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.