Collectors Editions Disney Fine Art

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Dealers were given an exclusive first look at new original artwork from the company’s current artists and information to take back to the gallery and staff to drive sales on the gallery floor. The mock-ups of two soon to be released books were displayed, one for Sabzi and one for Davis.

Mr. Young explained that the event was born out of the company’s regular Friday open houses when it invites interested galleries to visit its premises, meet with artists, tour its print facility Eclipse Workshop, and enjoy a barbecue with Collectors Editions’ staff, which numbers 45 today.

He told attendees, “Our open house is designed to be an interactive immersive experience—it’s your chance to meet our artists and dedicated staff, in addition to learning about our high printing standards and techniques—all occurring within a rare and special collaborative environment. We especially want to emphasize how our galleries and partners are truly an extension of Collectors Editions.”

The benefits, as outlined by Mr. Young and Mr. Dickson, included: the large quantity of art that could be presented to attendees. The company’s warehouse was transformed into an elegant exhibition area featuring tall black fabric-covered walls where over 350 pieces of art were hung during the course of the event—100 at any one time. Additionally, office spaces were utilized for individual artists’ work, namely Davis and Tsui, and the conference room was the setting for the Disney program. Much of Sabzi’s work was presented in his own home and studio, where attendees were bussed to an elegant evening reception, the highlight of which was a musical performance by Sabzi on his “tar.” Dealers came armed with red dot stickers, and sales were brisk.

“For people to be able to touch and feel the art rather than looking a J-pegs or brochures has been hugely beneficial to us,” said Mr. Dickson. That being said, he felt the greatest benefit was relationship building. “It is throwing out the BS and saying, ‘Here is who we are,’” said Mr. Young. “I have had people say, ‘We are back. You did it!,” he continued, saying that it had been an overwhelming experience.

It was also an effort to get dealers into multiple programs and encourage them to take on artists they had not previously worked with. Additionally, the archives were opened, giving dealers an opportunity to acquire older work in order to present a retrospective of an artist. For instance, Sabzi’s earlier drawings were made available, as well as every one of his new originals.

Overall, the idea was to give dealers a great experience that they could pass on to their customers to generate enthusiasm in the buying process. “I am making a scrapbook that I can show my clients and get them excited,” said Cindy Russell, owner of Where the Magic Begins, an animation gallery in Livermore, CA.

Artists, too, were in admiration of the occasion. “It is very courageous of them,” conceded Brian Davis. “They are going out on a big financial limb.” He saw one of the greatest benefits in the event providing a forum where dealers can talk to artists about their art and themselves one-on-one.

“My goal is that the sellers of art are lovers and collectors of art. My ideal is that when someone walks into a gallery and shows interest in my work, that the salesperson can say, ‘I bought that one too.’ So they are sharing their excitement. When gallery owners come to this open house they can take photos and spend time with artists—they get anecdotes about the artists and that makes the attraction of collecting more so. Dealers will go back to their galleries empowered, and their customer base will reflect that.” In fact, Collectors Editions is making available to attending dealers a DVD of the highlights of the event, so they can play it in their galleries and use it as a sales tool.

The positives that the dealers said they experienced included appreciation of the opportunity to meet artists, choose from the large quantity of art, networking with other galleries, visiting one on one with Collectors Editions staff in an unhurried atmosphere, and appreciation of the elegance and class of the event.

“Because I have a gallery in their backyard and have often visited before, and it is incredible to see the transformation of the place for this high end sophisticated event,” said Chris Maloney of Fine Art and Soul, Valencia, CA. He enjoyed the opportunity of meeting newly signed Penix, and is hosting the artist’s first show in June.

Richard Griffith, co-owner with his wife Jenny of Griffith Art Gallery, Pelham, AL, in business 25 years, said, “There is a lot more selection to see here than at shows where we usually see Collectors Editions, and we are also getting to meet the support staff. I hope they do another open house so we can come out and hand-pick our art.”

Margaret Hand Egan of Egan Hand Gallery, New Orleans, agreed. “I think this is a fabulous idea. It is not as rushed and more personal than a show, and you get to see everything that is available, not just the art they can bring. This opens up more possibilities, and we may take work that we would not have otherwise. Another thing about this is it gives you a better understanding of the whole process so you can tell your customers—and that translates into sales.” That being said, Mrs. Hand Egan admits that it is still a difficult road ahead in New Orleans, where the gallery was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and closed for some time. “We still need more tourists, but it is getting better,” she said.

Mike Johnston, co-owner with his wife April of Texas Art Depot, Palestine, TX, was also among those taking on new artists. “It’s so much better than looking at images on your computer or in brochures, so we bought artists we hadn’t carried before,” he said.

A highlight for Patricia Farr of Proud Fox Gallery, Geneva, IL, was the networking opportunity. “It’s been so energizing talking to other galleries. You are not going to share with other galleries in your hometown who are your competition, but here you have people from all over, and also people on both sides, the publisher and the galleries.”

As Sandra Skibitzki of Galerie Matisse, Lake Geneva, WI, in business 31 years, put it: “The art world has a lot of great people in it and it’s interesting to get their take of their way of doing business.”

From an educational standpoint, the three tours of Eclipse Workshop were fully booked. Conducted by Mr. Dickson, master printmaker, he explained both the giclée and the serigraphy processes, with a particular emphasis on artist involvement. “A lot of people don’t know what a giclée is,” noted Tony Alt, owner of ARA Gallery, Cedar Rapids, IA. “It is important to educate the client so they know what they are really getting. It becomes a conversation piece, and they tell their friends, so it becomes a sales tool. You have to know what you are selling. If you don’t know how it is made, how can you sell it?”

Also, on the educational side focusing on interpretive Disney fine art, dealers had the opportunity to hear a presentation by watercolorist Toby Bluth whose background included being an art director on The Tigger Movie and the Three Musketeers. He described his artistic process, as well as his own life story, growing up on a farm in Utah where his main source of entertainment was watching Disney films. He unveiled several original pieces, including “Mr. Duck Steps Out.”

In the animation vein, the opening evening of the event kicked off with a gala reception and exhibition of more than 100 works of art, with entertainment by Academy Award winning songwriter Richard M. Sherman, known for his songs from Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and many more. To mark the passing
of Peter Ellenshaw, whom he had known, he played “It’s a Small World (after all).” As a thank you for his performance, Mr. Sherman was presented with a framed print by Ellenshaw entitled “Practically Perfect.”

On the final afternoon of the open house, Collectors Editions arranged two tours for all attending dealers, one to the Walt Disney Feature Animation Research Library, the other to Walt Disney Studios, followed by dinner in Hollywood at Universal CityWalk, billed as where “L.A. comes to play.”

As Mrs. Farr of the Proud Fox Gallery said, “They really maintained a good balance of entertaining us and giving us information” and, of course, doing business. “It was a very positive experience.”

To reach Collectors Editions, telephone (800) 736-0001 or visit the company’s website located at: www.

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