“Artists aren’t often appreciated in their home base.”
I am sitting with Anne Lambert Tracht over tea in her stunning midcentury modern home; feeling equal parts encouraged and disappointed in her assessment of the Atlanta art scene. “But it’s not just Atlanta that’s struggling to figure out how to include and collect their local artists,” she assures me, “I hear these complaints and questions no matter where I travel.”
Having grown up in Atlanta’s “warm and fuzzy art world,” Tracht moved to New York City before realizing that the “shark-infested waters” of the art scene there were not for her.
With encouragement from her mother, longtime Atlanta arts aficionado Marianne Lambert, she began curating collections for corporate clients. ConsultArt is a premiere art consulting firm dedicated to bringing fresh, modern, even challenging installations to A-list clients. If anyone is in a position to comment on the collecting culture in Atlanta, it is undoubtedly Tracht.
Having grown up around artists, collectors, and gallerists in Atlanta, and now traveling across the South for her business, she has become quite familiar with the larger regional arts culture. “I’ve been working both inside and outside Atlanta for years and I can say that we are not alone in our struggle for local collection. Dallas and Houston are known as art cities but their artists say the same thing artists say here: No one is buying local art; everyone wants to collect international artists.” (See this article for further proof that our problems are not unique.)
Tracht is passionate about working with regional visual artists and finding them a home in corporate spaces. “I want to find artists that break outside of the rectangle.” But she doesn’t stop there; often encouraging these local artists to experiment and take new risks with commissioned work. While “there is amazing art all around us,” she says, no one is really focusing on Atlanta artists. She claims that most clients assume that work must come from New York or L.A. to be desirable or a solid investment. However, when she presents local and regional makers to clients for inclusion in their collections, they are thrilled … and surprised. “It’s funny. People are so amazed, but it just seems so obvious to me.”
While there are many opportunities for showing and sharing work in and around Atlanta—Dashboard Co-op, Flux Projects, the Goat Farm Arts Center, Living Walls, Habersham Mills, and galleries ranging from large and blue-chip to small and nonprofit—there is still a shortage of collectors in this town. Michele Pizer, of Atlanta-based Pizer Fine Art consulting firm, considers the role of the art consultant vital to building up and recognizing the arts community in Atlanta.
She says: “After living in Atlanta for as long as I have, it’s really exciting to see these new opportunities and to see younger people care about coming together to celebrate art that’s new, edgy and really sexy. Finally, Atlanta is becoming the vibrant, culturally generative city that we’ve all wanted for so long. If I can help connect patrons with these artists, I’m happy.”
With cracks in the NYC myth beginning to show, the Southeast has become a safe haven and incubator for national and international artists. Pizer has worked with artists and designers for over 25 years and credits the galleries in Atlanta for “evolving into voices not just focused on the regional” but also building an international presence. This integration of hometown artists with artists of greater national and international standing benefits everyone and may allow Atlanta to break through its tertiary art city reputation.
Tracht believes that while participation in national art fairs and knowledge of what is happening outside of the regional art scene is important, what will push Atlanta out of its sluggish standing in the art world is to gain a reputation as a place where local makers are not only celebrated but collected. While operating under a global market, she says, “we’re really beginning to shift away from that New York/L.A. perspective in terms of collecting while also trying to appeal to Millennials. What better way than with fresh local art?”
Pizer, too, is excited about the progression of local arts collection in the region. “We’re seeing a natural evolution from the old guard here in Atlanta. There is room for fresh new patronage to come in and get excited about supporting new artists.” While a passionate collector in her own right, Pizer emphasizes that her role as an art consultant is to represent the client’s interests. Finding art that resonates with the buyer, no matter where it has been conceived or collected, is always her end goal. “Clients come to me to help them figure out what will make their rooms sing and add depth to their collections. I am always trying to manifest their vision and make sure they are aware of all their options—whether they are local or international doesn’t matter as much.”
In order to select works for any given client, Pizer often needs to see the art in person. “I’m a high touch person. I believe in interacting with people and the artworks being considered.” Whether considering a local or international artist, seeing works in Atlanta from a variety of makers is less of a struggle these days. With galleries expanding their voice by including international makers and with Atlanta-based makers gaining real traction in the international market, Pizer is hopeful that the city will continue to strengthen its standing in the art world. “I think we’ll see Atlanta come into its own as a much more progressive place in terms of art and culture.”
Amy Parry “got her feet pretty wet” in the burgeoning Atlanta gallery scene and worked for Soho Myriad Art Consulting before shifting her efforts and establishing her own firm, Amy Parry Projects, last November. Working primarily with high-end and boutique hotel clientele is sometimes a challenge as “there are artists and works that I really love but I know that it’s just not going to happen. The hospitality clients want something unique and with an edge, but you also have to know where to stop. I generally try to push the limits, but I also have to understand my client.”
Parry has worked in a variety of arts organizations and efforts over the years, from her first position managing the Agnes Scott Fine Art Gallery to assisting at MOCA GA to curating pop-up exhibitions around Atlanta. She sees the potential for a healthier collecting culture in the city but also recognizes the challenges.
Artists, she insists, often miss or turn down opportunities to sell their work to corporate clients. “You can’t just hang with your friends and expect to sell art. You’ve got to branch out and forge new relationships around your work.” For some collectors, a piece hanging in a real estate office will actually serve to legitimize the artist. While operating in a marketplace that readily allows consumer-collectors to connect with art, all three of these Atlanta art consultants find their role extends beyond any sort of introduction to the work of art.
“There is so much money in Atlanta and there are so many people willing and wanting to put money into their living spaces. There just isn’t always an interest in actually putting together a real art collection.” This hesitation or lack of interest comes from misunderstandings on both sides. “The art world” she says, “is still seen as a scary and intimidating space for many people.”
More than anything else, Parry claims that most people just don’t get it. “I do what I can to help people feel like they ‘get’ the art. When the client understands the work and can talk about the work, they get excited and BUY the work. I’m an art consultant but really I’m a translator.”
Kelly Kristin Jones is an artist and curator, and is gallery manager at Sandler Hudson Gallery, where her group exhibition “The Shape of a Pocket” is on view through September 6.