Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Excited. Nervous. Anxious. Giddy. Tired. Emotional. Overwhelmed. Fulfilled. These are all answers to the question: "How are you feeling about the gallery?" So without more, here are a few pics from hanging Walls by Ashley Lathe in the brand new GALLERY PANTONE 278. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When It Comes To Buying Art, Buy What You Like

Buying Art 101

When it comes to buying art, the most common questions I get from my friends are always "How do I know whether a work of art is good?" or "I don't know anything about art, how do I know what to buy?" My answer to both questions, while simple, is the philosophy I learned early on when buying art. That is, buy whatever will make you happy, regardless of what anyone else thinks. In other words, whether it's a new rug, a flashy television on your wall, a piece of pottery, or an oil panting, buy something that you will come home to and be happy that you made that purchase.

Recently, a friend confided in me that he struggled to appreciate modern and contemporary art. This is easy to understand. Unlike a classical portrait or a landscape, it's often difficult to understand, much less explain to a house guest, the meaning behind a contemporary work of art. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of modern art that would evoke a response along the lines of "You call that art? My five year-old could paint that" or "If that's art, then maybe I should become an artist." Here are just a couple of works that could elicit such a response:

The painting on the left is by Pablo Picasso and will likely sell at auction for $16-20 million. On the right is a work by Piet Mondrian worth $3-5 million. The value of works such as these is the subject of unending debates. Is it the artist's ability to see something that the rest of us cannot see and to communicate that vision to us? Is it the ability of the artist to create something new in an age where it has been said that everything that will be invented already has? Is it the ability to create something that is simply visually pleasing? Or is it an arbitratry value created by a group of very wealthy art collectors? Or is it none of the above? Which gets me back to my point -- buy art that you like, be that a landscape painting, a glass screw, or a metal bird's nest.

Masters and Emerging Artists

My (unsolicited and probably meritless) advice as a nascent gallery owner is to try to find something in an emerging artist that is reflective of that artist's unique vision, refined talents, and the ability to communicate that vision through those same talents. These concepts may sound nebulous, so some more practical advice -- find a young artist that exhibits work that calls mind an acknowledged master. As my gallery develops I plan to display emerging artists next to more accomplished ones in hopes of drawing such comparisons. Below is my first attempt at doing so.

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was a prominent American painter, who was recently shown at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist. In both his urban and rural scenes, his works reflected his personal vision of modern American life.

Early Sunday Morning

Ashley Lathe

The first artist to be shown at Pantone 278, Ashley Lathe, works mostly in watercolor. Many of his works involve seemingly ordinary buildings that, like Hopper, clearly reflect his view of contemporary life and our developing society. Compare Ash's "Wall 15" to Hopper's "Early Sunday Morning".

Wall 15
Hopper's ordered and geometrical designs stand in marked contrast to Ash's often bleeding watercolor brushstrokes, but the use of light, color, and shade reflect each artist's view of the urban landscape at the time of his rendering. Similarly, both artists seem interested in the American urban scene, its architecture, and our place among those things. While this is certainly no attempt to equate Ash's works with those of Hopper (a thought that would certainly turn Ash a bright shade of red), I think there are similarities worth noting that can give a potential purchaser some insight into the skill, talent, and vision behind Ash's works.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Do I Know About Art?

Without a doubt, the one question I have been asked the most (beside, so do you think it's a good idea to be launching an art gallery in the middle of a recession?) is what made me want to open an art gallery?

Nate Moore

As I have admitted before, I have no formal art background. I never took an art class, haven't painted since elementary school, and still struggle with the distinction between art and craft. But during the first few years out of law school I developed a strong interest in contemporary art, hanging out with my good friend Beth Wilson at the Ty Stokes Gallery, owned by collectors Bill and Su Su Bounds, in the Castleberry Hill Historic Arts District in Atlanta. This was a place where all types of people would sit around, drink wine, and discuss art or whatever else crossed our minds. It was a welcome break from discussing the intricacies of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 at work.
Sol Lewitt

My first art purchase was a work on paper from the ArtStar project, a collaboration between Atlanta artist Scott Ingram and New York artist Drew Benson. (I'm trying to talk Scott into doing a show some time this summer. I am continuously impressed by his work.) My second purchase was a Donald Sultan silkscreen from a Paris Review art auction. I have since collected works from Nate Moore, Sol LeWitt, Tom Benton, Ken Burns, Jack Stoddart, Marcia McDade McMann, Scott Avett, Ashley Lathe and others. Some of my favorite works, however, are photographs taken by my friends on our trips to the mountains of North Carolina and Colorado, which I display proudly in my home.

