-Words by Lauren Kramer Photography by Lia Crowe
It’s a thundering, rain-filled day in April, but there’s a peace and calm that hovers over Kostuik Gallery on Vancouver’s Homer Street. In a 3,000-square-foot space filled with stunning pieces of contemporary art, Jennifer Kostuik reflects on art and why people buy it.
“Some buy it because they like the colours or texture—very surface things,” she says. “They like how a piece of art makes them feel. For others it’s because they have a connection to a particular work and can’t get it out of their mind; they don’t know why they love it, they just do. And some people like to meet the artist and hear the story behind the work. The art represents a change they’re going through in their own life.”
As the owner of the gallery, which is celebrating 25 years in business this year, Jennifer sees herself as a broker, easing a customer’s way through an art purchase. “It’s almost like being a psychologist,” she says. “I know what my artist is saying and I’m figuring out what my customer is looking for, even though they may not know it.”
A Canadian raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Jennifer studied art history at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, initially intending to be an artist herself. Early on she realized she didn’t have the vocational drive to produce art full time, and felt she could better fulfill her creative process by promoting living artists. Post-college she worked in Toronto, learning about contemporary Canadian art before moving to Vancouver in 1996 to open her own gallery.
In 1997, her gallery opened with a collection of work by artists who had previously been represented in a gallery that had just closed. Those first years included a steep learning curve, Jennifer admits.
“I didn’t have a formed relationship with those artists, and because I didn’t know them and wasn’t behind the ideas that inspired their work, I found it difficult to sell some of their art.”
As she began to understand the significance of choosing her own aesthetic and having meaningful relationships with her artists, Jennifer began actively pursuing artists she wanted to represent. She flew around Canada to meet them and perused artists worldwide. She was looking for art that spoke to her and that would resonate with her clients in British Columbia, as well as with new clients made through exhibiting in international art fairs in Miami, San Francisco and New York City.
“As a gallery owner, I believe you need a good working relationship with an artist, like any business relationship, because art is very personal,” she says. “Art is an expression of someone’s soul, the spirit inside of them. And you’re representing someone else’s career as much as you’re furthering your own career. So, I worked hard at going after artists whose art I related to, who I wanted to represent, and who I felt I could work with.”
Today she represents 27 artists, ranging in age from 32 (Whitney Lewis-Smith) up to 72 (Stu Oxley). Just over half the artists are Canadian, while the remainder are from the United States, Europe, Mexico and Argentina. Just five of the artists are local to BC: photography artists David Burdeny, Judy D. Shane, Philip Jarmain, Whitney Lewis-Smith and painter Ghislain Brown-Kossi.
The price tags of art in Kostuik Gallery vary significantly, ranging from $650 up to $50,000 for the most expensive pieces. Jennifer’s advice to buyers is that if you’re buying anything over $20,000, “ask who the artist is and why their work is in that price range.” Anything below that number is within the average range, she adds.
“Art is an investment, and I believe it’s the best investment in any volatile market,” she says unequivocally. “It’s a better investment than gold because it never depreciates, it always goes up.”
She cites the work of local artist David Burdeny as an example. “His photography is collected internationally and his market value has gone up more than 50 per cent since 2001.”
Jennifer has developed a knack for knowing what her local customers are looking for. So, when American artist William Betts recently offered to send her a selection of line paintings from the series he had first exhibited and sold successfully with her in 2007, she gladly accepted them.
“My newer clients had never seen this series before and I had a collector of Betts’ work itching for more, so I had a feeling it would fly,” she recalls. “It did. I sold six of his pieces in one week!”
Some gallery clients are personal art collectors, while others are corporate clients including CBRE Ltd, Concert Properties and Hollyburn Properties. Liquidity Wines in the Okanagan featured a collection of work by David Burdeny and Philip Jarmain.
Jennifer relishes her connections to her artists and watching their work develop.
“I love forging new relationships with artists, and I really believe in what I do and in what they do. I believe having art in one’s life is a need, a necessity, and that’s why I do it,” she says.
The bonds with her artists are deeply personal, and many artists have become close friends. Often, the relationship is collaborative. The artists understand what Jennifer sees in their work, and sometimes even request her feedback on their new creations.
A collector herself, it can be hard for Jennifer to resist adding to her personal art collection.
“I know what the best artwork is and it’s hard not to buy the best of the best that you know your artists have made!” she admits.
As she reflects on 25 years in Vancouver’s art world, it’s gratitude that Jennifer feels first and foremost.
