This is Bill Buschel and you're listening to Graffiti on WNYE in New York on 91.5 FM and tonight we're listening to an interview with Angela Di Bello, the director of Agora Gallery down in Chelsea.
"A lot of times people will say to me, well, it must be tough being in the fine art business because people don't really need art, it's a luxury. And, I don't think that way at all. I think, 'Wrong!' You really do need to surround yourself with it, whether it's a painting or an object or things - people, surround yourself with the bright energy because that's what we have, I think."
That was Angela Di Bello, the director of the Agora Gallery, where my producer and I spent the morning last Saturday. We couldn't have asked for a better guide. Angela's knowledge and love of art started early.
"I can't even remember how young I was when the art world began to interest me - or art. As a child I painted, I drew - anything having to do with art was my passion."
Tonight we're listening to an interview my producer and I conducted with Angela Di Bello, the director of the Agora Galley. As we continued I asked Angela about the health of the art world:
"It's amazing, the phenomenon is just mind-blowing. Young collectors, or collectors who are just beginning to build their collection, as well as established collectors, have always combed through artist studios and galleries to find that special talent that they want to begin to collect. But what's happened is that the number of collectors has more than doubled, in the last several years. And what collectors and gallery owners are doing, is that they're going to studios, and artists who are still emerging - MFA candidates, of age 26 and younger, they're being collected. And their works are going from anywhere from $5000 to $20,000 - and these are students."
"I know you're specifically interested in arts from Greece, and - well, it's wonderful, isn't it, 'Agora' - the word in Greek obviously means 'marketplace' and the whole concept of the gallery was to provide sort of an open marketplace for artists, emerging as well as mid-level artists, who have not necessarily shown in the US before, so we wanted to provide them with a venue for doing that.
We've been in business since 1984 and we're well-known all over the world. We have tremendous visibility. I don't know if you know this, but when you do a search for 'art in New York' or 'fine art in New York', we come up on the first page. That's not because we're 'A'!
We're averaging about 150,000 visitors a month, with a million and a half hits. So all of the artists whose work we represent, in addition to the other artists we have represented in the past, their work can be seen on our gallery site, Agora-Gallery.com. And the art of current artists is on ARTmine.com."
Do you find that the internet and new technology in general to be affecting not only the way art is transmitted but art itself?
"I think that it has had a tremendous impact in the art world. Fifteen years ago I never thought that I would see the day that a client would purchase artwork from a website.
And they do?
"They do. And they do this - I get inquiries on a weekly basis. I just sold the other day two paintings, sight unseen, just from the internet. The client is coming in on Saturday, to pick up the work. To me it's amazing, that that is actually taking place, but it is. I would say that at least 50% of the sales generated are generated from the website. In that they see the work on the website, and either they come in to look at it in person, or they can't be there to see the work - so it gets shipped to them."
You also have some publications, don't you?
"We do. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief of ARTisSpectrum magazine, which we publish twice a year, thank God! But again - the whole concept of the magazine is to provide artists with another venue to promote their work."
~ "Let's take a look at the work again. These are artists are from various parts of the world. Alexandra is actually here, and in her work she uses Day-Glo florescent colors so that - well, let's turn off the lights in here..." The lights go off and the change in the room is startling. Under the black light, Alexandra Spiratis's pink, blue, black and white zebras seem to jump off the canvas and into the room. She's an African of Greek ancestry. The energy and love of her homeland courses through her work. "She's living in Kenya, but has been all over the world, I think she's lived in Australia as well, but as you can see - well, just look at that, isn't that great?" A few steps away is work of a very different nature. This work is cerebral, dark, foreboding. It is the work of the Greek artist Elena Jordaris. "She lives in Greece. Her work is very expressionistic in style. Have you met her? "I haven't met her, no - and that's interesting too. I've been communicating with all of the artists for sometimes close to a year, and it's always fascinating to meet them in person." "Bas... Now his influence - he uses Greek mythology, in a very modern approach, a contemporary approach to sculpture. He actually lives in the UK." Across the room, sitting on a pedestal, I spy a small bronze statue by Korze Geronimo. 'The key to my soul'. No, that's not some secret to my inner workings, but the name of the piece. Part face, part stringed instrument - a very powerful piece. ~ We move on to an artist from Egypt, El Zarai, a man whose art can only be described as magical and surreal. "A very mysterious artist. I've only met with his rep, and it will be interesting to meet the artist when he does venture out. His work is really amazing in that there are so many stories. Narratives in his work are all historical, mythical, biblical, spiritual. Every time I look at these canvases I see something completely new that I haven't noticed before. But I do want to meet with the artist personally because I want him to talk about the work, one on one." ~ Next we cross the gallery, and at the same time we cross continents, coming upon paintings that spiritually seem to be from Giverny where Monet created so many of his great masterpieces. The artist is Ernestine Tahedl. "This has become one of my favorites, because it's just so peaceful here, so calming. I love the depth, I love the fact that with this painting in particular, you feel that you could just walk into it and keep going so that you almost become part of it."
Coming up with ideas, making things happen, that to me is where I feel my creativity is, for the most part, on that level - assisting artists, helping them in their careers, advising them, providing them with direction, writing - all of that is in an effort to work with artists, because I understand them from a level of experience, having worked with them, and from creating my own work. It's a relationship that is not strictly business but I think is on many levels."
It was time to leave but there was one more thing I needed to know. Because of Angela's experience, knowledge and love of art, I wanted to know what one piece of wisdom she could pass on to all aspiring artists.
"Be patient. There is a process in play, and whether an aspiring artist is aware of that process or not is irrelevant, it's still in play. They have to sit back and focus on what they are expressing - What are they saying? How are they saying it? What is the language they are using to say it? The more connected that one is to one's feelings the truer the artwork is. The truth is in the expression of the feeling, of the emotion that one is feeling. The skill comes from study, comes from working, comes from years and years and years of experience. One can have the skills but without the real emotion behind it, it's going to fall flat.
And vice versa - you need to know what you're saying in your work, but at the same time you need the skills to be able to express it. It's almost a magical thing that happens, I think, and the artists recognize it when it happens. I have had conversations with artists where they have expressed to me that they can go for days without eating, sleeping - everything is obliterated around them. The only thing that becomes real for them is their work and what they are expressing in that moment. And that to me is the gift of an artist, basically. The artist who is so in touch with that desire, and there is no question - 'Oh maybe I could have been a business person and a CEO of a corporation instead of slaving away in my studio.' You don't really have a choice. You have to paint, or you have to sculpt, or you have to take your camera and go out into the world and photograph. It's as essential as breathing. And I know that sounds like a cliché, but it's not, it's not a cliché at all. It's a focus, it's a mind-set, but it's not imposed - it comes from within. You don't want to stop. And there is a real high - it's there."
Download and listen to Angela's interview as an mp3
Sign up for news and events emails