Scott Ingram

Drawing on my experience in Atlanta, and the desire to bring that environment to Charlotte, I helped found the Contemporaries at the McColl Center for Visual Art in 2007. It's been great to see that group continue to develop over two short years. In addition, I serve on the board of directors of the McColl Center, am the chairperson of the Young Donor Society of the Arts & Science Council, and recently served on the ASC's Annual Fund Drive cabinet.

Scott Avett
In the end, I simply enjoy the experience of viewing, discussing, exploring, and being surrounded by contemporary art. I think that art should be accessible to all, and a gallery should be a place to explore our own perceptions of art. In addition to the artists above, I consider my favorites to include Morris Louis, Ellsworth Kelly, William Hopper, and Chuck Close, but above all else I look forward to working with emerging artists to share with visitors to my gallery.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Big News and Getting Involved

Design Work from Pure

Last week, at the suggestion of my good friend Patricia Zoder, I applied for a free week of work offered to the non-profit community by Pure ( Believe it or not, they actually found my collaboration with the Charlotte Trolley to be a worthwhile project. So, this week I'll be meeting with Pure to talk about marketing design work for the Gallery. This is very exciting, as anyone that is familiar with my creative abilities knows that there is plenty of room for improvement.

My Heartfelt Thanks

From congratulatory emails to offers to forward the information to friends to help with the design of my invitation (Susan, I can't thank you enough) to making contacts with the media to offering to bring food for the opening, my friends have shown amazing support for Pantone 278, and I could not be more thankful. I am encouraged by the interest so many people have taken in the Gallery, and I can't wait to share this experience with you all.

How You Can Help

Many of you have asked what you can do to help. Since you asked, here are a few suggestions:

The opening is less than 2 weeks away now, and I can't wait. It's been a great ride already. Thanks again for your interest, your support and for just taking the time to read my often senseless ramblings.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ashley Lathe - The Guinea Pig

With just over two weeks until the opening of Pantone 278, it will come as no surprise to many that the first artist will be none other than Ashley Lathe. This was perhaps the easiest decision I have made so far in deciding to open the Gallery, as I probably would have never done this if it weren't for his encouragement.

So, a little bit about Ash. A native of North Carolina, Ash graduated in 1992 from East Carolina University with a B.A. in Graphic Design and Illustration and began his art career as a commercial artist. Following completion of post-graduate work at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Ash taught art classes at the university level. In 2002, with the support of a wonderful family he made the leap to full-time artist. After having a three-month residency at the McColl Center for Visual Art, Ash returned and recently completed a stint as an eleven-month affilitate artist. Ash works mostly in watercolor, and while many of his works involve ordinary, even mundane subjects (buildings, warehouses, windows), the viewer cannot help but be drawn into the painting, bringing his or her own past experience to create meaning from the subject and Ash's rendering.

Ash's development and the progression of his work at the Center has not gone unnoticed. On March 26, 2009, Charlotte Center City Partners honored Mr. Hugh McColl, Jr. with its 2009 Vision Award. At the award ceremony, Mr. McColl was presented with a watercolor painting by Ash. The untitled piece depicts a view of the Uptown Charlotte skyline and creates a sense of growth, movement and warmth that characterizes our city.

This past September, as part of his affiliation with the McColl Center for Visual Art, Ash organized a community art project that resulted in an engaging mural that is on display at the Center. Attached is a video of the project, produced by the Center staff.

I consider Ash a close friend and a promising artist. The energy, enthusiasm, creativity, thoughtfulness and genuine nature that Ash brings to his work is the inspiration behind Pantone 278. I look forward to sharing his works with you.

To learn more about Ash and his work, check out his website and blog.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Location, Location, Location

What's an art gallery without a really cool space? Well, through very good fortune, I found it--the Charlotte Trolley Powerhouse Museum in Historic South End. But how did I end up here? After searching high and low for the perfect space, and even considering opening Pantone 278 in my own home, one phone call to my friend James Mathis, Director of Historic South End, and a partnership was formed. Turns out the Museum was looking to be open during the South End gallery crawls, and I was looking for a place to sell art. The rest is history.

