HAILS FROM: Denver, Colorado
PRESIDES OVER: Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe and New York
GALLERY’S SPECIALTIES: Classic Western art, the Taos Society of Artists, the Santa Fe Art Colony, 19th- and 20th-century American art, European Impressionism, photography
ARTISTS SHOWN: Tony Angell, George Ault, Cyrus Baldridge, Elbridge Ayer Burbank, John Coffer, Maynard Dixon, John Felsing, Jonathan Prince, Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell, William Zorach
FIRST GALLERY SHOW: A group exhibition of Taos and Santa Fe painters in 1976
Tell us about your background and your first experiences with art.
I grew up in Denver, where my grandfather had a small art collection. That was where the spark that got me into the art world came from. When I was younger I would constantly go to museums and look at lots of art, training my eye artist by artist.
Do you remember the first piece of art that captured your attention?
It was a painting by Leon Shulman Gaspard that my grandfather had; that was the kind of art he collected. [Gaspard, a Russian-born painter trained in France, moved to Taos in 1918 after being severely wounded as a French aviator in World War I.]
What prompted you to open your first gallery?
The art drew me to the business. To make money, I cut and delivered wood while I got my Bachelor of Arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, but other than that, I have always been an art dealer. I opened my first gallery in 1976 in Santa Fe; prior to that, I was dealing art by the local masters from Taos and Santa Fe out of my house. These are the same artists I ended up showing in my gallery. I expanded to New York in 1992 for convenience more than anything else. Being connected to the main marketplace was essential.
How did you choose your specialty?
I just started with the artists who were here in Santa Fe, like Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as Victor Higgins, Ernest Blumenschein, Marsden Hartley, Frederic Remington, all the Taos artists, and the early Exploratory artists.
Was there anyone who, early on, gave you good advice?
I received great help from Victor Hansen, an antiques dealer in Santa Fe, and from Rudy Wunderlich of Kennedy Galleries, in New York. I learned a lot from them—especially that I needed to know about the art in order to sell it.
Has the art market in Santa Fe changed since you have been involved with it?
In the 1970s and ’80s the art market in Santa Fe was much stronger. There were fewer galleries, but the quality was incredibly high. Bill McAdoo had McAdoo Galleries. There was also Don Blair and Jamison Gallery. The key gallery in Taos was Jane Hiatt’s Village Gallery, which was probably the most important in the region. Now the market seems to have shrunk in Santa Fe. There is more competition for less high-quality artwork. An infusion of more national talent would create a healthier market, but the power in the art market has become concentrated in New York and the European cities, with some focus in Los Angeles as well.
What is the most challenging part of running a gallery today?
I love the art, everything else is difficult.
Are there any works that have been difficult for you to part with?
Yes, some great O’Keeffes and Thiebauds.
In which art fair do you most enjoy participating?
The Armory Show at the Pier because the energy is so fantastic.
Has your personal taste influenced the selection of artists you show?
I am drawn to artists who have their own language and are not merely copying someone else. It most definitely affects what I show in the gallery.
If you could own any artwork in the world, money aside, what would it be?
One great Paul Cézanne, one great Henri Matisse, one great Pablo Picasso, and one great Kandinsky.
If you were not an art dealer, what would you be doing?
I would be an entrepreneur, creating businesses. But then again, I am currently involved in other businesses, from restaurants to banking. I take a lot of what I learn from them and bring it into the gallery.
This article appears in the July 2013 issue of Art+Auction.