a list of “clients” (potential or current customers) who may be interested and take a few pieces on a "trial run" and offer those pieces (to the clients) and if I can't make the crossover between artist and client I usually won't represent the artist. She did say on occasion that she'll take a chance on an artist but you can tell it must be really hard to do . Rebekah also spends time fostering these “clients” that a lot of times over the years will buy many pieces.
In finding the new artists she says she loves referrals from other dealers or artists . Someone who calls me up and says that you've just GOT to work with this or that person. Though, at the core it’s a sixth sense, which has no real template.
Me: So once you start a relationship with the artists how does it work from there.
Rebekah: They will finish a piece and send it to me (via e-mail in a JPEG) and I'll say if I can work with it or not. They know I have a pretty streamline approach and that I know my clients (the buyers).
It's a fun trade and a fun daily experience. It gets... I mean right now (in the business) you know I've had like 4 calls from artists today who need or want money (and they haven't sold anything) and that get's hard. You feel guilty but it's not your sole responsibility. She prefers for an artist to have multiple galleries so that it don't ALL fall on her shoulders and she believes that it does "take a community" to help an artist succeed.
Rebeka: It's dealing with how to balance the risk. How risky can I go and how risky can my check book allow me to go. By enlarge I represent artist and material of the southeast. I know the area and I know the clients. The more specific you are, the "tighter your niche", in a lot of ways the better off you are.
She says of the business: I think about it 24/7 and I'm always reading books and magazines. 
Rebekeh has had this gallery now for 5 years and she did NOT seem to take that for granted!
The most positive and beautiful moments for me is when I see artists’ expand their studios, buy a car, grow their families, etc… It’s visual validation that I am doing my job.
I admire the fact that she's been able to do this on her own with art that she loves.
Rebekah,  LOVE your taste in art, your guts in doing it and your passion in how you go about it all. PLEASE stop by this gallery! It'll save you a lot of time. :)
Here's a link to my fav's: link

Oh, and she's quite pretty to boot! :)

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