plein air landscape painting
Painting From Life vs. From Photos


Art dealers are not shop keepers. As Edward Winkleman writes, “Saying a dealer is just a shopkeeper might make someone feel superior, but it hardly accurately describes the job.”

Why do I say dealers are artists? Well, try this: come up with a definition of what artist means today (a serious definition) that will encompass conceptual artists and installation artists and others working in non-traditional media, and I think you will find that it is hard to exclude dealers, at least the better ones, from the category of artist. Dealers can make art from objects that would not be considered art otherwise. Dealers create a program in the medium of art, the program itself is art.

‘Artist’ is generally considered to be an honorable title, for someone who does it well. Why then are the dealers not rushing to claim label? I notice a pretty conspicuous silence, in fact. What’s the deal?

Here is my guess: dealers don’t need to claim the title of artist, because they already have the substance, the power of artists. Calling themselves artists would create some awkwardness — it would put all those other artists in the dealer’s program into an almost assistant-like position, explicitly. Why agitate the artists more than necessary? Also, calling themselves artists would open the dealers up to a whole class of art criticism that is avoided by declining the title, ‘artist’.

If dealers are artists, it poses a challenging question to self-proclaimed artists: Why am I not also using art as a medium? If art dealing is an art form — and a pretty important one — then why are we letting the dealers have all the fun?