When Veronique Hammons purchased an existing Harper’s Point frame shop two decades ago, she was new to the area, not to mention the industry. Having recently married Cincinnati-born, bass-baritone Thomas Hammons, the Brussels transplant didn’t have a strong background in fine art before launching her eponymous Gallery Veronique.
“Actually, I studied pharmacy. One day, I walked into the little frame shop, and they hired me on the spot—mostly for my accent, definitely not for my knowledge,” she laughs.
Two years into working there, Veronique jumped at the chance to purchase the business when the previous owners decided to sell and move to Florida.
“Over the past 20 years, I have changed it from a frame shop that sells art to a gallery that does framing. I travel a lot with my husband’s career [as an opera singer] and I visit a lot of galleries. I often fall in love with an artist, then ask them to be in my gallery. By pursuing only art that I love, I have a collection that I know I can sell. In art, if you don’t love it, you can’t sell it,” Veronique explains.
Success in selling also boils down to word choice. Veronique knows that explaining the artist’s work to her potential customers is key to helping them feel comfortable and confident enough to purchase.
“I once taught a seminar at the gallery where I brought in some ‘bad art’ to compare. I was able to show that the better art had depth and more subtle blends of color. Some people can tell that a painting isn’t quite right, but they can’t tell why. I can give them the context to identify those details.”
But owning an art gallery isn’t just pretty pictures.
“Like any other business, there will be good months and bad months, and you need to have a sense of where you are going,” she explains.
Veronique sells art on consignment and avoids a long-term inventory.
“I have a few artists that I get a really strong reaction for, but they don’t always sell quickly. I still choose to keep those artists’ work longer. I know it will take the right buyer. Other artists, if nobody is asking questions or telling me that they love them, I have a tendency after four months to send them back,” Veronique says.
She also curates a mix of pieces including a few that might be more challenging.
“When you come here, you’ll see artists that I’m bringing in from Toronto, from France. I’m also bringing in a few tapestries from Congo right now. Maybe the work isn’t exactly right for the average person’s house, but it’s cool, and I want my customers to experience it.”
As for pieces that do challenge, Veronique points out a stunning mixed-media piece by Atlanta-based Craig Alan. It’s a metal box filled with shredded paper. The front of the box is a piece of Plexiglass with a transparent painting of a horse. The shredded paper shows through the painting, lending the image a strong sense of texture. It’s stunning, and despite its somewhat industrial feel, would lend instant street cred to a room populated by too much Pottery Barn.
As a seasoned gallerist, Veronique has learned to look for artists who are savvy when it comes to cultivating clientele.
“It’s a long-term relationship. Consistency is key. If I have a customer who loves a certain piece but really wants it in red, I’d like to be able to call the artist and ask them to create a piece in red. Ideally, I’m also looking for artists who are willing to push further with new techniques. The composition can be very simple as long as it’s new and fresh,” she says.
Want to start buying art for your home? Here are Veronique Hammons’ top tips for collecting like a pro.
Learn how to look. Visit art museums and galleries to educate your eye. Haunt antique shops and auction houses. “Do you like landscapes, florals, abstracts or figurative pieces? Little by little, you’ll gain an opinion. Your personality always comes out based on what you want to put on your walls.”
Starting on a shoestring budget isn’t the end of the world. Juried art shows can be a smart option for purchasing original work directly from an artist.
“There are wonderful artists out there who aren’t in galleries yet. I love the Hyde Park Square Art Show and the Milford Art Affaire.”
Hang thoughtfully. “The middle of the painting should really be at eye level. I also love a grouping. I tend to collect a lot of smaller pieces so it gives me an opportunity to create a wall of interest. You have to find something that ties those pieces together. The best way to create a good collage is to put it all together on the floor first. Take a photo and measure (including some space in between), and then put them up on the wall. Sometimes it’s not the color that links them together; it can also be the subject—a bunch of watercolor landscapes or a series of birds.”
Don’t dwell in the dark. “If you have a brighter piece, it should go in a slightly darker area. Darker pieces will need better lighting. There are solutions in the form of picture lights or those tiny spotlights that you anchor to the ceiling. If you aren’t on a budget, call an electrician and have them place recessed lighting.”
11364 Montgomery Road, 513.530.5379, GalleryVeronique.com