Coffee with Guppy: Taking Care of Artists

Nancy sits down with gallery owner Gail Gibson.

May 15, 2017

Nancy Guppy


Gail Gibson owns G. Gibson Gallery in Seattle. Initially specializing in 20th century photography, Gibson has since expanded to include contemporary artists working in a variety of media. After 25 years in Pioneer Square, she relocated to a new space in Lower Queen Anne (104 W Roy St.) last fall.

Whats the most important thing about running a gallery? You have to make sure youre compassionate and working well with your artists because they make your business spin. You have to take care of them.

What does it mean to take care of an artist? Making sure people see their work. Sometimes its an art fair. Sometimes its a corporate collection. Sometimes its an individual collector. If I dont get an artists work out into the world, Im not doing my job.

Gail Gibson opened her gallery in 1991. Photo by John Vicory.

How has the gallery business changed since you started? The internet. Theres way less walk-in traffic into the gallery. Over 50 percent of our sales are now on the web.

Is buying and selling art a good way to make money? (Laughs). No. You do it because you love doing it.

Can you explain the impact that art has on a person? Its about making you think. If you go to a gallery or museum and see one work that hits you, bravo. You may not like the show, you may not be into the artist, but if one piece has staying power you think about it when you walk away, three weeks later, maybe 15 years later thats big.

Describe what it feels like to discover an artist. Exciting! Kind of like a first date.

Whats the biggest misconception people have about going into an art gallery? That youre expected to buy something. People will pause at the door and say, Is there an admission? The answer is, No its free and its a great way to see art!

Is there a particular vibe you strive to create? I want it to be a clean and inviting space, with good light, where you can really focus on the art. We also have part of my personal chair collection here. There are way too many in our house so I brought a few in and people use them. Its great.

When you decided to open a gallery, was it a slow decision or more of a click? Definitely more of a click. It was 1991, my birthday, and I had dinner with a group of artists and I asked what they thought of my opening a gallery. The response was good and the idea was born. But its important to note that it came out of asking a group of trusted friends.

What four artists, dead or alive, would you like to invite over for dinner? Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Vija Celmins and Marina Abramovic to keep us on our toes.

If you could ask your favorite artist one question, what would it be? Why do you need to make this?

As an audience member, what turns you on? Freshness. Difference. To get shaken up by something Ive not experienced or seen before. Thats exciting. And thats what life is about.

Youre stuck on a desert island and can have one record, one food and one book. The Doors L.A. Woman, a nice plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and one of my Buddhist books.

What quality do you like best in other people? Im really attracted to outgoing people because theyre fun and unpredictable and arent afraid to say what they want.

Pie or cake? Cake. Chocolate.

For more on the lives of entertainers, artists and entrepreneurs, tune in to Art Zone with Nancy Guppy on the Seattle Channel (