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Affordable Art at Hotcakes Gallery

by Mark Lawson

A new gallery opened in Riverwest on the evening of Friday February 6 to a packed and appreciative opening night crowd. Hotcakes Gallery, at 3379 N. Pierce St., is operated by Mike Brenner and Susan Kriofsky. In a conversation with Mike before the opening, he told me that a major aspect of their business philosophy is to bring quality art to the neighborhood at affordable prices. In a neighborhood where “alternative” seems to be the norm, the old-fashioned idea of people actually buying art they can enjoy and make a part of their day to day lives seems oddly innovative. In part, this is because galleries at this level of affordability have been relatively rare in any neighborhood in Milwaukee. hotcakes-owners-.jpgThere are several galleries around town that sell art that is primarily decorative and not very serious or intellectual in any way. Generally the prices for this art are low and there is a pretty well developed audience that purchases this sort of art. This is not the niche Hotcakes is looking to fill. They’re interested in quality. But the issue of quality when applied to a work of art is fairly subjective and difficult to define with any level of accuracy. The difference can best be summarized by the sort of concepts and emotions a work of art invokes in the viewer. To put it very generally, it is the difference between sentimentality and deeper emotions: between pretty and beautiful, between clever and intelligent. To use another genre (music) as a metaphor, consider the differences between Faith Hill and Lucinda Williams, the Kingston Trio and Bob Dylan, Kate Smith and Ella Fitzgerald. Perhaps you’re starting to get the impression that I’m some sort of art snob, but I tend not to think so. My tastes are very broad and often range far into genres that many other art professionals recoil from with horror. It is difficult to talk about issues of quality without stepping on someone’s toes, but it is too important an issue to ignore. It really is a matter of education, of getting out there and looking at art and asking questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something, or do some reading — some serious research. Knowing about any art form requires some work; it’s never easy. Whether it’s music, dance, poetry, or whatever, you have to get yourself within the sphere of knowledge and familiarity with a discipline before you can understand its many nuances. Getting back to the concept of affordable galleries, another operation recently opened at 737 N. Milwaukee St. called, appropriately, Affordable Fine Art. I recently spoke with the more established gallery owner Bill DeLind of DeLind Fine Art, about this new gallery in his downtown neighborhood. He pointed out that any gallery that gives people an entry level opportunity to purchase and collect original art is a positive development in the field. He also mentioned that his own first purchase of an original art piece was a very inexpensive work, which he still owns, purchased at an art fair many years ago. Not everyone is ready either financially or intellectually to purchase high priced art work. Even the most well financed and intellectually astute collector has to start their collection somewhere. Start with buying what you like. There’s no better motivation for buying art than wanting to own something because it will bring vibrancy and color to your life. For more information, visit the Hotcakes website: www.hotcakesgallery.com.
by Mark Lawson