Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Born with a Silver Spoon. Health lessons from history.

Lorenzo di Medici
The past is full of lessons.

Most people have heard the expression,
“ Born with a silver spoon in the mouth ” and most assume this refers to inheritance and family wealth. It does but there's more. Why silver?

In the 14th century a plague swept through Europe killing millions of unprepared and very superstitious people. Many considered the plague a punishment from God and turned to the Roman Church for protection. Others turned to traditional knowledge.

The great patrons of the arts, the Medici moved their families out of the city away from people who might carry the plague. They self isolated. They also insisted that the family consume their food from silver vessels. Plates, forks, knives, spoons and drinking cups. Particularly the children were fed with silver spoons.

Why silver?
It has been known for centuries that silver and copper kill bacteria and virus’. Even before such things as virus’ were correctly identified people would use copper cauldrons to ‘clean’ water before drinking. Silver was used by sailors on long voyages in a similar way. Coins of silver would be deposited in the wooden flasks containing fresh water to stop it from becoming brackish. When sharpening swords Roman soldiers kept the shavings to put on wounds and protect them from inflammation.

Bronze contains a substantial amount of copper combined with tin. Today the amount is 88% copper.

Just as Brass contains 60% copper. You’ve probably noticed that a lot of door handles, key holes, letter box’s and bell rings are made of brass. It’s very pretty and it does take a lot of polishing to keep it that way. The reason for using brass at the first point of contact in a house is because it’s a form of protection against illness entering or spreading from strangers, to the people who live there. We have forgotten the reason for this over the years but the instinct to continue using brass hasn’t gone away.

The Spanish Flu

A hundred years ago a virus swept through the continents of Europe and the United States
and cemented the use of copper, brass and indeed silver as a means of protection. But one hundred years is a long time and we have developed a collective amnesia. Many have heard the words “Spanish Flu”. Few know what it refers to. The remnants and evidence are all around us and we see them everyday without consciously understanding the ‘why’.

In 1918 after the first World War a group of American Soldiers shipped over to Spain and with them brought an infection which spread silently. Because of a desire to maintain moral at the end of the war, newspapers were censored from reporting on the mysterious flu. The Spanish press wasn’t under the same restrictions and they reported the many mysterious deaths. As a result it was always referred to as the Spanish flu.

That flu as it turns out, was a Coronavirus. In the 2 years that it spread among us it killed many millions. The cause of the spread was unknown but among other things, people turned to metals as a form of defense. They continue to work today but you probably take the brass door handle or the copper basin for granted, considering it a souvenir of a distant relative.

Copper and Silver
Copper is the least expensive and easiest health giving metal to acquire. It comes in many forms, brass, bronze, even sulphates which are used to spray crops like grapes. The organic food industry uses copper sulphate to protect plants from harmful bacteria and it also nourishes the earth where it is absorbed.

Copper has a distinct taste so some people don’t like to use it for serving or storing food. Though in India it's normal to store water in copper vessels, flasks and tankards. Europeans like things to remain very shiny and clean because of the association with hygiene. Copper oxidizes when in contact with water and air and this irritates the sense of ascetics so it’s use has unfortunately reduced here. However we still have copper colored coins which are a remnant of the time that money was made of 98% copper. Money that could be exchanged without exchanging disease.

Silver has no taste and works best in a moist environment, so it’s use in drinking vessels and plates is perfect but the cost is much higher than copper. Silver also oxidizes and if it doesn’t it’s because of a coating of Rhodium which acts as a barrier between the metal and the atmosphere. It also acts as a barrier between the metal and killing bacteria and virus’s. Unplated silver jewelry and other items are active protectors and these tarnish, which is why they work, They are reacting to the environment.

Though you are not aware of it’s presence nylon clothes contain particles of silver. They are so fine you cannot see them but their presence causes the clothing to resist bacteria which would normally flourish among the fabric and begin to smell very quickly after being worn. All is takes is a tiny amount to prevent this from happening. That is how effective silver is and it’s one of the reasons we are using up our silver by disposing of it in minute quantities. Unlike gold, silver is the precious metal we throw away and cannot later retrieve.

You can find information on silver as a protection against viruses here:

and as a protection against bacteria:

Hospitals and Copper
So why don’t hospitals use copper to protect their patients against superbugs?
They have begun to. Since 2012 an active campaign to introduce copper into hospitals has resulted in a huge reduction in the presence of harmful materials in the spaces where they have been tested. Our use of chemicals to combat infection has resulted in harmful proteins and bacteria mutating to stronger and more resistant strains.

