Jerald Melberg, the name behind Charlotte’s Jerald Melberg Gallery (Charlotte), has a little advice for prospective gallery owners.
“If you want to make a small fortune in the gallery business, start with a large one.” he says.
Melberg's gallery will be on hand for the most important art event in the United States, Art Week in Miami. The gallery will, again, be part of Art Miami (One Herald Plaza, Miami).
“I like this fair because the dealers are friendly, the fair goers are friendly, and feel like they can find something at Art Miami that they would like to own and can afford,” says Melberg. “It also gives me the opportunity to be in front of thousands of collectors that I wouldn’t normally have opportunity to meet.”
Melberg’s gallery represents an eclectic group of artists including Wolf Kahn, Susan Grossman, Esteban Vicente and Raul Diaz. When asked how he chooses the artists to represent or show, Melberg gives two answers.
“The short answer is, very carefully. The longer answer is I choose my artists emotionally and how they speak to me and are they saying something that contributes to society,” he says “ I do not choose them because they may be popular or easy to sell. If I believe in them, I can convince others to do so as well.”
Confidence is, no doubt, part of being a success in the art world.
“I had been aware of Wolf’s work since I was in my 20s. At 31 I became curator at the Mint Museum here in Charlotte and I proposed doing an exhibition for Wolf. On my next trip to New York I met with Grace Borgenicht, Wolf’s dealer at the time, to discuss the possibility of an exhibition,” says Melberg. “She informed me that a museum tour was being organized and the only slot left coincided with an opening on the Mint Museum’s calendar. Grace asked me if I had ever met Wolf. When I told her I hadn’t, she picked up the phone, ‘Hello Wolf, there’s a young curator here from the Mint Museum. I’m going to send him down to the studio to meet you’.”
A meeting with an artist of Kahn’s stature might be nerve-wracking even with more than a minutes notice.
“The next thing I knew I was ringing the buzzer on Wolf’s studio door, doing so with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. The studio was on the top floor of a four story walk up. At the first landing I took a 180 degree turn.” he says. “As I turned again at the next landing, there were two flights of stairs straight up, ending at Wolf’s door. The door opened and there stood Wolf Kahn in his white painter’s smock with brush in hand. He was silhouetted by the window behind him, the sunlight forming a halo around his head. As I climbed those last two flights, I truly felt I was ascending to the heavens. I was awestruck. I still am today.”
Landscape in a Minor Key and On a Base of French Mauve by Wolf Kahn
“As a city, Charlotte is growing like a weed. I have lived here now for forty years and the changes are so dramatic that you can hardly speak of them. It is a booming, vital place, but I cannot exist from it completely. That is why I do art fairs.” he says.
Many galleries show work at a number of fairs during Art Week in Miami. Some galleries do it memorably while some do it forgetably. Melberg’s advice to galleries coming to Miami for the first time is simple.
“Don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t go borrowing works from others to bolster your look. Show the artists you believe in.” he says.
The work you see here is from the gallery’s current exhibition of work by Charles Basham and an upcoming exhibition of work from Robert Motherwell. The Motherwell pieces are coming directly from The Dedalus Foundation and have never been seen previously.
“I am also working on the catalogue raisonne of the graphic works of Romare Bearden. Should be published in about a year.” he says.
Always keep an eye open for what the gallery is doing--from noted artists like Bearden, Motherwell and Bashen to contemporary artists with unique and stunning work. Melberg is enthusiastic about the art he shows and the process of showing it.
“I recently turned 70 and I’m still at it. I still want to be at it.” he says.
Drop by the Jerald Melberg Gallery booth at Art Miami to see all the artists they are bringing along.