What’s a Contemporary Artist to Do?

By Kristie L. Smith Nikitin, freelance writer and art enthusiast

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Art, it’s everywhere, and yet how often do we really pay attention to it? The industry behind the thought-provoking pretties is a $66 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) behemoth that is traditionally a very exclusive, relationship- driven, face-to-face business. Pieces range in price from a few dollars, to a few hundred million dollars and can be difficult to sell, regulate or even understand. Much like the music and publishing industries before it, the future of fine art may be changing.
Divided into categories, art is what you hang on the refrigerator, buy at an art fair and purchase at Hobby Lobby, to differentiate your first apartment from your old college dorm room. Then there’s the gallery-find known as “fine art.” Smart fine painters and sculptors are turning to the internet to boost gallery business or bypass galleries altogether. Just like iTunes and book self publishing, artists can now erase the gate keeper AKA the broker and break the gallery mold by posting directly online.
“Most gallery owners [and artists] only know the old model,” according to artist and author, Kris Gebhardt. Gebhardt has been immersed in the art industry for the last ten years or so. As an avid painter, he needed somewhere to display — and maybe sell — his large format pieces. Following that archaic system, he and his wife, fellow artist Angela Gebhardt, opened a gallery in the NuLu district of downtown Louisville, Kentucky. For the Gebhardts it is not just about the sale, but “it’s about getting the art to the right person.” Online art means better service for the aficionado and a much wider audience to appreciate, connect with and admire pieces.
The Gebhardts found gallery ownership came with a high overhead. Many are little more than a tourist attraction. Urban areas and trendy downtown districts have been known to subsidize galleries as a destination to bring people for art trolley trots and something to do on a Friday night. But few galleries have this arrangement and even fewer visitors make purchases, being more interested in the free canapés and a moment of Zin.
So what’s a contemporary fine artist to do? Websites like Saatchi Art, Artsy, artnet, Artspace and others have come on the scene and showcase high end art for sale. When asked why he posts online he said, “We just needed to get [our] work to a broader audience.” Internet art sites, Gebhardt says, “… are more international — urban even.” It no longer made sense to operate a gallery in NuLu when he could post to the Saatchi site and reach people all over the world, 24 hours a day. In addition to digital displays, the Gebhardts have increased their social media presence, as well. Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn have all proven to be successful means of sharing their art. “We have 7,260 connections on LinkedIn alone,” said Gebhardt.
The art sites by themselves may not sell paintings. The artist must be marketer, publicist and social media strategist all wrapped up in one. It doesn’t hurt to be a bit of a salesperson, too. There’s still a need to take the product where the buyers are. That’s why the Gebhardts also display in prestigious shows like Spectrum, Red Dot, Art Miami and Pulse. It’s not a cheap endeavor, but a potential buyer will hear angels begin to sing when standing five to seven feet away from a painting that “gets” them. While the art enthusiast might have a moment with your masterpiece on the five inch screen of an iPhone — if the fruit of your labor stands over five feet tall — like many of the pieces by both Gebhardts — nothing beats seeing a powerful piece in person for it to be truly appreciated.
As far as Kris and Angela are concerned, the future of the art industry for painters and sculptors who want to build a brand that they control and build a following at the same time includes digital and traditional exhibition. All roads that put their work in front of potential collectors are fair game. Like the music industry and publishing, the art world’s time-tested avenues aren’t always the best route, but new paths can be forged to create awareness and maybe even sell a piece or two.
Don’t Curse The Fool Thats Willing
By Kris Gebhardt
Mixed media 37″ by 41″
On Exhibit Red Dot Miami – Nov. 30 – Dec 4 – During Art Basel Week 2016

Echoes Of Breath

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Echoes Of Breath

By Kris Gebhardt

Mixed media 57″ by 43″

In severe cases of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses, when the heart is weak and the lungs fill with fluid, breathing becomes desperate and shallow. This is a raspy hiss instead of a seamless, white noise. Artist Kris Gebhardt is familiar with this tightrope walk between life and death — these echoes of breath resonate from his physical training days with recovering heart attack and cancer patients. The angry imitation of taking in oxygen portrayed in this painting haunts the viewer, while offering some solace at the same time.

Reminiscent of a broken reed on a wind instrument, these Echoes of Breath, each fighting not to be the last, were recorded in the subconscious of Gebhardt, until one day the cadence manifested as a frail beauty dressed for a party. Unclear as to whether she is celebrating her victory or embarking on a battle, her strong chin and upright posture contrast with her ashen skin and gaunt face. Is that a wig with hastily drawn eyebrows or merely a festive scarf to hide her loss?

She is depicted on a scrap of canvas that stands 57” tall x 43” wide and is smaller than many of Gebhardt’s works. This piece symbolizes his non-art career — his other passion — rebuilding the broken, the beaten and the dammed. Once again revisiting his gritty style and somewhat sinister overtones, Echoes of Breath is dedicated to all those whom Kris Gebhardt has helped regain life, mobility and strength.

Couples Therapy @ SPECTRUM Indian Wells Art Show

Couples Therapy

couplestherapyMixed Media 67″ by 56″ by Kris Gebhardt

Discover Spectrum Indian Wells—a contemporary art show in the heart of California’s Coachella Valley. Featuring an international slate of artists and galleries, Spectrum Indian Wells is where exceptional art meets an equally stunning backdrop. Join us for an unforgettable four days of cutting-edge art, entertainment, and special events.

OPENING NIGHT PREVIEW

SCHEDULE

Thursday, March 17 | 5:00PM – 9:00PM

GENERAL ADMISSION

SCHEDULE

Friday, March 18 | 12:00PM – 7:00PM
Saturday, March 19 | 12:00PM – 7:00PM
Sunday, March 20 | 10:00AM – 5:00PM

SPECTRUM Tickets

Necker Island Painting By Angela Gebhardt Inspired By Trip’s To British Billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s Private Island Paradise

Just sit in front of this mixed media jewel, by artist Angela Gebhardt, for a moment and there is no doubt that her inspiration was tropical. One can almost hear the waves crashing against the shore, the birds calling to each other across treetops and the warm ocean breeze rustling through the palms. Just add the Buffet-famed “boat drink” and a hammock and you never need to leave – at least not until the docent politely taps you on the shoulder and nudges you along.

In reality, the painting, prompted by trips Gebhardt and her husband, took to Necker Island, one of the British Virgin Islands, located 1,100 miles southeast of Miami. Necker, owned by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, is a private luxury resort that had been uninhabited until the late 20th Century. It took three years and $10 million to become the Balinese-style retreat that it is today.

On the island for business – the Gebhardts designed and installed the fitness room and equipment at the luxury villa. Incorporating local stone, Brazilian hard woods, Asian antiques, Indian rugs, art, fabric and bamboo furniture from Bali – the main lodge is a work of art in itself – complete with glass panels in every room, that open to the 74 acre property and the Caribbean Sea.

Gebhardt’s use of acrylics, oils, stains, varnishes, straight pigments and fabric in this piece provides a rich back drop for the main blue which can only be deemed the most beautiful, brilliant hue there ever was. The overall tone is retrospective. It offers a place to escape and reflect – to hide from the chaos of daily life. Yet, the work has a flow, a shimmer and electricity only found in nature.

SPECTRUM MIAMI (Art Basel Week) Dec 2 – 6, 2015

Necker Island

Mixed Media 67” by 88”

By Angela Gebhardt

Gebhardt Gallery APP (free download @ iTunes app store)

Necker Island Painting By Angela Gebhardt

Angela Gebhardt @ SPECTRUM MIAMI 2015

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HOLIDAY WISHES

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