Many people ask me, "Who's your representative?" The answer is that Ann Rea, Inc. is the legal entity that represents the artist Ann Rea.
How did this come about? Well, while I was being mentored by American art icons Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos they encouraged me to make a go of it and to explore my talent full time, and to quit that boring and unrelated day job that I wanted quit anyway. "It's not too late" they both advised. But each of them began their careers as academics.
“How do I make a living?” I asked of Wayne Thiebaud. Mr. Thiebaud replied, “I don’t know, I’m not a business man. But I can give you a letter of recommendation and refer you to some galleries, one in particular. You can use my name, you’ll probably get in. But the owner, I'll warn you, she’s a pill.” A pill, that was a very polite understatement.
Wayne Thiebaud’s letter did get me an entrance into that gallery to review my work. But when the gallery owner revealed her terms, actually illegal but common terms, it was no wonder why artists are starving. The gallery owner insisted on geographic market exclusivity, and demanded that the best of my painting inventory was left on consignment. The art gallery may never sell a thing and I was handcuffed from selling my own work through other galleries.
It gets better. I would be paid 50% of the sale price or less because the gallery owner wanted the right to negotiate a discount to patrons, a discount that I would have to eat. I could not work with any other galleries in Northern California even though this gallery may or may not sell a thing and they could give me the boot at any time they pleased. The gallery also wanted to be listed as the single representative on my website and she really didn’t want me selling from my own site.
And the art galleries illegal demands are common terms demanded by many galleries.
So I thought, “Oh, I don’t think so! I want to make a living." And no profitable business would agree to these terms. “I’ll make my own market, thank you very much. I don't know how, but I'll figure it out."
I was advised by the successful artist Donna Billick, yes the sister of the famed football coach, “Take the reins, it’s the only way you’ll succeed.” How true!
So I reflected on the lack of business advice from Wayne Thiebaud, and from my brother, the Dean of a business school, and my sister, a self made multi-millionaire. Then I decided to write a business plan and a marketing plan anyway. I sat with a dear friend to do this. I didn’t have experience in writing business plans but realized that it was an unconventional approach for an artist that could offer a distinct advantage. Why not try?
They all thought that I was crazy. But then, they always did think she I crazy.
So in 2005, I launched my business as a sole proprietorship. And without the benefit of a PR agent my business was profiled by the national media, including, “Fortune
”, “The Wine Enthusiast
”, “Practical Winery and Vineyard Management
” and "The Tasting Panel
" magazines, and the “Fine Living
I'm happy to work with art galleries and art consultants but only if the terms are profitable and mutually beneficial, like any good business owner.
In late 2008, I learned more about our federal tax structure and the IRS code and with my CPA's advise I changed my business structure to a corporation.
Now you know the history of Ann Rea, Inc. and you have a little insight into the art market.
And hopefully this story has encouraged you to support independent artists just like Ann Rea, who have decided to "take the reins."