Youtube has several short videos on the use of copper in hospital bed design, new plastics and doorplates that don’t require constant polishing.


So what?
The wheels of administration move slowly but obviously we can make use of this knowledge now.
I have armed myself with silver and copper in their appropriate forms and manners. Carrying a small piece of copper, enough to wrap your entire hand around in each pocket or old copper coins (not the modern fake copper coins) gives you something to discretely sterilize them with, after shaking hands or having touched a surface.

In doing this, you protect yourself and if traces of copper remain on your hands, what you touch can be rendered safer, though you should not depend on that. There is no plastic to throw away, no need to wait for your hands to dry and the metal remains useful afterwards.

In Florence and most other cities, door handles are still made of brass but they have become oxidized over time. This is a great opportunity to bring them back to life by polishing them.

Tom J. Byrne is an artist living in Florence Italy.

An inventory of the Medici household: https://tinyurl.com/tlrn4d9

About the Spanish Flu: https://tinyurl.com/y83bp7od

About the Black Death: https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/black-death

Life Drawing - Launching a new location in Florence Italy

On March 5th 2020, thanks to the British Institute of Florence, a new life drawing location is opening. It's a place where people who are passionate about drawing the human figure can come together every Thursday as a community and draw. We have fantastic models and a great location. A very supportive management team and it's right in the middle of Florence, alongside the Arno, near ponte Santa Trinita.     

Beginning at 6.30pm and we will draw for 2 hours. Each Thursday evening is very low cost and we include a glass of wine for participants. All levels are welcome. We also use a new method of rewarding the model for the pose. The donation method is a more dynamic way of rewarding these very professional people and I hope it motivates the very best to model for us.

The new location is Lungarno Guicciardini, 15, 50125 Firenze FI, Italia

€6, glass of wine, donation to the model.
6.30pm - 8.30pm Short and longer poses.

The difference between a 15 minute sketch & a 2 hour drawing is similar to the difference between a 2 hour drawing & a 15 hour drawing. These are drawn in Florence in February 2020.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Life Drawing locations, Florence, Italy

drawing: Tom J. Byrne

A lot of people are passionate about life drawing. For those not familiar with the term, it refers to the drawing of a living model, usually nude, under controlled lighting conditions, sometimes as part of a still life composition. Life drawing can be a study, the basis for a painting or if the pose is long enough a painting can be executed.

Below is a short video of the monthly life drawing event at Cafe Giubbe Rosse, in Florence. 

At the moment there are a few locations for life drawing in Florence, Italy.
Thanks to the Charles Cecil Academy, the Florence Academy and Santa Croce Arte.
These evening events occur after students of the academies and artists studios have finished their work and the studio spaces are available for non students to draw. The events are open to non professionals, people who are self teaching, graduates of the academies and people with a life long love of drawing the human form. So the range of styles and skills of those who attend varies dramatically but the passion to create is universal.

Art Cult Florence and Firenze Drawing Club organise Burlesque drawing events in the historical Cafe Giubbe Rosse in Piazza Republica. It's a once a month event but it's spectacular. The times and dates change. The cafe space is historical in the sense that it has always been a place for artists to meet and they continue the tradition to this day. For more information check the Art Cult or Firenze Drawing Club facebook pages. Here is a sample of what occurs at the events.

Occasionally there is a daytime or morning drawing event in Florence. These spaces are usually donated by an Art Patron such as Cultural Salon Firenze or an Artist with a studio space that is being unused while they are traveling or exhibiting abroad. 
drawing: Tom J. Byrne

Below are the times, locations and costs of life drawing in Florence. The events are open to artists and enthusiastic amateurs visiting Florence and there is no membership process. No appointment is needed, just turn up. The equipment supplied includes seating, easels, the model and lighting. You provide your own drawing equipment, paper or painting tools. There is no instruction. It’s important to be very quiet when working and the sessions are usually between two and three hours long with short breaks every 25 minutes. In the middle of the session there is a long pose and this is traditionally when people pay for their participation. It’s okay to leave an additional tip for the model in a separate tip box.
Drawing by Tom J. Byrne


The Charles Cecil Academy.
Time and day: Every Tuesday, 7.15pm - 9pm
Cost: €5
Easels and seating available.
Note: The street numbers on Borgo San Frediano can be confusing for visitors as there are two sets. One set are in red, these are commercial address’s and the remainder are in dark blue, these are domestic address’s. Charles Cecils is dark blue. Google maps will miss direct you if you search for the address, so enter no.140 to arrive close to the correct door. When you arrive, the entrance leads directly to a long narrow stairs. At the top of the stairs turn left and the drawing studio is on the left. Arrive in plenty of time to allow yourself to get set up with seating or easel so as not to disturb the group. The poses are determined by the administrator of the academy.