“It’s been a tough journey running a gallery in this city, but I’m very grateful for being able to do what I do here,” she says, adding, “The past two years were the best I’ve had in a long time, perhaps because of the pandemic. People weren’t traveling and weren’t distracted by life, so they could focus on themselves, their homes and their office spaces. I had the opportunity to reconnect with clients I hadn’t seen in years, and met new clients that finally had time to enter the doors of my gallery.”
Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
QU Announces Art Scholarship Recipients for Fall 2022 – Quincy University
QUINCY, Ill. – Quincy University’s Art Department awarded two art scholarships for the fall
“The Quincy University Art Department created the Art Talent Search Competition as a
way to raise the awareness for new or transfer students to obtain scholarships,” said Karl Warma,
M.F.A., professor of art. “QU has a long tradition of providing scholarships to art students, but
the growing financial need of students in art programs meant we needed more program
The selection process was held during the School of Fine Arts and Communication
Showcase on February 19, 2022. Participants submitted an application, portfolio and had
personal interviews with QU Art Department faculty. Recipients were chosen at the discretion of
the art faculty on the talent and personal vision of the candidate.
“We are so fortunate to have student’s bringing their developing talents to our Art &
Design Department at QU,” said Gary Meacher, M.F.A., assistant professor. “Every year we
have the chance to reward those talents with our annual scholarship competition.”
Laura VanNice, an incoming transfer student, was awarded a $5,000 scholarship.
VanNice previously studied at Moberly Area Community College. VanNice is from Hannibal,
Mo., and pursuing a degree in graphic design.
High school senior Aliya Callaway received a $3,000 scholarship. Callaway is from
Advance, Mo., majoring in graphic design.
“Laura VanNice and Aliya Callaway are talented young women who will bring additional
creative energy to the Art Department program at QU. We look forward to their active
participation starting in the fall of 2022,” said Warma.
Exploring the human design of motherhood at the MassArt Art Museum – GBH News
This week, GBH Executive Arts Editor Jared Bowen sits down with the Morning Edition team to bring you the latest exhibits from around Boston’s art museums.
Now at the MassArt Art Museum through December 18
This free exhibit at the MassArt Art Museum is “an exceptionally timely thing to do this weekend,” according to Bowen. “Designing Motherhood” takes viewers through the history of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, driven by the fact that “this impacts all of us, we are all born,” as curator Michelle Millar Fisher explains. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this one act,” says Millar.
The exhibition’s curators hope that “Designing Motherhood” will challenge audiences’ understanding of human reproduction and what it means to be a mother at a time when so much of modern pregnancy resources come from “people without uteruses designing for people with uteruses,” says curator Michelle Miller Fisher. The works featured vary from photography to historical technologies to sculpture, including one artist’s rendition of their pregnant belly in wood.
Drawing the Curtain
Now at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum through September 11
Maurice Sendak is perhaps most well-known for his work as an author and illustrator, namely for his 1963 children’s book Where The Wild Things Are. A new exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, however, presents a different facet of Sendak’s career: his work in set and costume design for the opera.
Sendak designed elements for not only an operatic adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are, but also Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, and The Nutcracker among others. As Bowen describes, the exhibit is “fun,” as “you walk in and you’re met with music, you’re met with actual sets and set pieces, and you can feel the 3D elements of his design.”
Curator Diana Greenwald says that “you get the sense that there are these little breadcrumbs of his identity showing up” in Sendak’s featured work. Sendak described himself “growing up as Jewish, gay, [and] chronically ill,” and many of his stories feature themes of strength, childhood resilience, and adventure — all of which are reflected in “Drawing the Curtain.”
Sotheby's CEO on Why the Art Market Is Soaring – The Wall Street Journal
Amid London’s ongoing summer auction series, Sotheby’s Chief Executive Charles Stewart is taking stock of the global art market, and he likes what he sees.
On Wednesday, Sotheby’s sold $182 million worth of art over a couple hours in London, meeting the house’s expectations even though a few works by artists such as David Hockney and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner failed to find buyers. Top sales included Francis Bacon’s $53 million “Portrait of Lucian Freud” and Andy Warhol’s $16 million “Self Portrait.” Feverish bidding followed young upstarts like Flora Yukhnovich, whose smudgy Rococo-style painting, “Boucher’s Flesh,” sold to a bidder in Asia for $2.8 million—10 times its low estimate.
