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.
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”