A little bit about Charlotte Trolley, Inc. Trolley cars made possible the development of Charlotte's earliest neighborhoods, including Dilworth and served as a catalyst for the city's first era of economic growth at the turn of the last century, much like the light rail has done for South End during this century. The Trolley Museum now houses a fully restored trolley, and vintage trolleys run on the light rail line on weekends. A non-profit was formed in 1988 to educate the community about the important role played by trolleys in the development of Charlotte. You can learn more at

Location: Charlotte Trolley is located at 1507 Camden Road in Historic South End and directly adjacent to the Bland St. LYNX Blue Line Station. There are on-street parking spaces available in the area, but the Museum does not have any dedicated parking spaces. To encourage visitors to Pantone 278, there will be a drawing during every gallery crawl for everyone who rides the light rail.

So, how's this thing going to work? The Museum hasn't installed it's exhibits yet, so it has a great space for hanging art. From April 30 through September 30, Gallery Pantone 278 will display art in the Powerhouse Museum in conjunction with the South End Gallery crawl to be held on the first Friday even of each month. Each show will go up on Wednesday, there will be an invitation event on Thursday, and art will be on display during the crawl on Friday night. Art will also be available for viewing at my home following the show by appointment. I can't wait to see how the artists will use the space to display their art. Here is a link to the event page for the first Opening.

Note: Check out the new Pantone 278 logo. Many thanks to Frate ( for his hard work on it. In the next blog post I will reveal my first artist. Be sure to click on the box to the right and follow my blog so you don't miss out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What's in a name?

Basking in the glow of a Carolina blue day and one win away from another Carolina national championship, what better time than now to explain the meaning behind the name Gallery Pantone 278?

Many of my fellow Tar Heel alumni have already pointed out that Pantone 278 is the official color code for Carolina Blue. When I conceived of the gallery, one name immediately came to mind, and what better way to pay tribute to one of my most favorite diversions? But have no fear my friends whose school colors were not chosen by God himself, there will be no Carolina Blue bias at Pantone 278. In fact, my first artist is a proud graduate of East Carolina University.

Alternate Name: While Pantone 278 seemed like such a natural fit, I also considered calling it the Ellsworth Billman Gallery. Ellsworth Billman was my maternal great grandfather, who was killed in a bank robbery.

Ellsworth, his brother Elmer and their father established The Bank of Kaleva in 1912, and through much hard work survived Black Friday and the ensuing Great Depression. But on January 5, 1933, four men held up the bank in the small northern Michigan town. During the robbery, Great Grandpa Ellsworth was shot and killed. The four men got away with $3,000 but were captured three days later and sentenced to life in prison. A book and movie, called "Car 99", were written about the robbery.

As a kid, I loved hearing my grandmother Doris Billman Gustafson tell stories about her twin father and uncle. This alternative name was also a way for me to pay tribute to my grandmother, who developed a love for art-making while courageously battling cancer during my formative years. I trace my interest in art to the enjoyment and peace art brought to her.

I struggled with the choice, but after much thought, I chose Pantone 278. I know Grandma is proud either way.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Launch of Gallery Pantone 278

In an effort to avoid the obvious April Fools jokes, I actually waited until after midnight to post my very first blog about my new art gallery -- Gallery Pantone 278.

Every few days I'll be posting a short blog about the gallery, including how I got to this point and where this thing is headed, and probably a whole lot of other stuff you may or may not have interest in.

Unlike this blog, the idea of an art gallery did not materialize late at night, in a sleep deprived state with absolutely no idea what I was doing (okay, that last point is debatable). The seeds of what will become Gallery Pantone 278 were probably sewn some time back in 1983 with my first visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, fermented over bottles of wine with my good friend Beth Wilson, and finally sprung into life with the encouragement of Ashley Lathe and James Mathis.

My goal for Pantone 278 is to create a place in Charlotte where artists and those interested in art, and even those who aren't, can gather to discuss, appreciate or just look at art. I want the gallery to be a social place where everyone, no matter their experience with art, will feel comfortable exploring their notions and perceptions of art.

There will be 6 shows this summer, each focusing on a different local or regional emerging artist. These shows will be held in connection with the Historic South End Gallery Crawl held on the first Friday of each month with the inaugural show launching on May 1, 2009.

And with that...Gallery Pantone 278 was born.