London’s sales mark the latest win for Mr. Stewart, who joined Sotheby’s after telecom titan
bought the auction house for $3.7 billion three years ago. Mr. Stewart, who previously worked in telecom and banking, had barely made the rounds to meet his international team when the pandemic hit. Overnight, he had to cancel hundreds of in-person auctions and pivot the company to operate in a marketplace entirely online. The company took a hit in 2020, reporting $5.5 billion in sales, but it bounced back to $7.3 billion last year—a record-high for the 278-year-old company.
Mr. Stewart, a 52-year-old Connecticut native, said he applied lessons learned from the telecom industry to broaden access to Sotheby’s offerings by retooling its online auctions to be easier to find, livestream and click-to-bid. These moves are paying off now even as the world reopens.
“The art market is still really opaque, so we are trying to reduce barriers and allow more people to feel comfortable buying art from us,” he said. “I’m always going to be interested in extending our reach.”
Mr. Stewart recently spoke with The Wall Street Journal from the auction house’s office in Paris. Here are edited excerpts:
Despite the volatility in the broader financial markets, art sales are surging. How do you explain what’s happening in the art market right now?
We’re not impervious to global economic woes, but great material performs well, and we’ve had some strong pieces come to market. I think we’re also seeing the importance of the global nature of our business. We’ve had collectors from over 50 countries bid in our sales, and whenever we’ve noticed stress or anxiety coming from country X, sector Y, category Z, the bidding is so broad-based that it offsets these concerns. That keeps prices strong.
The market has also expanded to include people who are stepping in to bid at all levels, not just at the top. And I think there’s just more interest overall in owning tangible, physical objects at this point in time. In a world of volatility and uncertainty, people crave things that endure.
Is the market nearing a peak?
Art is probably more of a lagging indicator rather than a leading indicator of where the markets are. We don’t necessarily see dramatic corrections. When our market slows down, fewer things become available to sell, but anyone waiting around to get a 30% discount on a masterpiece may be disappointed and frustrated.
We’re kind of like the oceanfront property that everyone’s waiting for the right moment to buy, but there’s a lot of money waiting for that moment. As soon as the price for anything goes down even a little bit, people start to jump in. I see a similar dynamic in our brackets.
Inflation is high in the U.S., and yet that doesn’t appear to have dampened the art market. Why is that?
Art is priced globally, and people bid in whatever currency they use. You may own an object and think about it in dollars, but the bidders trying to win it might be thinking in euros or Swiss francs. Inflation can accompany currency weakness, but art is valued at a globally determined price, so it can be a good hedge against inflation made worse by currency weaknesses.
Cryptocurrencies are flatlining. What’s your outlook on NFT art?
Crypto has clearly repriced significantly, and that’s had implications for the NFT market. But I think people are starting to understand the difference between NFTs created by artists and those made for the collectible markets or for communities like the Bored Apes. Last year it was all sort of lumped together. Now, there’s some clear distinctions.
I also think there’s so much yet to be unlocked in terms of blockchain usage, and the day will come when the physical art we sell will somehow be recorded and supported by a token on the blockchain. It’ll be the standard because it has the potential to solve a number of long-standing issues around things like title, authenticity and provenance. It took the rise of NFT art to raise our own collective awareness to these possibilities.
Where else are you seeing growth and potential in your industry?
We bought a majority stake in our car auction partner, RM Sotheby’s, a few months ago because we see the power and the size of the collectible car market. It’s incredible.
Our luxury categories are also up significantly, more than 30% higher than last year. Even though we’re associated with the best masterpieces, 80% of our bidding goes to win objects under $25,000. Our clients aren’t just looking for the best Van Gogh—they’re buying things across 70 different categories in the 500 sales we hold each year, at all price ranges.
From sneakers to handbags to jewelry to wine and certainly collectible cars, collectors are thinking differently about these categories as well. Years ago, you’d buy a nice watch and you’d have it for your whole life. Now, you might sell it in three years because there are different ways to do that without much time or cost friction.
What parts of the world intrigue you now as potential art hubs?
Korea is an incredibly strong market, and even though we don’t host auctions there, we are paying attention to it. Hong Kong continues to be the hub despite its challenges, but we’re selling a lot to Japan, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Vietnam. China’s very important and obviously very large, but it’s not the only thing.
We are seeing bigger cultural ambitions across the Middle East, from the Emirates to Saudi Arabia. We’ve just opened a beautiful space in Cologne, Germany, and we have a gallery in Los Angeles. We have to engage people where they are and not wait for them to pass through New York, Paris or London.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Why do you think art sales don’t track with higher inflation?
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