Maxine Manges


Maxine Manges
Artist and Art Consultant,
MKM Fine Art


An art consultant provides the last link in the chain of the building industry.

After the architects and interior designers have done their work, the art consultant is the liaison between them, those who work there, those who visit and use the facility, and the building they have so carefully created.

I went into Pentimenti Gallery on 2nd Street one day last summer. I often just stop in because the stable of artists is fresh, thought-provoking, and visually pleasing. It is the last of these that matters most to me, as I have to please my clients while stretching them to the snapping point with new art.  If something is hard for me to like, it is likely to be an unimaginable stretch for people who never get out of their work environments to test the waters. I am not suggesting that tepid is good, but good can sometimes be tepid as well.

That day I saw a large Ben Volta painting; it was 48” x 144”. The price tag: $7500. My brain twirled, danced, looked again at the big painting, and asked, “Where can I put that?!”  Rather like trying to fix up a friend with Prince Charming, I realized that the slipper wouldn’t fit me, so who could I find to buy this piece of wonder? That feeling comes along occasionally, and it is so frustrating not to have a location for the pieces that provoke it. We consultants are never quite in sync with exhibitions, and often have to take what is left of a show, unlike the buyers who snap up the best paintings at the openings. Those moments when I feel as if I can’t move away from the wall, my temperature is going up, and I can’t see life without this piece, are what I imagine is normal in our species.  Alas, those of us who feel blind passion about art are few. It is for that reason that I sometimes buy art so that I can hope to find a home for it at a later date. That explains the art collection I have. I become attached.

“Lineage” was a feast of imagery, carefully gleaned from iconography of the globe,  allowing you a waltz through the world’s cultures on a red spider web.

I had just met a new client with the opportunity to place some fine art. Acurian, the pharmaceutical company, had recently doubled the size of its location in Horsham.  Fortunately for them, their neighbors in the adjacent suite left everything intact upon departing. The furniture systems and all the essentials were there, which left the unusual occurrence of a budget for art. It is usually the opposite. No hard feelings toward the furniture dealers, but I have yet to sell a painting that costs as much as a nice conference table.

Richard Malcolm, the CEO, knew art, and also had the good sense to call MkM Fine Art, Inc. (AKA me) to help with their art purchases. The lead was through a previous client, so this was beginning to feel like a blue bird.

After walking through the space, we sat down to chat about Dick’s tolerance for fine art. He had a sense of humor, as well as knowledge of art. He certainly seemed like the ideal audience. At any rate he, along with his absolutely lovely assistant, was going to be the decision maker.

At this stage in my work I have to confess that my enthusiasm and optimism are what make disappointment hard. You can imagine that if I feel emotional about art for myself, I cannot understand how a client has the strength of character to say no to something beautiful.

We set a date for the art handler to pick up the painting from Pentimenti along with the rest of the presentation in a large moving van. Upon meeting him, it was immediately apparent that the painting had made it into the truck by inches, on a diagonal, and it would never get up to the second floor.

Once we had unloaded the truck, we left “Lineage” wrapped in the lobby and went upstairs. Dick Malcolm was delightful. He appreciated the art we had brought and recognized both its high standard and the selection. He liked almost everything, so we at least had fun playing with the options.

I was feeling more confident and comfortable with the process, so we went downstairs to look at “Lineage.” There it was, stretched between two columns, looking handsome and mysterious, still wrapped in plastic. We removed the wrapping and looked hard. There were the symbols, threaded together across acres of white, zigzagging across the world. The red lines, sometimes thick, and sometimes thinner, wove temples, masks, maps, musical instruments, hats, footprints, cathedrals in an endless matrix.  So far no sexual overtones or guns…

Then there was the most amazing occurrence.

Mr. Malcolm, who was a man of his word, promised to buy the painting then and there. It was supposed to go back to the gallery that day for an exhibition. I explained that if we took it back sold it had to be a promise kept, as there would be other patrons seeing it that night, the big event for any artist and gallery. He seemed to understand the promise he was making.

There was, of course, the little problem of getting it upstairs!

On the day the rest of the art was to be delivered, the gallery owner, the artist, and I arrived together at Acurian ready for anything.  The last resort was to take the frame apart, roll up the artwork and re-assemble it upstairs.  But as good things often occur in threes, the third thing happened, the blue bird flapped its wings and sped up the back stairs.  There turned out to be a back door to the suite without any impossibly low ceilings, sharp turns, or obstacles of any kind that would have been difficult for the painting’s navigation expedition. The front entrance was impossible, but the back was wide open.

The painting looked handsome on the wall upstairs: the lighting was perfect. Staff ambled out of their cubicles to look at the work. There was instant discussion and recognition, “Lineage” touched everyone.  We are all from somewhere else after all!

Happiness is finding a home for something, someone.  In my life I realize that my calling is to match things. I delight in introducing people to one another, and have three couples to my credit.  Art is as anthropomorphic. It comes from nothing, a bare canvas, a blank piece of paper, a selection of disparate objects or materials, and is made into something living by an artist who is somehow able to connect to the universe and invent a new entity. Step away and it steadies itself on its own and takes flight. We, the art consultants, find a new home for it, with a new set of eyes, or many, to admire and love it for time immemorial.
Published April 2010

MKM Fine Art