CULTURE FRONT: Jackson creative reinvents herself

By on March 3, 2015
Shari Brownfield enjoying the Gregor Hildebrandt exhibition at Galerie Wentrup, Art Basel, Miami, 2014.  (Photo credit: Shari Brownfield)

Shari Brownfield enjoying the Gregor Hildebrandt exhibition at Galerie Wentrup, Art Basel, Miami, 2014. 

Shari Brownfield is an art-world dynamo.

I met Shari a few years ago when she was in the thick of running her successful children’s clothing company, Soren Lorensen Design. When bulk production proved untenable for the hand-made clothing line, Shari resumed her role as director of Heather James Fine Art. Her vibrant presence was felt within and beyond the gallery walls as she contributed her expertise to various local nonprofit arts projects, as well as jet-setting around the world brokering art deals.

Shari recently made a transition back to self-employment. I knew I wouldn’t be the only one wondering what this lively, stylish, intelligent woman will be doing next. So I invited Shari to chat with me here.

Planet Jackson Hole: You’ve had years of experience running art galleries as well as your own hand-made kids clothing company. With such a wealth of experience, what’s next for you?

Shari Brownfield: It’s time for me to combine my entrepreneurial spirit with my passion for the arts. I get great satisfaction from personally learning and educating others about the art market. While it’s wonderful to have a physical gallery space, now the world is my gallery!

I am moving forward with my own art advisory company, Shari Brownfield Fine Art. I plan to continue working with collectors and pairing them with the right art, learning more about their collections, helping catalogue, appraise, sell, etc.

Also, it’s really important to me to be part of the Jackson art community. As a board member at Center of Wonder, I can now have a deeper relationship with the organization and contribute in more significant ways.

PJH: The art advisory company sounds like the perfect next iteration of your career. Congratulations! I’m glad you mentioned your role as a board member at Center of Wonder. There is sometimes a gulf between the for-profit and nonprofit art worlds. Each has a different system for valuing art. I’m wondering if you perceive this gulf?

SB: Art is valued in so many different ways, but for the most part it’s seen to have an emotional value for one segment of the population, and a monetary value for another. The beauty is that “never the twain shall meet” does not apply to art and its appreciation or impact in a community. There are, in fact, more similarities than one might imagine between the nonprofit and for-profit groups. It is the marriage of the active members from both worlds that upholds a community’s art culture.

Nonprofit organizations see art as a way of enriching lives. They bring art to people with an agenda that keeps a community at the forefront. For-profit art organizations, such as galleries, support artists by exhibiting and promoting them. Galleries also support collectors through education, bringing beauty to their lives, and helping with their collections.

Most museum collections exist because of the collectors, their loans and donations. The same is true for other nonprofit art organizations, which often survive due to the collectors and for-profit groups who contribute to programming, collections, and fundraising. So it’s that collaboration of the two, often behind the scenes, that makes an art community whole.

PJH: Just for fun, let me ask you: What is your favorite art scandal?

SB: There may be too many art scandals happening all the time to have a favorite!

For example, the major story of the last two years were the forged paintings by some of the greatest abstract expressionists, sold for millions by renowned, and now defunct Knoedler Gallery. This story actually affected my business dealings here in Jackson when selling works by these artists and looking into provenance and making sure they were clear of issue and authentic.

These scandals are on the rise in the last decade, which is no surprise, as people seem to now realize that art can be commoditized to a hefty tune. There is something incredibly mysterious about the art world. It operates under layered veils and secrecy. Collectors and sellers need to work with someone they can truly trust and who has the proper art world experience and knowledge.

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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