The Florence Academy
Address: Via delle Casine 21/R 50122 Florence Italy
Time and day: Every Thursday, 5.30pm - 8.30pm
Cost: €2 for a half session. €4 for the full session.
Easels and seating available.
Again the street numbers are broken into red and dark blue. The studio number is in red and the entrance is a double door at ground floor level. It is generally closed so you ring the bell to gain access. Don’t arrive too early but if you are late it’s okay as the hour of 5.30 may not suit everyones work hours. Please be quiet during the drawing session. The poses are determined by the administrator.

Cultural Salon Firenze may be providing a morning or afternoon studio drawing area in the center of the city. Times and days will be added here as they occur.

Santa Croce Arte is a private Artists studio in the heart of Florence, where you will receive a warm welcome from Claudia and Gianni. It's a very large studio with many rooms. Twice a month they open their doors in the evenings and welcome guests to draw with them. It's late and very often it finishes by not finishing and people continue to chat until the wee hours over a glass of wine. The pattern of dates changes each month to accommodate the working plans of the studio. To verify the hours and dates check their Facebook page.
As a rule, there is a sketch night twice a month on Thursday with live model in the historical Piazza of Santa Croce.

Address: 19, Piazza Santa Croce, 1st floor. Door bell, press ACSIT.
Time: Confirm on Facebook.
Bring your drawing material.
Seating provided. No easels.
Cost: €10

Life Drawing is a way of learning anatomy, testing your capacity to accurately draw and dare I say, it’s a spiritual experience for the artist and the model.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Workshops in Florence Italy this Spring

Here are a selection of workshops for you to enjoy this Spring in Florence Italy. There's something for everyone, from oils to watercolor and urban sketching. The Florence Studio is centrally located, near the Duomo and is run by graduates of the Classical Art Academies here in Florence.

The emphasis is on a good learning experience rather than a purely academic one. We want you to want to paint and so it's not just about technique.

To contact The Florence Studio
Email: info@theflorencestudio.com
Phone: +39 3891570276

Address: Borgo SS. Apostioli, 18

Simply click, to enlarge the images below

Artists Residencies in Italy

Italy is a very mysterious and beautiful place which everyone dreams of exploring, to experience the great food, the history and the art of this Latin culture.

Many artists and art students see it as a place of pilgrimage. Indeed it used to be a place of religious pilgrimage and it's still possible to walk through Italy, all the way from Canterbury to Jerusalem in the Holy Land.

While in Florence you are free to examine the great works of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Lippi and so many other great artists upon whose shoulders artists aspire to stand.

Artists residencies exist in Italy and it was surprising to discover that there are so many. They range from the very basic, almost monastic to the extremely luxurious. I'll describe a couple here, both of which recur annually.

The Relais Borgo Santo Pietro residency is the most luxurious I’ve experienced. Situated 35km from the town of Siena and very isolated from everything, it rests atop a hill and is surrounded by rolling farmland with just one small village nearby. Many guests arrive by helicopter and extremely luxurious vehicles, normally rare in Italy, litter the car park. It’s luxurious edge is softened by the numbers of creative people who visit and stay at the Borgo. Indeed although it’s design is opulent it
feels like a small village clustering around a large villa. This in turn is surrounded by miles of organic farmland. All owned and maintained by the same family. The hotel itself is small but in time I imagine the small cottages which guests stay in, will spread out into the vineyards and among the fields of wheat.

Not far from the main hotel, in an area unpopulated by anything other than a lilly pond and a solidly built foot bridge (reminiscent of Monets Giverny) there is a small gazebo framed by a mature weeping willow. This is the artists studio. Inspiring and in a quiet isolated place with only the sound of ducks and birds to interfere with the creative process, it’s a place of refuge for guests and artists alike who come here seeking inspiration and instruction in art.

Each month there is a new resident artist who remains in the Borgo, painting, sculpting, performing or writing. Artists have only a couple of obligations to fulfill, to exhibit their art in the hotel and to give an introduction to their art, to any guest who requests it.


