Ten Money Questions for Rob Delamater
Rob Delamater is the founder of Lost Art Salon in San Francisco. Lost Art Salon is an eclectic collection of original period paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics with a particular emphasis on newly-discovered artists from the Early and Mid 20th Century. Rob Delamater and his business partner, Gaetan Caron, search out one-of-a-kind pieces that exhibit distinctive period style and remarkable uniqueness.
I asked Rob a few questions (10 to be precise) about affordable art, the financial challenges of owning a small business, and their new show called The Women: Paintings and Drawings by Lost Women Artist of the 20th Century.
1. Is art only for the rich?
Well, that’s what the business of art has taught us. The gallery-system relies on selling a few pieces a month to the few people who can afford it. That’s how they get by on light foot traffic, even though they’re typically located in well-heeled, high-rent neighborhoods.
The art world has developed this kind of mystique and snobbery that makes even middle-class people like me feel uncomfortable. And it’s backed up by their high prices. The high price point transfers this sense of “status” to the owner. It’s elitist. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s this whole movement in urban areas to educate people around how to collect within their budget – how to make owning original art accessible. Our concept with Lost Art Salon was to take away the fear around entering an art gallery and buying original period art by creating a warm, residential-like setting (think 1920s Paris salon meets urban loft) where the average price per piece is under $500. That means you don’t have to look at the price tags before you get swept away in the experience of connecting with the art.
2. What is your worst habit around finances?
Oh this is so easy. I can go for months without really looking at my bank statements. And I pay my bills with my eyes half shut. It’s this whole thing about just not wanting to know. I’d rather just write the damn check and be done with it, than deal with the pain of actually knowing all the gory details. I’m sure I’ve overpaid things or had my identity stolen without even knowing it. I know it’s immature, and I’m going to change it… next year.
3. Do you and your business partner see eye-to-eye on money?
Not really. And that’s probably a very good thing. He’s extremely thrifty. He can make a sponge last for six months. And I’m a bit careless. Let’s start each day fresh with a new sponge! We bicker a lot over what our expenses should look like. And in the end, the dialogue really works for us. I think that his thriftiness has saved our asses more than once, and my ease around money keeps him from becoming a miser at the expense of making good decisions.
4. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
A painting by the English Bloomsbury artist, Duncan Grant (1885-1978). But I’m priced out of owning his work. And frankly it’s sort of counter to my collecting philosophy of pursuing works by lesser-known or completely forgotten 20th Century artists. But I feel this mystical affinity with him, and I think it’s going to happen one day.
5. Why is there commercial disparity between men and women in the art world? Are you trying to make up for this with the women-only show opening next week?
The contributions of women artists have been systematically overlooked throughout art history, including the progressive decades of the 20th Century, because the art world is run by business people. Galleries and dealers have often refused to represent women simply because they believed a woman’s name was unmarketable and they wouldn’t be able to fetch a high enough price for women’s work. It’s that crude. And sometimes female artists have been too intimidated to self-promote in an industry dominated by male icons. All of this can be said about any creative or commercial field. Georgia O’keeffe was quoted as saying, “I can’t live where I want to–I can’t go where I want to go–I can’t do what I want to–I can’t even say what I want to–… I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to.”
With our show, “The Women“, we aren’t really trying to make up for this or make a huge socio-political statement. We simply feel compelled to do a show that highlights some amazing female artists that we have uncovered over the past year. The show covers five women that worked between 1905 and 1969. And along the way, it’s a great opportunity to bring the issue up for the education of our collectors.
For those of you who want to learn more about women in art, visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC.
6. How did you make the jump from corporate-monger to entrepreneur extraordinaire?
It took about three years of sneaking around and secretly planning. My business partner and I worked evenings and weekends for a few years while we maintained our corporate gigs. We waited until we were sure that we had a viable business before jumping. And even then I gave my boss 18 months notice before leaving. I started by just asking for a four day schedule and went from there. Perhaps it was too cautious, but I never had a freak out and I left my company on excellent terms.
7. What is your most significant memory about money?
My parents were supported as missionaries through the church (my Dad is a minister and chaplain to the sick in hospitals). So we had very little money and my family was kind of under the microscope as to how we spent it. I remember one time we went to a local street fair where the whole idea was to buy corn dogs and pay to play various games. My parents told us that we could only afford to walk around. We couldn’t buy or eat anything. My parents weren’t being mean about it; that was just the reality. It was the first time I really understood that there were limits to my parents finances. We only stayed at the street fair for about 30 minutes.
8. You have redefined art-buying by offering affordable art to the masses. May I dub you the queer and hip equivalent to Thomas Kinkade?
Oh Nina, that’s just mean. The whole Kinkade juggernaut frightens me. His painting-making machine has got middle America collecting the equivalent of Hallmark cards. Lost Art Salon focuses on unusual, one-of-a-kind treasures, and the Kindkade thing is all about mass appeal.
9. What did your mother teach you about money?
Clip coupons; always ask Dad instead; and keep your change in a change purse.
10. Does money buy happiness?
I can only ask myself if it’s bought me any happiness and the answer is, of course, no. The happiest times in my life have never had anything to do with how much money I did or didn’t have.
More about Rob Delamater:
Rob Delamater and Gaetan Caron, co-owners of SOMA’s newest fine art destination, officially opened the doors of Lost Art Salon in July of 2005. Designed in the fashion of an Early 20th Century European salon, the unique space features original Early and Mid 20th Century art (1900-1960s) presented in an eclectic residential setting (think Paris 1920s meets industrial urban loft).
Lost Art Salon offers paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics, all at affordable prices (paintings typically $250 – $650). Approximately fifty new pieces are added monthly to the collection of over 500 original works, giving the salon a museum-like atmosphere brimming with lost treasures at affordable prices.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.