Gallerist Randall J. Slavin on Curating Creativity

Randall J. Slavin is an American entrepreneur, fine art dealer, and philanthropist. As a premiere provider of international fine art, with galleries established in such locations as Shanghai, Vietnam, and Beverly Hills, Slavin is the proprietor of Winn Slavin Fine Art. Slavin’s entrance into the art world began in 1997 when he founded Masterpiece Publishing. He’s since become the director of the Academy of Fine Art Foundation, the publisher of Art Confidential, and the CEO of WS Productions, for which he executive produced the cinematic short “Creation.”

Cliché: What drew you to the business of art dealing?
Randall J. Slavin: My father was an artist, but one who never made a living at it. As such, I had no intention of making a career in fine art. I’m a highly rational thinker and that led me to degrees in information systems and business, as well as an initial career in information technology. Eventually, I grew bored of IT and met Sir Daniel Winn, a very talented artist that had a small gallery in Laguna Beach. I helped him with the business side of his gallery and that set me on the path to where I am today. 

What are five essential factors in establishing a successful gallery?
Integrity, compassion, business sense, hard work, and dedication. 

Winn Slavin Fine Art boasts galleries in Beverly Hills, Shanghai, Vietnam. How do the local markets affect your selections for each location?
Each national market has its own unique attributes. In all markets, we’re dealing with the top income earners, but the artistic sophistication and cultural influences vary greatly. An emerging market like Vietnam is less likely to embrace abstract or expressionist artwork, so our offerings there tend to be figurative and other representational artworks. China has strict censorship – every artwork imported into the country is reviewed by government censors – so the artwork we offer there is less likely to be socially critical. The U.S. is the most diverse and liberal market we operate in, but it’s also the most competitive as it represents 40% of the global art market.

Where and how do you find new artists to exhibit and what do you look for when considering a new artist for your gallery?
Our artists come from a variety of sources, often through the advocacy of a collector or team member. To be represented by Winn Slavin Fine Art, an artist has to have developed a style that is distinctive enough to be recognized from across the room, has to be prolific enough to fulfill a growing demand for their art, secure enough to know that their work is good, and humble enough to recognize that it takes the efforts of a great many people to make an artist successful.

How do you establish and foster successful long-term relationships with fine art collectors?
Our collectors are often looking for an experience as much as they are looking for a product. They want to explore the world of fine art and understand the role that art can play in their emotional and spiritual fulfillment. We build relationships by providing art that has meaning and integrity and by sharing it in a way that allows them to be comfortable and engage with the artwork.

How does Winn Slavin Fine Art protect the reputation of its artists and value of the art?
It’s about balance. The value of art increases as demand for that artist’s work grows. That growth needs to be managed in such a way that there is sufficient supply to retain the collector’s interest.

Winn Slavin recently celebrated its two-year anniversary in Beverly Hills. What have been some of the greatest challenges and successes in the last two years at this location?
Our success at the Rodeo Drive location is evidence that fortune often favors the bold. We entered into negotiations for the space just shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted. We knew there was a strong possibility that things could get even worse and that we might face another lockdown in the early months of the gallery. We were blessed that didn’t happen, but we did face severe restrictions on events for the first year of operation. We had the support of a very loyal group of collectors and were able to navigate through the challenges of the pandemic and a prominent location.

Can you share more on acquiring works by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas and August Renoir for Winn Slavin Fine Art? 
Winn Slavin Fine Art does offer select works by Modern Masters such as Picasso, Degas and Renoir, and we’re fortunate to have access to the Argillet Collection of Salvador Dali. Modern Masters are increasingly hard to source and increasingly hard to authenticate, so we have to have the highest standards when we bring in such work. Our real focus is on Contemporary Masters, living artists that have a unique vision in the Contemporary market and aren’t just doing shades of what everyone else is doing. 

What goes into sponsoring gallery and museum exhibitions domestically and internationally? Can you describe the last exhibition Winn Slavin sponsored?
A great deal of planning and logistical effort is required in conducting exhibitions. Curating a cohesive collection of artwork, either by a single artist or by multiple artists, is critical. You can’t simply put up anything. The works have to be selected so that they seamlessly communicate the artists’ intention. Our last exhibition was “Creation,” which was a joint effort with the Asian World Film Festival and featured a limited screening of a short film by Sir Daniel Winn, our most prominent Contemporary artist, followed by an exhibition of Winn’s “Quantum Mechanics: Dark Matter” series.

For someone looking to enter the world of art dealing and curating, what are your best words of advice?
Come to this world with passion and patience. Passion because it involves a lot of hard work, and patience because it doesn’t happen quickly. Be dedicated, be steadfast, and understand that you’re entering into a field where success is rare. It can be rewarding, but you will earn every bit of your success often at great sacrifice.

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Gallerist Randall J. Slavin on Curating Creativity. Photo Credit: Ray Kachatorian.

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