The next is a magnificent residency near Rome. It’s a bit of a marathon in many ways because during the 4 days, there are hundreds of other artists who also paint but are not resident. Resident artists are given accommodation, fed, partied and shown around the town. They are generally toasted as heroes while they are there. It’s a very warm welcome in a very historical town which oozes history and more than a pinch of mystery. The town is Subiaco, in the region on Lazio. Also known as the city of emperors and saints is located 75km from Rome. It was here that Nero built his summer palace and here that Saint Benedict founded his order. The spectacular monastery is unlike any you will have seen before. Neros palace did not fare as well over the centuries but the remains of the palace can be found near the monastery.

Although part of Rome, the route is a long one through winding hills. Artists usually travel by rented car or public transport. The 2 hour journey passes through beautiful countryside and is dotted with interesting villages atop plateaus. If you decide to explore en route it might take you considerably longer to get there but it would be worth it.

This really is a working residency. You paint every day and it lasts for four days. Usually they give you a location to work in and request that you focus on a subject or topic and there will be other artists there too. International artists are encouraged to take part and work in media ranging from watercolors to ink, oil and drawing. At the end of the event there is a party and award ceremony in the Abbey of Saint Scholastica where the order and sponsors, judge the art works submitted. Prizes are substantial and I’m the happy recipient of two awards.

If you decide to remain after the event you will find yourself in Mount Simbruini Natural Park, the largest protected area in Lazio and one of the largest Italian Natural Parks. I’ll post more information as we move through the winter on different art events which painters can take part in while visiting Italy.

I hope this gives you a taste of what you have to look forward to.

To sharpen your artistic skills you can reserve a place with the Florence Studio to study plein air watercolor or oil painting this Spring.

Tom J. Byrne will guide you through traditional methods of painting and new methods of composing and drawing. 


The list of workshops are here.

To contact The Florence Studio.
Email: info@theflorencestudio.com
Phone: +39 3891570276

Address: Borgo SS. Apostioli, 18

Monday, February 02, 2015

Blogger gives you more time.

I use facebook a lot.
But really Blogger is better. It's more poetic. You have more time to think. Most logical people can't relate to that. The paramater's within which they are working are more limited and predictable.

I was out last evening and had an interesting conversation with a mathematician. She wanted to know how she could be more creative. She could do everything well, seamlessly. But her life was a mess. She wanted to know how to be more creative.

I explained my understanding of how this works. I did a demonstration. She seemed to be impressed. She got angry. More angry. She left in a cloud of steam and words. It was amazing.

Three major things

There are three major things that I've realised.

1/ If you want a job done well, do it yourself. Don't rely upon the reviews generated through marketing channels. They are usually harvested from people with less capability than you.

2/ Plein air painting is fascinating, important and viable.

3/ Life is good :)

It's chilly outside ..... onward...

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Automatic Paintings

Automatic painting on paper.
Some examples from a series of paintings 
which I have been working on.
In Florence, Italy.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Winter and a return to life drawing.

Plein Air is wonderful but now it's winter, the days are shorter and I have taken the opportunity to return to drawing in the studio. 

Pencil drawing from a session in Wilson Gueveras studio. Florence, Italy. November 014.
This is a 6 hour drawing, in two sessions.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How artists and galleries can work together.

How artists and galleries can work together.

Interview between Marcus McAlister and Susan Johnson Mumford of Be Smart about Art. 

Don't bite the hand that feeds you - Monthly Art World Webinar - See more at: http://besmartaboutart.com/blog/146/dont-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you-monthly-art-world-webinar#sthash.n8IECbGl.dpuf
Don't bite the hand that feeds you - Monthly Art World Webinar - See more at: http://besmartaboutart.com/blog/146/dont-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you-monthly-art-world-webinar#sthash.n8IECbGl.dpuf
Don't bite the hand that feeds you - Monthly Art World Webinar - See more at: http://besmartaboutart.com/blog/146/dont-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you-monthly-art-world-webinar#sthash.n8IECbGl.dpuf

PleinAir in Florence, Italy

 One of the rewarding things about Florence is the variety of locations for PleinAir painting. I get out at least 3 days a week in the early mornings, to do this. Thankfully I know other artists who do this practice and from time to time we get the chance go painting together.

I was painting in Santa Spirito on Sunday morning at 6.30. Then at 7.30am the antique dealers arrived so I had to vacate and find a new painting location. The new location is brightly lit, with pleasant views of the Arno, Florence, Italy.

San Frediano in Cestello oil drawing, preparing for the finished painting.
This church was founded by an Irish missionary in the 6th century. So an Irishman was here 1500 years ago. San Frediano in Cestello sketch, oils on wood.

