Arbus Magazine september/october : Page 46

A Stellar NEXT CHAPTER STELLERS GALLERY SAN MARCO CLOSES: Scott Riley goes on the road and Stellers Gallery at Ponte Vedra grows t By Meredith Tousey ruly, it can be said that in Jacksonville the name Stellers is synonymous with the business of art. Scott Riley’s San Marco gallery Stellers has been a cornerstone of historic San Marco square for twenty years. Satellite Stellers loca-tions popped up in neighborhoods around the city, but the Ponte Vedra Stellers, owned by Hillary Tuttle, is the one that exists today, and one that has its own identity. In fact, it will soon be the Stellers Gallery. Riley is closing the San Marco Stellers and committing fulltime to traveling as an art consul-tant and artists’ representative. Three years ago, Arbus printed a story announcing virtual-ly the same news—closure of Stellers San Marco [“Evolution of a Place”—Madeleine Wagner, Arbus , Sept/Oct 2009]. “Liquidation” sales and the like ensued at the gallery, Tuttle went on record as ready for the Stellers name to be solely that of her Ponte Vedra gallery, and Riley expressed the heartfelt challenge of closing up shop. But it didn’t happen. So, what happened? “What happened is...I love it. And I'm addicted to buying art,” Riley says with a smile. “It’s part of my life, not just a business. Ann and I started this twenty-eight years ago,” he continues, likening the gallery to a member of his family. But the hesitance he felt in 2009 has passed. Now that lease obligations have been met, Riley feels freer to walk away from the space, but he also views this renewed commitment to change with fresh lenses that he attributes to Tuttle’s aid in making the decision and subsequent transition. Tuttle, and many of the artists he represents, are encour-aging Riley to turn fully to his traveling art consultations and installations, the part of the art business that they’ve seen him transitioning toward and, more importantly, seen bring him such fulfillment. In helping him in his plans to close and liquidate, Riley sees Tuttle’s efforts as personal even more than business. “Hillary knows me like a dad. She knows what's in my heart and is helping me do it. She's pulling the plug on the loved one, in a sense,” he quips. Tuttle began as an employee of Riley’s and bought the Ponte Vedra location from him in 2002. The last ten years have seen her gallery evolve from its beginnings–selling Riley’s artwork and sharing his client base–to a completely separate inventory and primarily unique clientele. Tuttle has cultivated a contemporary gallery, focusing her energies on exhibiting a diverse collection of artwork, pursu-ing new artists, and hosting dynamic group shows. Riley, on the other hand, has increasingly pursued a life of art outside the gallery walls with his massive collection in tow. Thus, this change is a natural evolution for both gallerists and is due in large part to their differing approaches to the business that can be summarized through their acquisition of artwork: Tuttle takes consignments of artwork from artists, keeping the gallery walls fresh and ever-changing. Riley buys from them, thus owning outright 95% of his art inventory. This dictates the dynamic of a gallery, and the priorities of september/oct 2012 • arbus magazine the owner, and because Riley’s inventory grows more than it rotates he seeks sales in a different manner. He’s working more and more with artists to take their pieces on the road rather than hang them on his gallery walls, and this is thanks to cultivating relationships begun in the gallery with clients and interior designers such as Mandy Culpepper. Culpepper has utilized Riley’s art and expertise in very large residential projects such as the Albany, Ga. home of Ted Turner, who now owns twenty of Riley’s brother C. Ford Riley’s pieces and names him as his favorite living artist. “I went to Washington [DC] and met with Senator Bill Nelson’s wife, Grace; she commissioned Ford to paint the Laura Bush Floribunda Rose as the departing gift for her term as first lady. The original was presented to her and I made giclées for the Senate members,” Riley shares. “Those are the kinds of things I cultivate not being in the gallery,” he says. “ I love starting my day at the gallery, but I can’t stay in the gallery—I’ve got to be out seeing people. What I most love doing is going to a home and looking at walls and recommending art.” Undoubtedly, this passion for helping people incorporate art into their lives and nurture personal collections is shared by Riley and Tuttle. They both speak of it animatedly. Tuttle’s mission for Stellers Ponte Vedra is to have her gallery act as a liason between artists and the public. "Our goal is to maintain the integrity of our artists and their work, while also promoting the value of their craft,” she states. "You don't have to have a background in art history or be an artist to appreciate great artwork. For myself, and for my clients, it is about an emotional response to the work. Then, once a connection has been made, we can follow up with information about the artist, the medium, and the col-lectability of a particular piece. We want to make each and every client feel welcome and hopefully, after a visit, they will also feel educated and enlightened.” She and her Gallery Manager, Lauren Heller, who is a graduate of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art Contemporary Art History Masters Program in New York City, know from years of experience that ultimate-ly, "Great artwork will always speak for itself." It would be safe to assume that Riley agrees with that sentiment, but he’s using a different avenue, quite literally, to make it visible to potential owners. His twenty-eight years in the business have certainly helped him pool an incredible list of resources and contacts and his placement of art in presti-gious local buildings leaves a legacy he will surely continue to 46

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