How was the idea of hosting ‘The World of Art Showcase’ in Las Vegas born?
I have been working with artists since I was 12 years old as my father started our artist supply business in 1968. As an art supplier you think your role is to get the very best supplies for the artist and to provide them with exceptional service and very competitive prices. A whole lot has changed since 1968. In those days we had a very active art scene that was part and parcel of the contemporary folk lore including the likes of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. We also had wonderful comprehensive art education in the USA. We now jump to 2004 and everything has changed. Art has been decimated from curriculums and contemporary art sales are at an all time low. I felt as a small company with limited funds we could tackle just one thing at a time. So in 2005 we started Burning Oak Studio to film DVDs and to take from the DVDs Free Art Lessons
and put them on our site. Today we have over 1,000 FALs. We are also producing home schooling which is high in quality and a comprehensive applied art education from K-12.
Our DVDs have received many awards and the home schooling has been evaluated with outstanding acclaim from all over the home schooling world. We have plans to work with school districts to tackle the cost of the art education and hopefully get grants so we can cost effectively bring arts education back into schools.
Two years ago I was in my office speaking to the president of the leading manufacturer of art materials in the world when I was asked about the art in my office, “Where do you buy this art?” It dawned on me then that maybe the struggles artists were having had to do with an underlying problem of art appreciation and the inability to access great art locally from Galleries. Not to be political, my investigation uncovered a huge black hole for artists. Not only was there a problem with enough galleries but the scope of work carried by galleries in most towns and cities was very limited and the quality of the art was inconsistent. The average person when questioned did not know much about art and art history and basically did not think they liked most art that was being produced.
It does no good placing blame on this to anyone for any reason but to do something about the problem. The question was when and how. Our first order of business was to make an event so spectacular that it would be a shining light and reverse the trends of the past 30 to 35 years and help people discover that art should be part of their everyday life. I selected Las Vegas as it is the number one destination city in the USA. It therefore would make perfect sense to try to develop it as the number one destination city for the arts. Where better to start then the finest hotel on the planet, Wynn Las Vegas.
Was there any criterion that artists had to meet to merit inclusion within the show? How was inclusion decided?
Art is so very subjective. Not only is art subjective but because it is also the taste of curators tend to change as more information and a layering of knowledge and changes of personal taste can change what is considered Avant Garde and what is just plain bad art. So we boiled it down to strong imagery. Artists that had striking works and/or works that told a story that resonated with our contemporary universe and whose work clearly comes through as a voice. We looked at thousands of artists and invited those that we felt were masters. We are thrilled with the artists that are part of the show but since it is a first year show we know that subsequent years we will be able to build on this show. We are very thankful for the participation of some of the greatest artists of our time in this first show. The real story though is the entire collection of art in the ballrooms of The Wynn on December 20th to 22nd. In in its entirety the show is solid and undeniable proof of the spiritual uplifting of art and the key to move not just art forward but also humanity.
What is your favourite artwork from within the show?
I own many of the artists’ artwork so their work surrounds me with joy and inspiration. Regarding the other artists – I would love to have pieces of theirs but I do not have the resources to afford their work. I have many favourites, in all areas. From the up and coming genius of Cesar Santos to the mine tickling works of Vladimir Kush and Wolfgang Widmoser. To the tender works of watercolourist Steven Hanks to the mastery of Nelson Shanks and Daniel Greene. To the life energy of H.R. Giger to the inspiring Julia Watkins and Denis Ribas. If you have children you’ll know one day you favour one child and on another you may favour another. I don’t have any single favourite. I would not want to choose. Any work at this show will be wonderful to own to enjoy and as an investment.
Will ‘The World of Art Showcase’ be an annual show in Las Vegas? How do you envisage the showcase progressing in the future?
I believe the process is a long one to bring art front and centre in the world today. This is the first show and it features H.R. Giger, Nelson Shanks, Daniel Greene, Vladimir Kush, Wolfgang Widmoser and other highly collectible artists. These artists I owe a great deal of gratitude to as they do not need the money but are doing the show to help start a new Renaissance and they, the collectors and viewers of this first show can tell their children, grand-children and great-grand children that they were there when art gained it’s focal point again. At the end of the process spanning decades, contemporary art will be valued more than anything and the heroes of our world will certainly include a wide array of artists who by definition are visionaries.
Do you collect yourself? If yes, do you see it as an investment or passion?
When I was 12 years old I made $ 5 a day. Which was good money in 1968 for a 12 year old. I saved it and purchased art with it. In those days I collected lithographs, serigraphs and etchings. Almost all the art was contemporary. Warhol, Lichtenstein, Henry Moore, Caldor, Dali, Dine, Picasso and many more. In those days 40 days of work translated into an Andy Warhol “New England Clam Chowder Cambell’s Soup Can”. Funny enough that piece has been in our kitchen and my children grew up with it. At no time was there ever a discussion on the value of the work on a monetary basis. They think of it today, now in their twenties, as part of the family! All the art I buy I intend to enjoy. It is a bonus if it can be put on a financial statement as an asset. I guess if I ever had to sell a piece, it would be difficult as each piece has lived with me and has helped define how I see things. OK, granted Dali might not be exactly how I see things!
If money was not an object, what art work would you most like to have?
That is easy. Michelangelo’s “The David”. Of course, it is not for sale. It is the one piece that if I had someone who believed that art was not relevant to human history or important in developing our humanity to greater levels, I could take them to in Florence and tell them this was created with an irregularly shaped stone by the young Michelangelo in 1504. Virtually every human being wants to be loved and wants to be safe and this piece depicts the virtues of the brave David fearless as victory was not an option for him to live his life with those two things coming out of the battle.
If there was one artist – living or dead – that you would like to have dinner with, who would it be and why?
Salvador Dali. I am an eclectic collector and I guess it can be traced to my love of Salvador Dali and his ability to put his idea in stunning and thought provoking imagery. He was the true Renaissance man that you can find works from extremely detailed realism to abstract expressions. He of course will always be remembered for his Surrealism but he could do it all. We need free thinkers to move the world in the right direction and who better to talk to then Dali! In saying this there are 70 artists at the World Of Art Showcase which I would equally enjoy spending time with for any reason and at any time. Some
you will never have a chance to meet again. So it shouldn’t be missed if you love art and invest in it.