The finished painting in oils, of the church of San Frediano in Castello, as seen from the banks of the Arno, in the Oltrarno district of Florence.
Oils on treated board. 40cm x 30cm

This painting is available from my online shop. Follow the link here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

End of Term exhibition in the Angel Art Academy, Florence Italy.

It's the end of term in the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy.

If you are in the city you would be very welcome to come and view mine and the paintings of the artists who have finished their term and in some cases, graduated from the academy.

The painting below is the one which I'll be showing there, this year.

Here's a copy of the invitation, with times, dates and location.

Friday June 6th, 2014.
Time: 18.30 - 20.30
Location: Via Nardo di Cione 10. Florence, Italy.
Runs from Friday 6th-Sunday 8th.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Exhibition and public talk, We are 'How' we read.

I'm having an exhibition this thursday and I'm giving a talk. So it's wobbly knees time.
I'll be fine :)

It's hosted by the American Library in Paris. Near the Champs de Mars and la tour Eiffel.
There is one theme to the exhibition and another to the talk.

The exhibition is about books and reading. I'm communicate what happens when written words pass into us, helping us develop empathy & hopefully integrate themselves into our knowledge while at the same time, engaging emotions. How we read, creates or diminishes us. Our internal world is that which distinguishes one human being from another and that is what I hope to get across with the paintings.

The talk is entirely different. After a brief explanation of the exhibition, I will speak about what is involved in opening an art gallery in Paris.


The American Library. 10, rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris
Thursday, 5th of April,

19h30 (aka) 7.30pm.

You are invited to the vernissage of "You are how you read". An exhibition of paintings on the theme of reading. A dying art form. The exhibition will appropriately be held in the American Library in Paris and the vernissage is this coming Thursday, 5th of April, at 7.30pm.

There is a wine reception, followed by a talk on how to open an art gallery in Paris.

The exhibition runs till the 13th of May 2012.
After the vernissage, visits are restricted to members of the library and people with day passes. If you need one, please get in contact and it can be arranged.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Paris Galeries. Interview with Robert Peirce.

Interview with Art Dealer and gallerist Robert Peirce.

I visited Robert Peirce in his gallery in Paris this January, 2012, at 4, rue Quentin Bauchart, 75008,
beside the Arc de Triomphe.


Robert arrived in Paris, from South Africa in 1972 and worked in the french construction industry as a structural engineer, subsequently in project & general management, for 40 years. His first project was the build of the George Pompidou centre with Ove Arup, working with Rogers & Piano.

During his first professional career, he specialised in multi billion euro construction projects but at about the age of 50, began the change towards a career in the arts.

He had always been an art collector but had never consciously thought, he might one day, run his own art gallery but looking back, he recognises that it was something that was always at the back of his mind. After a period away from france, he took a year out to study art as a business. He studied the historical aspects together with technical and legal & fiscal side.

On completion of his studies a friend invited him to share the running of a gallery in Paris. He took the opportunity. He now works independently with his own gallery. The location is perfect as it is in the golden circle, beside the Arc de Triomphe.

Q. Hello Robert. Thanks for taking the time to give this interview.
Can you tell me what kind of art you deal in?

A. Initially I dealt both in contemporary and historical paintings at the same time, because I love both. However after the first five years I realised it had to be one, or the other. Not both. The audience and the means of communication are very different. So I decided to focus on historical art, simply because I had a passion for the fine details of research, philosophy, reading and the history.

Q. What do you love about being a gallerist in Paris?

A. I enjoy building my knowledge of the artists lives and works. This is a characteristic shared with many of my visitors. The exchange of knowledge with clients and other collectors is very stimulating and I enjoy educating and being educated. I've refined my ability to judge art based on experience and a knowledge of the market as a result.

I also love learning about the lives of different artists. It expands your knowledge of the the world and this profession gives me a window into that world. It feels as though I've become a part of their history. Of having become a part of their life story, which in terms of art, continues long after their death because of the people who collect their works.

I also like dealing with contextual works. That's highly stimulating. Items which have a trail of historical material connected to them. Such as the work of the 20th century artist Olivier Debré (Paris, 1920 1999). I purchased a gaouche painting with a note attached. A card in Debrés handwriting, which he had written to Bazaine, an artist and one of his friends. The painting was inspired by a design for a stage set, a ballet which was produced in 1997 by Carolyn Carlson. The card was dated 1996. The work was a particularly nice gouache on paper and the ballet starred Carolyn Carlson. I even saw it myself in a recent reproduction. So there is a huge amount of historical context, in that one image.

