For such a down-to-earth guy, our guest Jim Hartley has had quite a glitzy career in the art biz. Jim, along with his partner (and past guest) Theron Kabrich, have owned the San Francisco Art Exchange for about thirty years. Their gallery has hosted some of the biggest names in rock-n-roll, movies and popular culture—both as artists, clients and artistic subjects. It is also where I started my own gallery career.
Jim is an Art Dealer’s Art Dealer and he’s one of the few who I consider a teacher. Not just for me, but for dozens of people who have had the chance to work with him over the years. In fact, the first lesson that I learned from Jim happened when he offered me my first job in an art gallery. He called me to make the offer…which I didn’t actually accept. I asked for a week to consider it—selling art at the time felt a bit like joining the circus. But instead of saying yes or no, he just kept talking—talking about life, what I wanted from it and what he’d done in his own. He told me about his family and asked about mine. I think we even talked about movies. And an hour or two later, he said “How about you come in tomorrow?” and I said “Okay.” Yep, I got tricked into this racket by one of the best talkers I’ve ever met.
So it’s Jim who I have to blame on the worst of days. And it’s Jim who I have to thank on the best.
But even if I didn’t stick in the art biz, I would owe him debt of gratitude for that valuable lesson which has brought me some of the biggest artists I’ve worked with, allowed me to close sales in the millions and may even be responsible for how I stole the heart of my wife. That aside from the clever things we tell people, great stories, jokes and facts we dazzle the non-believers with—it comes down to just being there. Sticking it out, taking our time, getting to know each other. And underneath that having the strength of will like a force of nature that erodes walls over time.
Cheers to that.
San Francisco Art Exchange