Gaetan Caron is the founder of Lost Art Salon in San Francisco. Lost Art is a fine art salon displaying an extensive collection of original modern era (1900-1960s) paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics at affordable prices. Gaetan and his business partner, Rob Delamater, search out one-of-a-kind pieces that exhibit distinctive period style and remarkable uniqueness. Gaetan gets personal below about the cost of art and the financial challenges of owning a small business.
1. Does art need to be expensive to have value?
I take it that we are interested in the dollar value and not the artistic and emotional value, right? Before I get to that, let me point out that there is much more involved with original artwork than just money. Artists have spent, for the most part, hours if not days or months creating a sketch, a drawing, a painting or a sculpture. Behind the object itself, there is a tremendous amount of thought and experiences expressed by the artist. It may take a life time of owning and appreciating the art to really discover, feel, and interpret it.
OK, the price and value of art is not entirely subjective nor entirely objective. It follows the “offre et demande” concept. The more people want to buy a piece from a given artist, the more likely the price will go up. So what you pay for a piece is usually taken into consideration for what the piece is worth from then on. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can turn around and sell it for the same price or more. But it does mean that a record of the sale has been noted (your receipt) and could be communicated within art publications.
I’m talking about purchases done in galleries and auction houses here. Have you ever heard the “this is from a listed artist” expression? There are books out there (the one I consult most is called Davenport’s) that tell recorded information for several “listed” artists. Typically, you can find out what a similar piece (by size and medium) has sold for most recently. Online, you can search on askart.com. They have a small daily fee if you want to do all of your art research in one day. Or, send me (firstname.lastname@example.org) an email and I will send you what I can find, if anything. Our specialty at Lost Art Salon is Modern Era artwork (1900-1960s).
Hopefully, this explains why collecting art in the long term can be considered a lucrative activity, especially most recently with Modern Art selling for so much. Like me, I suppose most of you did not grow up in a family where collecting art took place. In my culture, it was considered an activity for the well to do. Well, five years ago, my business partner and I decided to start our own art collection by going to auctions, estate sales, antique fairs and flea markets. We created an art salon where people like us could start collecting art from the Modern Era at affordable prices (average range $350-$550). The earlier you start collecting, the better chance you have to buy inexpensive art that may increase in value with time. The goal is to make sure you find art you love and you connect with it. Then if the piece doesn’t increase in value, at least you will have enjoyed it all your life.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
My mother taught me the value of money as a child growing up in a family of 10. I remember going grocery shopping with her to several stores so we could use the coupons for certain food items. I also remember going to inexpensive family stores to buy new clothing to start school each September. That was the only time of the year we would get new clothing. She sure knew how to stretch a dollar. She also would take us to the auction house that happened to be right next door. There, she would buy second hand furniture, bikes, wool and cotton fabric for her weaving and even large boxes of cookies for the whole family at killer prices!
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
Honestly, my worst habit is that I dislike doing paperwork so much that I often don’t put enough effort to make more money with the money I already have. Very rarely does it play in my favor to be lazy about paperwork. I work hard to earn money but I’m often not interested enough in doing the work to invest it effectively. Fortunately, I’m married to an attorney and he is very good with paperwork and investments, a good thing for the family.
4. How does money play a role in your romantic relationship versus your business partnership?
In similar ways, I guess. In both the relationship and the partnership it is a question of fairness. As long as we both work and spend a similar amount of energy for the betterment of the home or the business, then there aren’t any money related problems. I have to say that I’m compatible with both in the financial areas.
5. What are three advantages of being a small business owner?
a) I was able to choose the type of business I’m involved with. My business partner and I were very aware that unless we started a business doing something we really cared about – like collecting Modern Era artwork, it wasn’t worth starting our own business. Too much work if there wasn’t any passion.
b) I get to establish life goals in relation to work that are more about quality of life than profit (e.g. vacation and my own schedule).
c) I live for work as opposed to working for a living (I finally like what I do).
6. What are a couple of financial challenges that come with self-employment?
There is no pay check that automatically comes in every two weeks, or should I say there is but there might not be the funds in our bank account to cover it. It hasn’t happened yet, projects seem to always line up and money comes in. But the stress is always there.
7. You built an Off the Grid home in Northern California that has been used as a case study for sustainable living. Was it worth the price to build in this eco-friendly manner?
Absolutely. The land where our house was built is so beautiful and wild that we intend to keep it that way, even long after we die. Most of the materials we used (straw bale, wood, clay, recycled jeans – cotton) will last a very long time – over a 100 years – if taken care of. I really feel like a pioneer since there is never a straight answer to a problem with our off-the-grid systems (solar, electrical, etc.). But I do enjoy very much the warmth of the sun in our house that has been built to capture the winter sun, and the breeze and coolness in the summer when the sun is directly above the house. I also enjoy the quality of the air in a house that breathes. Check out Sunset magazine November 2008 – our house will be the feature story.
8. As a French Canadian, what cultural differences have you observed with Americans and their view of the almighty dollar?
People definitely have had it easy here. Well, I mean the middle class and above. I really feel that I live in a country that is the richest of the world since WWII. There are definite advantages about it that I sure enjoy. There always seems to be money available. The standard of living is very high. I do miss some socialist aspects of Canada. Health services available to all, and of course gay marriage!
9. What did your parents teach you about the value of money?
My parents taught me that money isn’t everything. It’s what you get with it that is to be enjoyed. They also taught me to be happy with what I have. My parents didn’t have much money so I had to work to get some.
10. What financial lessons do you plan to teach your children?
My partner and I will soon be adopting our first child through public adoption. I want to teach my kids the value of money like my parents taught me but in the context of today. At a certain age, I will teach them to eat what they have on their plates and be content with the clothes they have in their wardrobe. I don’t think I will give my kids weekly pocket money unless it’s needed. I will encourage them to find remunerated work at a certain age so they become financially self-sufficient. I will teach them to be wise with their money, to not waste and of course, education will be a priority, no matter what they decide to do as a career.
More about Gaetan Caron
Not equipped at 17 to decide between a math, French or art career, Gaetan enrolled in his first college degree in Computer Science. Ten years behind a computer screen later, his on the side travel experiences in Europe, Africa and Asia brought him back to college to acquire a second degree in teaching French as a second language to immigrants coming to Montreal, Quebec. Teaching during the day and taking ceramic classes at night and week-ends during four years, a new love affair started to develop between Gaetan and the world of art.
A strong desire to experience life outside of his native culture and a solid friendship with Rob Delamater, who would become his current Lost Art business partner, influenced Gaetan to check out life in San Francisco. Its temperate climate, progressive edge vis-a-vis gender and sexuality and a love at first sight that turned into a 10 year relationship convinced Gaetan to settle in Northern California. Finally, five years ago, with an additional five year business experience gained at an Internet start up combined with Rob’s art history and 12 year career in marketing and design, Lost Art Salon was born.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.