In terms of contemporary art, among others, I love the work of Peter Bond. A very interesting Australian artist whom I've collected over the years and whom I exceptionally exhibit in the gallery among the historical artists here.

Q. How do you choose an artist?

A. In contemporary art that's a valid question but not in historical art dealing.
So I don't. You need to have huge financial and time resources, to specialise in one or two historical artists. Plus, there are a lot of good artists out there who are worthy of attention so I don't focus on a specific circle.

However, I have specialized to a certain certain extent through two collections I have had the privilege to handle. I represent the family of Emmanuel de la Villéon (1858-1944). There are about 100 of his works in the gallery. I've sold another 100 and his family know and trust me so I see them regularly. They bring me works and I've become an expert on his art and life. I also consult for the musée de la Villéon in Fougère, Brittany.

Gorges de la Covatanne
by LA VILLEON, Emanuel Victor Auguste Marie de, comte

The other collection has been lovely drawings by Maximilien Luce (1858-1941), which has made of me something of an expert in his field. Although I may really know a lot about an artist, I can't afford to obsess. A gallery is a passion but it's also a business and if you obsess you make the wrong kind of decisions.

Q. How do you price art?

A. Historical art and contemporary art are very different and it's a tricky question because you can't underprice the contemporary artists works but you also have to sell them. I base prices on per cm2 values and each artist will have a different cm2 value. Ironically, whether it is contemporary or historical art, the value of a work goes up per cm2, depending on a decrease in the size. So smaller works are worth more per cm2 than larger works. This is more true for historical artists.

There is also a pecking order between galleries. I verify prices against the value that other galleries put on the same artist. If there is a higher demand for an artists works then you can sell the works for more. Collectors set the real value when they compete for the artist, but it is a known fact that they are prepared to pay much higher prices in big galleries than in small, which is where we come in, with low cost structure and lower prices.

Setting a price is a function of 3 things. A combination of acquisition price, the market price of the artist and the quality of the work. So when someone buys a work from me, it's gone through the filtration process and I charge my markup for that service. Initially, I didn't have the courage to markup the price on works that I believed to be exceptional. Then over the years, as I developed more experience and knowledge I got better at facing the fact that certain pieces really needed to be championed.

For historical artworks there is a price based on historical performance.

This is muddied somewhat by the internet.

There are some artists whom I sell and whom I know are sold in galleries with vitrines for 50% more. That's an immediate loss to the buyer. But I accept that. It's commerce. Supply and demand. The buyer who see's a piece in a window doesn't benefit in the same way that someone who comes looking to me, does.

BISSIERE, Roger (1886-1964)

Q. Do you ever buy from auction houses?

A. Yes, but it takes a lot of work and there is a lot of confusion among buyers about the official prices set by auction houses. The auction houses publish the prices which art sells for 'under the hammer'.

But the buyer actually pays 30% more, for the works.

That equals the sales commission which the auction house adds to the sale price. They take that from the buyer and they also take a 15% commission, from the seller. That's almost a 50% markup.

So auction results create a false value because the works are worth at least 25% more than the values being quoted.

If someone comes to me and tries to negotiate based on auction prices I tell them that they should simply buy at auction, if they have the time and the competence, and want to take the risk. In that manner, they gain experience and understand the value of the work I do.

Buying at auction takes an enormous amount of time, knowledge and stamina. I might pick out 100 works worth buying but narrow that down to just 10 and out of that 10, get just one. I would have spent days to get that. People who come to me, benefit from that work.

Q. Do you have other sources?

A. Yes, people who know my reputation bring artworks and often ask me to represent them. To find a buyer for their collections. I prefers to work with art that hasn't been exposed on the auction market. These are virgin works. Pieces that have been in the same family or with the same collector since the artist first sold the piece.

Q. How do you market the gallery:

A. I thought initially that I would use this gallery as a base for marketing to the UK and I started doing fairs in London. I regularly did the Watercolours fair in February and Art London in October. An art fair costs about 25K. You have to sell a lot to cover that cost. It's really a marketing action for a gallery and you try to make it pay of course but if it doesn't, you have to see it as marketing. You do, directly meet a lot of people who are real collectors and future clients.

Then you have to utilize all that new information. Create databases, spend money, create newsletters, fliers. That's a huge amount of time writing and communicating. You get the idea.

After the fairs, when the English come to Paris they come to see me. I get on very well with them and they are very loyal. I also have a few American clients who regularly visit when they are in Paris.

