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On June 16th, the Many Shades blog will be closed.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009


By A.J. Llewellyn

When I was in Honolulu over Christmas, a friend of a friend emailed me. I don't want to use his real name and embarrass him, so let's just call him Joe.
Anyway, Joe emailed me, saying he was excited that his paintings had been snapped up by a Lahaina art gallery in Maui and did I know anything about them because now he was worried. After feting him with meals and cocktails, the proprietors had showered him with praise, filled him with expectations.
Now they weren't even returning emails and he was sure he should have made at least one sale by now.
He said the gallery had his work on display for three weeks and his one conversation with the gallery manager should have, but didn't assure him his work was in the front of the store.
I not only knew the gallery on the main thoroughfare, Front Street, but by a bit of divine luck, I was going to Maui the following morning by Superferry to collect my friends Chris and Tracy and their daughter Eleanna.
I promised Joe we would act like tourists and go check on his work.
Long story short, Eleanna and I - otherwise known as The Superspies - trotted into the gallery and perused the paintings. We kept looking at each other. Joe's work was nowhere to be seen.
The gallery manager pounced on us like white on rice and I casually asked if they carried Joe's work.
"No, I don't think so. But look, we do have this lovely piece here."
I looked at a ten thousand dollar painting of a green apple. Eleanna did better work when she was in diapers.
I started to worry about Joe's work now. I loftily went into a monologue that even Eleanna believed. I described Joe's signature piece, a little girl with flowers and bingo! gallery manager remembered it.
"Oh," he said. "That's in storage."
Storage? We followed him out back and there they were, Joe's lonely, forlorn canvas babies, stacked against the wall with a piece of plastic thrown over them. Beyond this, I could see other stacks of paintings by equally luckless artists.
I suddenly felt very depressed.
It's tough to be an artist, whether you paint, draw, write...whatever.
The cruelest fate for your work
Chris and Tracy, wondering what was taking so long, came in and the four of us left the gallery manager a simpering wreck by the time we were done with him.
How could the work sell if he had it hidden in storage? Why wouldn't he tell Joe the truth and just send everything back?
I gave him my business card with my home number in Honolulu. I said he could always use my number as a local contact for Joe. I wanted to help the poor guy.
The upshot is that I emailed Joe and told him the truth. As far as we could tell, the paintings had been in storage for a while. He fought to get his work back, not easy when the pieces went "missing" and the galleryites kept waving his long term contract under his nose, but the last I heard, the paintings are on their way home.
But here is the rub.
Last night, in the middle of watching American Idol, I received a phone call from the manager of the gallery.
I didn't even know who he was at first. He talked to me like we were old friends.
He finally explained who he was and I remembered that I'd given him my business card.
I was stunned. I wanted to provide a local contact number for Joe, nothing more, nothing less.
This idiot had other ideas. He is in Los Angeles promoting his own work and is having a show down at the beach this weekend.
It was an audacious bit of networking to be sure. "I kept your card seeing as you're such an art lover and I remember you like florals. I'd love to see you there."
I was so incensed that he tried to play me that I cut him off. "Dude, please lose my number. The only way I would ever come to your show is if your work is in storage!"

Aloha oe,



Sara Taney Humphreys said...

Yikes. This story definitely hits home for artists of any kind! Your buddy is lucky that you did that investigating for him....and that gallery owner...what a jerk! The audacity to call you to network?! Great to see you put him in his

Jambrea said...

Poor Joe. I just can't believe the gallery owner did that!

You really are a great friend. I love that you and Eleanna got to play spies! How fun for you two. I just wish what you found out was better news. I hope the art makes it home safe!

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