Memories of a career as a Caribbean Artist contributing to place Caribbean Art on the Global map
Over the past 50 years as CEO of the Devonish Art Gallery, there have been many changes and numerous interesting and some unusual experiences.
One of the earliest experience occurred during the early seventies in Barbados, one that I don’t think I will ever forget. The experience has never repeated and I don’t foresee it ever happening again.
One day, an American tourist came to the gallery and bought the most expensive sculpture in the gallery, it was the most expensive because I considered it to be one of the best of my creations. My prices were never high.
Once in a lifetime experience
The gentleman looked me in the eye and said, “I have a collection of sculptures and none of them are below a certain price. I love this sculpture but price is below my lowest accepted price. Do you mind if I pay you more than you are asking, that is the only way I will add it to my collection.” He paid a lot more than what I was asking for the sculpture. There were no cell phones during those days, I wish there was a photo to refresh my memory of the image more so than of the occasion.
The other incident is a stark contrast. There was a cruise ship in port. One of the passengers off the ship was in a wheelchair pushed by his private nurse as I later found out.
A Man Of Principle
He too fell in love with a sculpture I considered to be the best on display. Another tourist was in a couple days before and told me he was coming back to make the purchase but he wanted his wife to see it first. He offered to purchase the sculpture but asked for a discount, it was just after two pm when the couple came into the gallery.
I informed the gentleman in the wheelchair that I would not offer a discount, partly because it annoys me, us starving artist are always challenged because we need the money and we are reluctant to lose a sale. My mind was made up, no discount. The man allowed me to know that he wants to buy the sculpture and he is not leaving without it, furthermore he is not buying it unless he gets a discount.
Closing time was 5pm, at 4.30 pm the gentleman was still sitting in his wheel chair making small talk and reminding he is not leaving unless he gets a discount. The nurse was getting anxious. She pulled me aside and whispered, “We are due back on the ship. He will miss the boat and have to charter a plane to the next port if you do not give him a discount. Give him $5.00 off, he will take it.”
The sculpture was sold with a $5.00 discount. The buyer breathed a sigh of relief, “For the first time in my life I felt someone would have gotten the better of me. I have never purchased anything in my adult life unless I got a discount.” At which time, the nurse hurried him off to catch the ship which was only five to eight minutes away.
Never Underestimate Your Customers
On another occasion, again involving a cruise ship passenger. The passenger was an old bent over black man. I happened to walk in to observe that the sales lady was ignoring the gentleman as he walked from display shelf to display shelf. I walked over to the gentleman and started a conversation. It turned out that he was a businessman with over 400 employees and would like to take some local gifts back for his senior staff.
The sale was the largest sale we had for the entire year. We should never underestimate our customers, regardless to age, color, or creed. Always assume every customer is capable of purchasing your most expensive item on sale.
Thank you for sharing this article very inspiring and very helpful to me.
Thank you for sharing these excellent stories about your gallery and very inspiring, because in many occasions we judge clients or people by how they look without knowing that behind that person there is a great human being. I was checking some of your art and are very nice.
Congratulations of 50 years anniversary are you making any thing special as celebration?.
Thanks for visiting, happy you like some of the art work. All the best.
First of all; I want to congratulate you on your success on devonish art gallery for the past two years; I started following this platform last two years and I have never regretted my actions ever since then. I aporeciate the fact that you shared your personal experience in this article. This is an eye opener for me.
Thanks for sharing
Happy to share my experiences, I too enjoy WA. Best wishes.
You’ve had some amazing experiences in businesses and I’m sure some not-so-amazing ones! You’re work is so special that it is priceless and I’m proud to call you my father!
Thank you my beautiful daughter; you too is very special. thank you for your appreciation and support.
Hi Courtney, I am an art lover myself and a musician who knows what it is like in the world of the arts. I enjoyed your stories. You could write a book with a collection of these experiences. I would love to see more of your work. Is there a link or a webpage that shows your work? Best wishes.
Thanks for visiting,Yes you can visit- devonishart.com to view more of my work. Thanks for the suggestion, might take you up on it.
I greatly enjoyed your article! You caught my attention at the beginning and keep me until the last word. Bravo! More importantly, the message contained, is priceless and will always be the truth. Your language was fluid and full of images as well. Well written and done with a full heart. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
All the best, Mike
Your comments Mike are very much appreciated; happy to share. Best wishes.
Hi Courtney – I’m curious, what was the sculpture that was sold to the gentleman in the wheelchair for $5.00 off? I agree with your comment about “never underestimate the customer”, sometimes they surprise you. I think what is important to remember is that the customer will always remember how you made them “feel”…the experience they had and if it was positive they will remember it and most likely share that experience with their friends who may become future customers!
Hi Jeff it mas many moons ago in Barbados, all I can remember is that it was a semi-abstract mahogany sculpture. Yes you must respect all customers. Thanks for visiting.
I congratulate and celebrate your golden jubilee with you in the art business. Really you have inspired me alot and I am being motivated after reading your experience as an artist. Your passion for what you do made you to be successful today and took you far to celebrate 50 years of success despite all the challenges. I won’t forget your point that no customer should be looked down upon and everyone should be treated equally as we never can tell on who will patronize our business and earned a larger sale. I celebrate you once again.
Thanks for visiting; it was an interesting journey that brought rich experiences, but certainly not east even till this day.
This sounds very interesting, 50 years in art business might isn’t a child’s play. I read your article and it encourage me never to quit until something happens for good. Your experience of not underestimate a customer brought you the largest sales in a year.
how old were you when you started the sculpture work?
thanks for sharing
Thank you for visiting; the art business is no child’s play, I am lucky to be still in business and the licks never stop.I was 20 when I decided to enter the art world, after having no training in art after primary school, but members of the family were potters for generations.