The Beautiful Show

Making the Weinstein Gallery a success only starts with putting pretty pictures on the wall

He tells me his name, and upon learning that I'm working on a story about the gallery, immediately tells me about his movie-production company. He hands me a card that is silver, perhaps to match his suit.

"You should do a story on us," he says. "Film is a visual art. I like visual art. It's very important for filmmakers to look at visual art."

After a few moments of conversation, it becomes obvious he is whacked out not a little on something pretty potent, as he asks me my name and whom I work for a second time. I tell him, and he immediately forgets, asking me twice more in the next ten minutes. He says a few things that he is consciously trying to get me to write down, quotable things, but when he realizes I'm not going to write down anything more, he says: "If you ever hear about me, if I become famous, I'll let you do a story on me first, and you can become part of the film scene with me." Then he excuses himself by saying he's going outside to smoke a cigarette.

Martin Weinstein: Lawyer, philanthropist, art impresario
Daniel Corrigan
Martin Weinstein: Lawyer, philanthropist, art impresario

A few moments later, the film director comes back in, insisting that I take a quote from him. "I can say something brilliant on any topic."

I ask him what he thinks of the show and Moon's work. He pauses, takes a deep breath, and says: "These works express to me the modern state of feminism in today's ultraconsumerist society, which forces women to live under a cloud of degradation and takes away from the natural essence of the female. How's that?"

Meanwhile, Sarah Moon works the room in a far more dignified fashion. She is a smallish woman with bobbed curly hair who looks to be in her late 40s. She's dressed in a stylish green-gray coat, a loosely draped maroon skirt, and wedge-soled shoes. She is obviously exhausted, but on an art-opening high that is keeping her going.

"Martin is great," she says. "He is everything one can say positive. All photographers that exhibit here love him. He brings a lot of passion to it...and he sells."

The last person I see at the art opening is Martin Weinstein himself, who cheerfully shakes my hand as I approach the door.

"We sold a lot of pictures today," he says. "I never ask anybody to buy on opening day. But I bet we sold," he pauses to count, "five or six pictures tonight."

 

A few days later, I visit the basement of the Weinstein Gallery one last time to check in on the aftermath of the opening, and the beginning of the show. Martin Weinstein is giving two women a tour when I arrive, showing them his vintage photographs from the early modernist period--works by Man Ray and others. Then he is suddenly inspired to direct them to something from an upcoming show involving photos of rock stars.

"You'll like this," he says, and pulls out an early photo of the Rolling Stones in Times Square. He points out how young Mick Jagger is, and that the band was still fronted at the time by an insouciant Brian Jones. He explains that these are more obscure shots, taken by lesser-known photographers.

"There's another one in here that is a gem," he says. It is a photo of Bill Haley taken after a concert. Weinstein says he has several other photos, including a rare one of Bob Dylan that is being conserved. "I have five or six now, but I need about twenty more to make a show. I've got word out to my sources."

After a few more minutes of guiding the women through the collection, he sits, and pauses. "Take a look at whatever you want," he tells them. It turns out that eight paintings have sold from the previous Friday, a good amount of money given the $3,000 price tag on each piece. And Weinstein reports that several other people have expressed interest.

"It was good for opening night," he says. But, he continues, after calculating costs and overhead and expenses, the gallery will still need to sell about eight more pieces in order to break even on the show. Weinstein hesitates when I ask how much he sells from a typical show, or during a typical year. Instead, he repeats a sentiment that is at once a kind of mantra, and the undeniable truth about the gallery: "I love what we do. I work my tushy off. The show upstairs is a beautiful show."

I take one more stab at the question, asking for information on how many collectors he has, and where they come from. How has the Weinstein Gallery found a base of buyers where so many other local spaces have failed?

"When I started this thing," Weinstein says, "I thought the gallery needed a base of 40 to 50 collectors who would buy work several times a year....I believe we do have a good core of collectors now."

He pauses, starts to speak, says he probably shouldn't say this, then decides to continue: "When I first had this idea, my wife asked me, 'Who are you going to sell to?' I made a list of 40 people--acquaintances and fellow arts-board members who I thought might come in here and consider buying art. I still have the list at home, in fact... After two years, I dragged it out, and I think only three of the people on the list have ever showed up, which I think is hysterical."

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