April is the Cruelest Month

Spring 2024
April 10, 2024
April is the Cruelest Month If you’ve been in Santa Fe at all these last weeks, you’ll know what the poet meant.  63 degrees one day. 35 the next. And cold winds blowing pollen into every crevice of your being. Fruit trees beginning to bud only to be covered by frost.

I fortunately don’t suffer… from allergies.  Plenty of other things to be sure. We all suffer in some way. All of you are suffering through this blog right now, for example.

Anyway, I have been thinking about Spring, and the New Moon and the Path of Totality Eclipse…new beginnings, big happenings.  But as I think about what is new, what is becoming, I have also paused to look back.

35 years ago this month I walked into Sid Deutsch Gallery and began my journey as an art dealer.

In early 1989, I had just moved to NYC on a whim. Some friends from college needed a roommate for an apartment they had rented downtown. On 9th Street, just off Broadway, near Astor Place. I was a year out of Harvard and living in Los Angeles, and it had been my dream to live in New York since visiting often in college.  So, I came. No idea what my plan was. I had worked for the American Film Institute for the year before so I thought maybe I’d find some work in documentary film in New York.  

What I found was data entry. Sitting in a dark office on 57th Street recording European record sales for Leonard Bernstein’s account.  At lunch I would visit the many galleries on the same block: Kennedy, Marlborough, Zabriskie, etc. One day a friend of mine whose mother worked at a gallery said there was a gallery in their building looking for help. So, I called and made an appointment for the next day to go and speak to them. Surely it would be better than entering the details of West Side Story sales in Germany into a spreadsheet.  I could maybe do this until I found my film job.

I walked into Sid Deutsch Gallery and met with Sid Deutsch. I had no expectations, no experience, no resume. We just talked for about 30 minutes and he offered me a job. I fell in love with the gallery, my colleagues on 57th Street, everything. Many of the people I met in 1989 I still work with today. Today, we are owners of our own galleries.

I think of this time also because a few days ago I learned of the passing of Jeffrey Bergen of ACA Galleries. Sid closed his gallery a few years after I began working there. He had had a bad stroke. He introduced me to Sidney and Jeffrey Bergen and recommended they hire me before he closed. I worked off and on for ACA for a couple of years. We represented the Romare Bearden Estate, Faith Ringgold, Barkley Hendricks, and so many others. I learned a lot and benefitted greatly from their knowledge, kindness and patience. Jeffrey and his father were good teachers and showed me what it meant to really love being a dealer. They had real enthusiasm and passion for both art and people. These years are filled with many happy memories.  And gratitude for the opportunities freely given to me.

In both these experiences I learned that art dealing is hardly about selling art. Selling the art keeps the whole enterprise going, but what it’s really about is creating an ecosystem of people interested in the conversation around art and creativity. About bringing people together who love to talk about art and ideas. About living and working with beauty all day. It’s a fresh palette to build experience on. It’s alchemy.

As the cycle of life begins anew this month, I do not agree that April is there simply to remind us of meaningless new beginnings. The impermanence of things. Rather, it is the opportunity to see things anew and even in their passing we retain the memory of their beauty and carry the lessons learned into each season.

Auctions, Fairs, Openings… all readying for a new season. There will be triumphs, failures, hope, and disappointment .

Acquaintances will be made and lost. And all of this we will carry down the path. As the cycle begins anew it is a time to look forward and also to remember and be grateful.

About the author

Aaron Payne

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