Ahead of the Curve: Legacy Gallery Cel­e­brates 30 Years

The Legacy Gallery marks 30 years in busi­ness with a group show fea­tur­ing work from many of its top artists over the years.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By Michael Claw­son

In the early days of Legacy Gallery in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona, own­ers Brad and Jinger Richard­son re­mem­ber when an­other gallery owner came in to ad­mire one of their new shows. “He told Jinger and I that we would be the only gallery to sur­vive in Scotts­dale at that time,” Brad Richard­son says of the decades-old in­ter­ac­tion. “Maybe he said it to be nice and make us feel good, or maybe he re­ally be­lieved it. Well, about 10 years later we were the only one that sur­vived in that area. We were blessed.”

Not only did Legacy sur­vive. It thrived. And to­day it is one of the lead­ing Western art gal­leries in the coun­try. The gallery will cel­e­brate its 30-year his­tory with a group show on Novem­ber 3 at the Scotts­dale lo­ca­tion. Events kick off

Artists of Amer­ica mem­bers and was even an early rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Howard Terp­n­ing’s work around the time he re­tired from illustration and moved to Ari­zona to be­come a full-time fine artist. Legacy had big shoes to fill.

“My par­ents owned gro­cery stores, and Jinger’s par­ents owned art gal­leries, and her par­ents al­ways had more fun than my par­ents,” Brad says. “There was an in­stant ap­peal to the art busi­ness for us.”

Early shows in­cluded works from Gary Price, Peter Van Dusen, Trevor Swanson and oth­ers. Brad ad­mits that the ini­tial years were a strug­gle, as they of­ten are for new busi­nesses of any kind. “The early years were about sur­vival. We just fought to keep the doors opens. I re­mem­ber times when col­lec­tors would come in and buy some­thing and they didn’t know it at the time but they kept the lights on that week. Those timely pur­chases kept us in busi­ness,” he says.

Slowly, they be­gan to no­tice progress. Art­work was sell­ing more fre­quently, and their col­lec­tor base was grow­ing. Be­fore long they were ex­pand­ing: two years in and they opened a lo­ca­tion in Jack­son Hole, Wy­oming, and two years af­ter that they re­lo­cated the Ari­zona gallery to its mag­nif­i­cent cur­rent lo­ca­tion in the very heart of Scotts­dale’s bustling arts district. “Af­ter we sur­vived, we fo­cused on com­pet­ing. To be hon­est, I would of­ten look to other gal­leries and em­u­late what they were do­ing,” Brad says. “But then af­ter sur­vival and com­pe­ti­tion, there is a third part of the pro­gres­sion: Are we ca­pa­ble of lead­ing? And hope­fully that’s where we’re at now.”

There’s am­ple rea­son to con­clude Legacy is not only at the fore­front of Western art to­day, but that it is in­deed one of the lead­ers with high­qual­ity ex­hi­bi­tions, a lineup of top artists and a healthy re­la­tion­ship with the Scotts­dale Art Auc­tion (Richard­son is a part­ner with Michael Frost and Jack Mor­ris). The gallery’s stand­ing in the Western world was made abun­dantly clear in Novem­ber 2016, when Legacy hosted a one­man show for John Cole­man that not only sold out but also brought in nearly $1.6 mil­lion in sales. A year later they re­peated the feat with a sold out solo show for Martin Grelle, which gen­er­ated more than $1.7 mil­lion in sales. Smaller, but still sig­nif­i­cant, shows for Kyle Polzin, Ge­orge Hall­mark, Tim Shin­abarger and oth­ers would con­firm over and over again that Legacy had tapped into some­thing spe­cial. (The gallery is al­ready or­ga­niz­ing ma­jor shows for Bill An­ton in March 2019 and Polzin for Novem­ber 2019.)

For starters, they weren’t shows. They were events that weren’t to be missed, and col­lec­tors were mark­ing their cal­en­dars early be­cause Legacy was giv­ing them a rea­son to spend a week­end in Scotts­dale or Jack­son Hole, and that rea­son was thought­ful and mas­ter­ful art­work from some of the big­gest names in the market. The artists were get­ting in­volved by laser-fo­cus­ing their at­ten­tion on their Legacy shows in or­der to pro­duce nu­mer­ous works, larger works and more pro­found works, even if it meant skip­ping a few mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tions to do so.

“I’ve been with Brad for 20 years and the key to Legacy is that they’re al­ways ahead of

the curve. Brad an­tic­i­pates what is go­ing to come next. Even when he started the Scotts­dale Art Auc­tion, that was kind of a unique thing for a gallery to do,” Cole­man says. “Brad has a ten­dency to not com­plain about things, he just takes what’s hap­pen­ing in the art world and he pre­pares for it…western art is al­ways chang­ing, so you’re ei­ther in the camp that em­braces change and looks for op­por­tu­ni­ties, or you’re in the camp that’s wind­ing down and maybe look­ing for a new day job. Brad and Jinger are very ag­ile, and that’s why they’re so great to work with.”

Grelle—who, like Cole­man, will be show­ing ma­jor new work at the Novem­ber show—shares sim­i­lar thoughts about the Richard­sons and Legacy, and ad­mires the way the own­ers and their team con­duct busi­ness. “When they put on a show their whole staff jumps to­gether to make it all hap­pen. And they get ex­cited about it, too, which you can feel when you’re in the gallery,” Grelle says. “Also, their per­son­al­ity is great, as is how they han­dle busi­ness—they’re just hon­est and straight­for­ward, and I’ve al­ways had pos­i­tive deal­ings with them. That sort of work ethic gets you a long way down the road.”

For Richard­son, it’s the artists and their works that make the job ex­cit­ing. “A gallery is noth­ing but empty walls and pedestals with­out the artists, and they make this all worth it,” he says, rem­i­nisc­ing back on some of the gallery’s past artists, peo­ple like G. Har­vey, Harry Jack­son and Frank Mccarthy. “We’ve had some real char­ac­ters over the years. Many of them have be­come life­long friends…one thing we try to fo­cus on is just re­ally great art­work. The market has peaks and val­leys but we don’t chase ev­ery trend. I re­mem­ber back a num­ber of years and the hottest thing on the market was moun­tain men paint­ings, and ev­ery gallery was sell­ing them. To­day we don’t want to be trendy. We want to rep­re­sent art­works that have a chance of stand­ing the test of time, works that will be time­less.”

He con­tin­ues: “The ex­cit­ing thing about the art busi­ness is not only our re­la­tion­ships with the artists, but with the col­lec­tors as well. Over the last 30 years we’ve had the best col­lec­tors. We travel with them, we cel­e­brate with them, we mourn with them…many of them turn into great friends. That’s a part of this Jinger and I re­ally en­joy. As for Scotts­dale, we’re very op­ti­mistic about Scotts­dale’s fu­ture. I’m ex­cited for the fu­ture here. We’re com­mit­ted to be here and wave the Western art flag for as long as we can.”

John Cole­man, Pariska­roopa – The Dog Dancer, 1834, oil, 55 x 33”

Martin Grelle, Ever Watch­ful, oil on linen, 32 x 32”

Ken Carl­son, Watch­ing Game, oil, 30 x 40”

Z.S. Liang, A Prized Tro­phy from a Blue Coat’s En­counter, oil, 38 x 25”

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