I also attend fairs here in Paris and it's the same situation. There's a lot of work involved. I have started exhibiting in fairs in other European countries such as Brussels. but I don't network. I sell art to people who have a mutual feeling for an artists work and I find those people through art fairs and they find me.

Q. What about posters?

A. I did spend a lot of money on posting les affiches all around Paris and I still do posters but it's out of loyalty to the artists because I didn't find that they work. I also placed articles into art magazines but I had to recognise that the results were minimal. Press releases are used promote certain artists but it's not that which brings in collectors.

Now it's art fairs, the telephone and writing to collectors. It's very direct communication,, which wouldn't be possible without going out there and finding them. Things like Christmas cards help and I don't skimp on quality. The paper and printing costs are high.

Being a galerist is a bit of a vocation. It's like being an artist and this gallery is like my home so it has a somewhat relaxed ambiance. People often join me for lunch in the gallery and we discuss art and the fiscal aspect of collecting. I have a lot of credibility when discussing finance because I've managed the fiscal end of construction projects and can explain the benefits of investing in art, in terms of tax. So if we aren't discussing art, we are able to discuss business or Paris.

You can contact Robert Peirce, of Galerie Peirce
By visiting or writing to

Galerie Peirce, Sur cour au 4, rue Quentin Bauchart, 75008 Paris
Metro/ parking: George V

tel: +33 (0) 6 03 84 78 35

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Facebook friends

This is a personal project which started out as an exercise and which has taken on a life of it's own.

I decided to paint portraits of the many people that I call friends on facebook.
Although I don't add to my friends list very often I have over 600. I don't know all of them very well though I'm careful, as you should be, about accepting friend requests.

In an effort to become more aware of the people I call friends I decided to paint the portraits of a random selection who come up on my radar most often and then spread outwards. The other reason is because I have found that painting from a photo is incredibly hard by comparison with painting from the living model. Why? No idea, though other people have proposed theories. So this is also an exercise. A challenge and effort to overcome a sort of visual handicap.

Here are some of the paintings in oil which I've produced so far. There are others but I'm not ready to show them all.

There are larger versions on my website. http://www.tjbyrne.com

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Paris Galleries - Dorothy Polley

I met with Dorothy Polley in October of 2011 and she was the first gallerist of this series whom I interviewed.

When I started writing about Paris galleries I wanted the first gallery to be purely french and run by a french person and I'm glad that I made that decision.

However on writing up the interview with Dorothy I realised she is very much French and an important part of Paris. Although she is originally American she has made a huge impact here. Not just in art but in many other areas too. Significant impact. So it's with pleasure that I introduce the second in the series of interviews with french galleries based in Paris.

