After 40 Years in the Business, We’ve Learned a Few Things

Thunderbird and Sisiutl, 2012

Thunderbird and Sisiutl, 2012Bill Henderson (Kwakwa’kawakw Nation)red cedar and pigment22 x 58 x 6 inches

This month’s article was contributed by Cecily Quintana of Quintana Galleries.

As Quintana Galleries celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what I’ve learned over the years, both by watching my parents and through my own personal experience.

Whaler’s Hat with Wolf Design, c. 1980

Whaler’s Hat with Wolf Design, c. 1980, Greg Colfax (Makah Nation), cedar bark and pigment, 8 x 10 inches 

In 1972, when my parents Rose and Cecil Quintana opened their 500-square-foot gallery in the Old Town district of Portland, it seemed like a daunting endeavor. Thanks to their strong belief in the advancement of indigenous arts, coupled with the support of their valued clients and talented artists, Quintana Galleries grew to become one of the Northwest’s most important forums for Native American Art.

Passages, our 40th anniversary exhibition, which opens September 28, features the works of prominent artist families from the Pacific Northwest that illuminate their hereditary stories and celebrate not only this moment in time, but also their journey: across history, geography, aesthetics, and most of all, across generations.Whether a collaboration between parents and children or a manifestation of family legends and symbols, each individual artwork will be a unique treasure representing a family’s proprietary story, as well as the way that story has passed through time. As an exhibition, Passages reflects the holistic vision of carrying a family name and reputation forward with a strong foundation and an eye for what is yet to come.

Ancient Herring Fishermman, 2012

Ancient Herring Fishermman, 2012, Avery Winter, b. 1994 (Tsimshian Nation), alder, pigment, goathair, abalone, 16.5 x 12 x 6 inches

Having literally grown up in the business of Native arts, I have irreplaceable and unique memories of attending feast days, potlatches, and pow wows. I accompanied my parents to work in the gallery and on buying trips to the Southwest and Northwest Coast, absorbing knowledge taught to me by my family as well as Native American artists who were carrying on their own family traditions.

The decades spent in my family’s business have taught me many important lessons. I’d like to share some of the most important ones with those of you who aspire to one day own an art gallery.

  1.  Love the art and artists you handle.
    Stand behind the art and artists you represent with passion. If you do, the monetary success will follow and your enthusiasm will permeate every aspect of your business.
  2. Integrity and ethics are paramount.
    Enough said. There is no wiggle room on these two virtues.
  3. Become an authority in your chosen field.
    Whether selling a $25 or $25,000 piece, I feel an obligation to my clients to speak intelligently about the work. Clients want to buy from dealers they can trust to provide accurate information about the work they handle.
  4. Do not judge a book by its cover.
    Our best clients over the years have been the most low-key and unassuming of our patrons. It is so important to view every single person who walks into your gallery as a potential client.
  5. Be a part of your community.
    Our top priority has always been an active involvement in both the Native American communities and our own, as well as with non-profit organizations. Art isn’t just about money- it has the power to do great things, and we should all be a part of that process. 
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Filed under PADA Galleries, Quintana Galleries, Resources for Buyers, Resources for Galleries

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