Q. Hello Dorothy, for my first question I’d like to know, when you came to Paris, did you plan to open an art gallery?

  • A. No, I didn’t plan on anything. I just came here to live. I started as a language teacher. Paris was very different then. I set up a huge organisation for language teachers, almost by accident. Then In 1986 I set up a language school which I sold in 2006. We had very big contracts with International and French companies. During all this time I was involved in music and theatre had many friends in that world. Naturally, through my language school I made a lot of contacts in the world of business. In 2006 a Japanese company offered to buy the language school and I said yes. In the same year, I set up the art gallery and invited all the people I knew from International companies and contacts in the french administrative system to attend the art vernissages and other events. It took 6 months from the original decision to the opening of the first exhibition but it was a huge success right from the beginning. I’ve been running this gallery for 5 years now but I can’t compare it to the art scene when I first arrived here in Paris because I was totally involved in establishing the language school which had 80 teachers. All my outside interests were in music and theatre.
Q. And why did you choose to open in Bastille?
  • A. This was originally my family home so I already had the space and now it’s the gallery.
Q. What about motivation?
  • A. I don’t know why I did it. I was just following my inspiration. It’s best to follow your desire because you waste a lot of time and energy by trying to understand everything before you take action. The people I worked with during the first exhibitions were of great help. They were art students and they helped with the hanging. I also worked with another gallery to find the artists and we shared the space. So the first exhibitions were a great success and when I opened the doors for the first time it was full. We had a great first response. It was very encouraging.
Q. Do you get a lot of help from associations that help galleries to set up?
  • A. No but I think that they exist. You see, this is a company but recently I have begun to investigate the advantages of setting up an association and benefiting from the help which associations receive.
Q. What is the advantage of being a gallery in Paris?
  • A. The advantage is that if companies buy work over a period of years they get the money back. That’s a big advantage for the companies. There’s no advantage for this gallery but it’s great for the collectors.
Q. Why isn’t Paris an incredible hotbed for collecting art? It seems like everything is in place for it to happen.
  • A. I don't know the answer to that. We discuss it often. Everyone discusses it and no one understands why. When I began, it was often passers by who bought art, just because they liked it. However over the last couple of years people seem to be a lot less willing to simply buy art without a direct reason. I do a lot of communication, probably a lot more than other galleries of my size. I’ve sold over a thousand pieces of art over the last 5 years. It’s certain that one of the things which make a big difference to an exhibitions success is the theme. Some shows bring in thousands of visitors.
Q. How do you choose work.
  • A. The sense of meaning in a work & the discourse surrounding it inspires me to show it. Because, having been an english teacher I like words and the meaning in the work gives it a great deal of value to me. The poetry in the work is very important. I like to mix media in the shows too. There are sculptors, paintings, photos, all at the same time. Media can be abstract or figurative.
Q. Do you have many friends who are gallerists?
  • A. Yes, I like to work with a lot of galleries. I share artists with galleries and share information as much as possible. That’s very important.
Q. Is it still good to be in Paris?
  • A. I think a lot of things have changed. There are more ateliers open. People can walk around artists studios and see art in an unstructured manner and many come to see art fairs such as FIAC. Collectors have begun to come to Paris in waves rather than as a steady stream. There are a number of art fairs each year. All of which effect the galleries. I’ve taken part in some but a gallery is better for artists. A lot of people who don’t know a lot about art but who are eager to collect feel compelled to go to big brand galleries which show established names. That’s not the way to start collecting. There is a lot to learn about the process and there is no quick fix. It’s an intellectual as well as emotional/visual process.
Q. Pricing, how do you pick a price for the art?
  • A. Well that depends on a lot of things. It depends on the work, on the artist. The artist and I will discuss that. If I think the price is right I’ll agree with the artist or advise them. Artists don’t realise that they have to have a range of prices. So that people can begin to collect them if they can’t afford a larger piece. People collect not just because of an individual piece but also because they like how the artist thinks.
Q. What’s your favorite part of running an art gallery?
  • A. Unwrapping the art. Discovering a new artist and seeing the work in real life because often you have just seen the pieces on the internet and the real thing is a completely different experience.
Q. What do you like least?
  • A. Being in the gallery every single day. You want to treat people as you would like to be treated yourself so you give each visitor your best and it can be exhausting. You can’t leave that to someone else.
Q. How do you find people to invite to exhibitions?
  • A. I have a long list of guests built up over the years.
Q. Do you collect art yourself.
  • A. Not really. I do have art but I don’t consider myself to be a collector.
Q. How much money do you need to have to open a gallery?
  • A. I don’t think that’s the right question. I think that you have to be in the right circles to open a gallery. It can be very expensive either way. Paying assistants. Putting up posters. Organising receptions. Contacting journalists. Creating communications in different magazines. So it’s very expensive but if you are in the right circles, with people who collect, it’s possible to make it work. Then there is the keeping everything clean and you have to create a book for each artist and each show.
Q. Would you not feel comfortable promoting the same artists all the time, over the years.
  • A. No I like to promote a core group but I also like to add to them all the time. I am very loyal to the artists that I like but the stimulation of the new is very important. The artists like it too.

Dorothy Polly

Painting by Matthew Grabelsky
Title: A weight on his mind

Painting by Eric Turlot

Video clip from the show: Paris-Texas:

Texas artist Ealy Mays : http://youtu.be/h4PkS2xiYuE

French artist Eric Turlot: http://youtu.be/ynb8yCnpVF8

Dorothy’s Gallery
27, rue KellerParis, 11e
ouverture du mercredi au samedi de 13h à 19h
mardi et dimanche de 16h à 19h
Métro : Bastille
Tel: 01 43 57 08 51

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For lovers of Surrealist Art:

In March 2012, in Dorothy's Gallery, there will be an exhibition called Héritages Surréalistes. Its vernissage is on March 30th 2012. It will be an international surrealist exhibition with artists from 7 different countries. There is a well rounded group with two friends and collegues of André Breton: the Portuguese surrealist Isabel Meyrelles and the recently deceased French surrealist Anne Ethuin, wife of the poet Edouard Jaguer ( a member of the “Main à plume” surrealist group during the French Resistence ). With the sculptors, there are fourteen artists in total.

The exhibition is a collaborative effort between Dorothy's Gallery, Liba Waring Stambollion and Santiago Rebeiro, who is the curator and the founder of the show (which has already taken place in Portugal). It is a show which is showcased and partially funded by Bissaya Barreto.